Meet Katie Parmeson

User Experience Designer, BluePlanet (Ciena)

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The Back Story

In 2012, Katie Parmeson had a comfortable life in Houston: good job, big house, three kids in great schools. Then her software engineer husband made a life-changing request. Would she be willing to uproot the family so he could pursue his dream career of making wine in Sonoma County?

“My husband, Tom, had fallen in love with wine about five years earlier, and had been taking classes and developing relationships in the industry ever since,” explains Katie. “So when he called from his annual harvest trip to Sonoma County and said, ‘We’ve got to move here,’ I had to say yes.”

Why Petaluma?

A former software developer turned user experience expert, Katie knew the Bay Area was a tech hub but wasn’t sure what Sonoma County had to offer in her niche. She did a Google search for User Experience Jobs in the area and saw an opening at a telecom startup in Petaluma.

“The startup factor appealed to me,” she says. “I wanted to directly impact the end product and improve the end user experience.”

Katie got the job, relocated her family, and was three years in when fiber optics leader Ciena acquired the startup. Though her employer is now a multi-billion dollar company, Katie says the culture at work continues to be hands-on and innovative.

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Biggest Surprise?

“The walkability and shopping options in Downtown Petaluma. I go for lunch or after work sometimes and see a scene of all walks of life enjoying the Downtown community. It’s comfortable and safe and manageably small. I head Downtown as often as I have time for.”

What is she up to now?

Katie and her family settled in Healdsburg, about 30 miles north of Petaluma, where her husband opened a family winery. She’s traveling farther than she did in Houston, but the commute is not as stressful, or as long, because Ciena allows her to work non-commute hours and adjust her schedule if necessary.

Explains Katie, “As a mom, I need flexibility. As a tech professional, I need challenging projects and career growth. At BluePlanet, I’m getting both.”

Because of the real estate market, the Parmeson family’s adventure in Sonoma County means living in a smaller house. But that’s been a blessing, not a sacrifice, according to Katie.

“I love the fact that we downsized,” she says. “It’s given us the opportunity to look at things in a different light and ask, ‘Is this necessary?’ We have fewer material objects, but we’re much happier.”

Katie calls BluePlanet a “wonderful company” that supports Sonoma County’s more relaxed lifestyle. With a flexible schedule combined with interesting work, she’s able to enjoy a rich family life as well as a fulfilling career.

“I’m doing what I love and so is my husband,” she says. “We’ve gained so much by moving here.”

“We’ve gained so much by moving here.”



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