Liquid Web’s HR Director on engines, connection, and the source of her work ethic.
Misty Combs has a passion for people, animals, and engines. “I like the adrenaline rush of riding motorcycles and snowmobiles. I love driving drag cars, autocross cars, and off-road trucks,” she says. “I never want to miss an opportunity for an adventure because I was too afraid to try.”
Growing up on a farm in Owosso, Michigan, Combs had plenty of opportunity to get her hands dirty and learn the value of hard work. It was on the farm that Combs developed a love for tinkering. Wrenching on anything with an engine, she says, gave her the opportunity to learn how things work. “I also had the chance to see how investing time, talent, and patience allows something special to grow.”
Though she no longer lives on the farm in Owosso, Combs attributes her confidence to her father and grandfather. Both had high expectations but were willing to invest their time and talent to teach all that they could and to support her interests, including anything mechanical. Combs now applies this same sort of attention to her work as Liquid Web’s HR Director. “I do my best to encourage others, or to have bigger dreams for them than they have for themselves. I want to make a difference for the people around me; I want to see them do something amazing,” she says. And just like engines “sometimes you hear sass, but hopefully when you’re done fixing and they talk back, it’s all turbo flutter and squealing tires”.
Misty Combs’ path to tech was not a straight one, having spent fifteen years of her working life in manufacturing. She took an opportunity to work for a medical technology company before being recruited to join the Liquid Web team six years ago. “Being a woman who loves engines, I know I am an oddity in most places, but I don’t feel that way at Liquid Web. From the beginning, Liquid Web was so different from other companies,” she says. “I love the culture. It’s accepting and supportive of the things that make individuals unique and different. And that is my motto in life: accept and embrace people even if you don’t understand. I feel lucky and very proud to be part of the Liquid Web family.”
It is rewarding, then, for Combs to spend her time supporting employees, leadership, and the Liquid Web community at large. “What I think makes Human Resources at Liquid Web different from many other companies is that we are not the “NO!” department. We really strive to be a good partner to those who depend on us. We want to support employees and help them succeed.”
Work looks slightly different for Combs in this time of social distancing. “I miss our employees. I’m a hugger, so not having my daily hugs and human interaction has been difficult for not only myself, but for some other employees as well,” says Combs. “Liquid Web became a welcoming escape for some. Even though most employees are introverted, the office was our extended family.” Nowadays, her coworkers are a bit more hairier. Combs still gets daily hugs from her three canines in her remote office. Virtual hugs do happen with the Liquid Web Virtual events hosted for employees to help everyone stay together and feel connected while working apart.
In addition to loving the culture of Liquid Web, Combs’ favorite thing about working in a tech company is being surrounded by intelligent and interesting people. “Our CEO Jim Geiger uses the term ‘tech-venturists’,” she says. “I love getting to work with people who are smart, creative, curious, and passionate. They care about what they do, the customers they serve, the company where they work, and the community where they live.” It’s a field, she says, where you really can succeed if you are curious and willing to put in the time to invest in yourself. But it is also an industry where people are willing to share their knowledge to help another so they can also succeed.
Combs takes pride in her part in this shared passion for growth. “I’ve been lucky enough to mentor others and help them to achieve their career goals,” she says. She notes that mentors are invaluable for offering learning and development opportunities, preparing for promotions, and sharing leadership opportunities. “I am fortunate to have had some incredible people in my life, both personally and professionally. I grew up with a lot expected of me, and a willingness to work my tail off. In my career, I’ve been able to work with smart and talented people who were willing to invest in me. I don’t want to miss a chance to create an opportunity for someone else.”
Growing up, Combs spent a lot of time with her grandparents, who imparted a great deal of the work ethic that she now attributes to her success. “When they spoke of anyone, they described their work ethic, their care and concern for their family, and their contribution to their community. I want to be someone they would have described positively on all of those fronts,” she says.
Combs is eager to extend her passion for helping others to women and young girls considering careers in technology. “Successful women in technology are creating opportunities and a more welcoming environment for those that follow,” she says. And though she is not in a tech role at Liquid Web, she encourages young people to be curious, take chances to try new things, and find their passion. Curiosity, she says, is one of the best traits for those who pursue careers in technology.
“It’s a time of exceptional change,” she says. “Liquid Web has a collaborative environment. To me, the most exciting things we’re working on impact culture and allow people to feel more connected. In the end, the connection that we build in this work is what matters most.”