Fearless Editor: Let’s start with some basic work facts. When did you start at Applied Innovations?
Cara Pluff: A little over three years ago. Originally my focus was on building out sales structure but evolution has added quite a bit of marketing to my plate.
FE: What did you do before AI?
CP: I was mainly in the website monitoring industry (at AlertSite, now a SmartBear division) where I managed sales and account management, but I’ve also dabbled in Software Training, Operations Management, Technical Writing, and even Human Resources.
FE: What do you like about your job?
CP: Every day I get to talk to new people and every situation is unique. It’s really enjoyable to put together new and exciting solutions for our customers. But all-in-all, my daily job holds a lot of variety, which always keeps things interesting. One moment I’m working with our architecture team on a load balanced cloud infrastructure and the next I’m helping manage events and promotions.
FE: Sounds like they keep you on your toes! Do you have a proudest accomplishment at the company?
CP: There have been some great accomplishments along my journey here, but I’m mostly proud to be a member of such a talented team. Having these remarkable people to work with allows me to be successful. As a team, we’ve launched thousands of Microsoft servers, built out and educated our customers on the newest technologies, developed partner programs to help grow the community and there’s always something more. I really look forward to all the exciting contributions we have in the pipe and the great things this team will accomplish in the future.
FE: What surprised you most about the company after being hired?
CP: The closeness of the core team surprised me most. Applied Innovations has great tenure among employees with most of being here over 7 years. At this point, we really are like a family.
FE: So at just over 3 years, that makes you sort of a newbie! In that time, can you think of any favorite customer success stories?
CP: We’ve had a lot of really great customer success stories. Some of my favorites are when we’ve helped clients handle massive traffic from special promotions they did, like Atlanta Cutlery.
FE: What about fun stuff? Does the team play around?
CP: Recently I had a birthday, which my coworkers so wonderfully decorated my desk for. Let’s just say they had a lot of fun at my expense and I’m pretty sure they bought every “over the hill” item they could find at Party City. I’m still getting confetti out of my keyboard!
FE: Come on, there’s gotta be more dirt than that!
CP: Ha. I’ll let them provide anecdotes in their own spotlights (mostly for fear in what they may disclose about ME in the future.) But I might say that we may or may not have a certain someone who enjoys walking around the office barefoot.
FE: Tell us a little bit about what you do in your spare time. I understand you’re a pretty avid runner.
CP: Eh, avid runner might be a bit overstated. I just started doing Triathlons in the beginning of the year, so I’ve switched focus to that. I’ve completed three sprint distance triathlons (0.25 mile swim, 11 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) and one Olympic distance (1 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6.2 mile run) which had a beach run that nearly killed me, but I made it through. Next, I’ll be doing another sprint triathlon (to compare my previous time on the same course), traveling to St. Petersburg for another Olympic Distance, and then tackling the 70.3 MiamiMan race (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run) in November.
FE: I’m exhausted listening to you! What got you into that?
CP: I’ve always been active and I love competition. My mother has done a few triathlons and I decided to try it out. I was confident in my swimming and running capabilities, but uncomfortable with the thought of the bike (really though, who’s crazy enough to share the roads with texting drivers?) I learned quickly that being a pool swimmer has ZERO advantage in triathlons and that running is a whole lot different after a swim and bike. Needless to say, I’ve been very humbled.
FE: And I just thought you worked out like a fiend to justify your love of food! Tell us about your cooking and gastronomical adventures.
CP: I absolutely love to cook because YES, I love to eat. I also have the delusion that I can recreate any fabulous dish at home, so I’ve had some fun disasters along the way (soufflés are a bit trickier than I thought). And I’m trying to expand my horizons with culinary treats. For example, until recently I wouldn’t eat mushrooms, or any type of fish. Thanks to a friend, I’ve learned to enjoy a lot of things I didn’t used to…even Salmon! And I know what you’re going to ask next… Yes, I have some other funny eating habits. I tend to save pieces of things I like for last. For example, if I’m eating ice cream with peanut butter cups in it, I’ll eat around them so that I can have a lot of them all at once, at the end. And granola bars… I’ll make sure the last bite has all the good stuff even if I have to eat from both ends (since the best bite might be in the middle).
FE: Okay, let’s move on to your intellectual pursuits. What book are you reading?
CP: I tend to have a few books I’m reading at one time. Recently I’ve been pretty consumed with Fantasy Football news since I just had a few drafts and the season just started. As for books, currently I am reading “Bossy Pants,” Tina Fey’s book, plus anything related to triathlon training.
FE: Got a favorite joke?
CP: I thought we were moving on to more intellectual questions? How about the fact that the Bills are my favorite football team? That always seems to be a good joke.
FE: What is your favorite charity or cause? Why?
CP: There are so many great charities and causes it’s honestly too difficult to choose. Some of the ones I’ve worked with are American Cancer Society, ONE, Habitat for Humanity, Humane Society, Doctors without Borders, and Save the Children. I think the most important thing though is for people to be active in their communities and causes. My friend and I will be on a build site for habitat for humanity soon (yes in this wonderful Florida heat). And another way I like to get involved (and be active) is to register for local events like 5Ks. Most of them are for a great cause and you get your workout in too!
FE: Which three famous people (alive or dead) would you like to have dinner with?
CP: Richard Branson, Betty White and Julia Child.
FE: Name 5 things on your bucket list.
CP: I have A LOT of items on my bucket list so here are a few random ones, not in any particular order: Learn a new language fluently. Hold a handstand for more than 30 seconds. Inspire somebody. Swim in the infinity pool at Hotel Caruso (Italy). Complete an Ironman.
FE: Do you have a bumper sticker on your car? Or a quote you live by?
CP: Not a bumper sticker but a magnet that reads “Find your happy pace.” Quote to live by: “Choose happiness.”
Well, it sure sounds like Cara found her “happy pace” at Applied Innovations. At least when she’s not out running and biking and cooking and eating and learning Italian and practicing her handstand. Lucky for us. Connect with Cara at firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn.