Since she was a child, Celeste Olivieri has always been intentional. “I believe in people’s ability to make an impact and considered being a lawyer and architect before I landed on being a designer,” she says. “It was the intersection of my obsession with details, attraction to all things visual, and belief that as humans, we can do better — it was how I decided I’d help the world achieve progress.”
Celeste was MURAL’s first-ever employee, hired in October of 2011. Here’s a look at her story, how she came to join MURAL, and what she does as an important part of our team.
Celeste cut her teeth at a traditional agency, doing everything from editorial to graphic design, magazine layouts, and more. It was there that she started attending training for designers — she took every course the agency offered, one of which was HTML. “I was fascinated by the web and tried to use what I learned every day — I knew the internet was democratizing everything we knew,” she says. For Celeste, technology was a new way to enable humanity to do more in the world.
“When I got my first job in tech, I never looked back,” she says. She was hired as a web designer and started studying usability to sharpen her skills and build better websites. At the time, there wasn’t much formal education available, but Celeste had a sense it would be increasingly relevant to her work and achieving her career goals. “I finally felt like I’d found a match between my knowledge as a designer and my interest in understanding the relationship between information and how it was presented,” she says.
It was after she worked for some startups and got to know the founding team at MURAL that Celeste ran into the MURAL team at an event. By the next week, she was hired and on her way to helping them create a user-centered solution that would meet real people’s needs.
When Celeste joined MURAL, there wasn’t a virtual whiteboard tool at all in existence. The founders knew that linear communication was not optimal for many situations and contexts and that there was a void that needed to be filled. “We needed a visual and spatial document to collaborate more effectively,” she explains.
Creating that tool digitally was appealing to Celeste because from an interaction design perspective, there wasn’t a standard of how to navigate a document like that — and there were a host of new technologies that promised better touch experiences and possibilities to move beyond the traditional collaboration documents. “Everything was very exciting and our leadership team had a vision and was inspired,” she says. Her talks with the founding team were meaningful and she saw what they were trying to convey even though they didn’t know what they were doing quite yet. It was just the kind of project she was looking for, and she jumped into the role.
As MURAL’s first employee, Celeste has seen a lot of change and growth over time — in the product and the company itself. A highlight of that growth as a designer was that, when she joined MURAL, Celeste wanted to build value from scratch and create something that people didn’t even know they needed. “MURAL exceeded that 10x — we achieved our goal, created something that is massively useful for people, and have grown it to be a successful business,” she says. I just didn’t know that we’d have the chance to see success in addition to building something awesome, and that’s been a huge highlight.”
When the team started to grow and hire more people, adopted a distributed work model, more things started to change — but some things stayed the same. “The pandemic happened last year, which contributed to a huge increase in business growth because of more teams in companies throughout the world working in a distributed way,” she says. “Throughout the changes to the business and all the outside factors that have affected MURAL’s expansion, we’ve always been intentional about our growth — we’re not just trying to hit a number.”
That’s because, at MURAL, we think about growth in terms of impact — something our recent round of funding helps us increase more than ever before. And we think about the impact of growth on our culture, too. “We care about culture and values and do a lot to avoid becoming slow, bureaucratic, and stripping employees of their ownership as we grow the business and teams,” Celeste explains. “No matter what changes we’ve faced, we’ve stayed grounded in our values and looked at the work we do every day — as well as how we do it — to make sure we’re living our values.”
One of the values that first drew Celeste in and hasn’t changed since is the role of ownership at the company. “Not only are designers constantly learning, but we have a ton of ownership,” she says. “We have agency to contact members directly and we all propose changes and challenge each other every day.” What’s more, leadership at MURAL encourages everyone to get out of their comfort zone — because they believe that’s where people get the best work experience and learn the fastest.
Taking ownership has been a big personal lesson for Celeste, too. “When I started at MURAL, I was the only designer, but I was still looking for approval from my manager,” she says. “Eventually, I realized that — oh! — I’m the one who needs to make the decisions and take initiative.”
Now, as a leader of the company herself, Celeste takes this to her teams, encouraging them to take ownership, be ambitious, and ask for what they need to do the best work of their careers. Because even if they set their sights on impact and scale, she hopes that they all help each other blow their dreams out of the water — like MURAL has done for her.