May 11, 2020

Meet Michelle Combes, Safety Support Specialist Manager

GoGuardian Team
Michelle Combes, Safety Support Specialist Manager (with her photo)

The members of GoGuardian’s Safety Support Team are the human specialists behind Beacon 24/7. They review and escalate alerts that are flagged by our AI as actively planning a suicide suicide, so that school responders can act quickly to get students the support they need. For Mental Health Awareness Month, we’d like to introduce you to some of our Safety Support Specialists. Today, meet Michelle Combes, the team’s manager.

What drew you to the Safety Support team at GoGuardian?

During my time at Wag!, I worked within Trust & Safety, oftentimes dealing with the company’s highest escalated issues and very sensitive information. I stumbled upon GoGuardian and this new Trust & Safety world they were working on developing around student safety—moreso suicide prevention—and I couldn’t stop reading. It’s hard to think about another role after reading something so compelling and purpose-driven that spoke directly to my values. To put it simply, I saw an opportunity to make a contribution to something that I felt would have a large impact on our future. The health and safety of our students now is directly tied to our future, and GoGuardian Beacon works to uphold that every day.

Why are trust and safety staff important in today’s digital world?

When people think of trust & safety in today’s digital world, our mind tends to wander to content moderation that we’ve heard from big companies like Facebook, TikTok, and Cognizant. The world of Trust & Safety is actually really broad. It looks into how a certain product or service would impact a customer base and identifies what those risks are and works to eliminate them. Trust & Safety at GoGuardian is far beyond content moderation. This is a team of individuals who are passionate about GoGuardian, passionate about Beacon, and passionate about the world of mental health, especially in education technology. The team is tasked with monitoring alerts and escalating them to schools to ensure students get the help they need, but the work doesn’t stop there. We are constantly re-evaluating our customers' experience, trying to find ways to best serve this community.

How do you balance your own self-care while handling serious matters that come with the job?

I think it’s important to not only keep a constant pulse on how my team is doing, but how I am as well. Burnout is very real, and working in Trust & Safety, we see it more often because the work is critical. It’s difficult mentally and emotionally. I always speak to my team about developing healthy boundaries. The work itself will not change; it won’t be any less difficult to view on a daily basis, but by developing healthy boundaries, you’re able to work through it without it taking such a drastic toll on you. Also, developing tactics to recognize when you are starting to approach that burnout point is critical. It takes a lot of honesty with yourself, your team, and your leader. When I am not feeling my best, I communicate that to my leader, and they step in a little more, just as I do for them. Communication is key.

Another important component is, absolutely, self-care and self-maintenance. How am I giving back to myself? What have I done today that was only for me? Did I have a healthy meal today? Have I worked out or at least gone for a long walk? They seem small, but tending to the basics gives me that sense of control and gratitude I need to show up for myself and my team. I might sound like a broken record, but you have to put on your oxygen mask before you assist others in the event of an emergency on a plane; how can I help you if I can’t help myself?

What impact does your role have on the GoGuardian community?

The Safety Support team is an integral part of Beacon, and yet we reach far beyond that. The Safety Support team is full of passionate, caring, intelligent, empathetic individuals. I think when you build a team that cares this much about a product, our success is without bound.