Kickstarter hires Slack’s Erica Baker as director of engineering

Erica Baker, an engineer and outspoken advocate for diversity and inclusion in tech, is leaving her job at Slack, and moving from the San Francisco Bay Area to Brooklyn to work in an engineering leadership position at Kickstarter. Baker, who worked at Slack for about two years, will begin work at Kickstarter in early August as director of engineering, working under the newly appointed VP of engineering Lara Hogan.

Baker’s last day at Slack is June 16.

“It has less to do with the company and more to do with opportunities for personal career growth,” Baker told me about why she is leaving. “There’s nothing wrong with the company. Slack is growing at an amazing pace and it’s fastest rising startup and everything. There’s just so much happening at Slack and I think that they’re going to have a lot of success in the future. I’m leaving because I got an amazing opportunity at Kickstarter. I’ve wanted to move into an engineering leadership role for a long time.”

It’s not that Baker could not have reached a leadership position at Slack, she said, but it’s that it would not have been an immediate option.

“I think it would’ve been an option in the long run,” she said. “It would have been available to me a year or two down the line, just because of the way things are happening at Slack right now. They’re coming to the end of fleshing out what it means to be a leader. There’s a lot of important work there that I’ve been a part of, but I’ve also made a vow to myself that I would keep growing and my growth is taking me to be at Kickstarter.”

Baker will be joining a company with many women in leadership roles, noting how Kickstarter’s VP of product is a woman, as well its SVP of operations and VP of engineering.

“I’m really excited to be working with [Hogan] and working at Kickstarter just because I’m going to be reporting to a woman who is a VP of engineering,” Baker said. “That’s pretty rare, so I’m really excited about that opportunity. There’s a lot of lady power happening. It’s a diverse group of ladies. It’s not a homogenous group of ladies.”

Women, and especially women of color, in leadership roles at tech companies is indeed pretty rare. At Slack, for example, black people make up 3.5 percent of those in leadership roles and women make up 28.3 percent of people in leadership roles, according to the company’s most recent diversity report.

Kickstarter, on the other hand, has yet to release an official diversity report, though it has released some demographic data. As of last year, Kickstarter was 70 percent white. With Baker coming on board, it sounds like an official diversity report will come.

“I feel like that is something that will be one of the first things I work on,” Baker said. “I think it’s important companies are vocal about what their diversity looks like internally and sort of set goals around what they want that to look like. That will be something that I work on. It will be one of my top priorities.”

Although diversity and inclusion will not be an official part of Baker’s role at Kickstarter, she said that she would not take a role where diversity could not be part of what she works on.

“I am not going to have as much time to be as hands-on, because I would not want to do that to the people I support,” she said. “My job will be to make sure they can succeed and that the company succeeds. At the same time, part of that success is making sure Kickstarter is a diverse and inclusive place for people to come work.”