Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?
I grew up in Massachusetts. I don’t know - how does anyone describe themselves as a child? Immature?:)
What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?
I studied Economics and Math and I was sure that I wanted to go into finance. I had two internships with Lehman Brothers and graduated with an offer to join them full time after graduation. Less than 6 months after I started, Lehman declared bankruptcy and I was laid off.
Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?
I didn’t know what I wanted to do if it wasn’t finance -- and in early 2009 there weren’t many finance jobs still open. I applied to a variety of roles… I considered marketing, recruiting, sales, everything! I applied to a business role at eBay and one of my interviewers was a group product manager, Thad, with an opening on his team. At the end of the process, the folks asked me if I preferred the business or the product role. I had absolutely no idea what product management was and I asked Thad which one he thought I’d be better suited for. He said that I’d be a great product manager and I decided to jump for it. Thad is one of my mentors to this day!
What is your current role and responsibilities?
I’m the VP of Product and Design at Alyce. We are a fast growing startup, so a lot of my time I’m setting the vision and culture for the product and clearing any roadblocks for my team.
Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally? Was it always your goal to be in this product leadership?
Certainly not! When I was a sophomore in college, I wrote myself an email to be delivered 5 years later where I wrote something like, “by this point, you will probably be in business school after 2 years in an investment bank.” When I got it, I was in product and I never ended up going to business school.
For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?
Seek out other people’s feedback, but make space between the feedback and your self worth.
Feedback is a gift, but it's often wrapped up in stinky old newsprint instead of a cute bow. Being able to discard the wrapping but still keep the gift will help you grow and bounce back from adversity faster.
What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?
Listening. Building software isn’t brain surgery, all of the answers are available if we’re able to listen for them from our customers, team members, and data. Two ears, one mouth and all that!
What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work? What’s the most challenging?
Probably the toughest thing is to manage my own emotions (ugh. Is that too touchy feely?) Being really honest, as a leader, the “easy” problems are solved by my team. Once they reach me, they’re the difficult ones. I can’t let my brain fall into any one rabbit hole of a problem and bring that negative energy back to the team when I’m trying to advise on the next problem. Creating that space is something that I work on regularly.
Every Friday, I leave the week on a good note by publishing the “good stuff” that happened that week. When I sit down to write it, I’m still thinking of all the challenges and hard situations that we’re in the middle of solving. Once I start writing though, my mood improves dramatically -- looking back at all of the amazing challenges we solve, that retrospection is the most rewarding.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
Building my team at Alyce is definitely the best thing I’ve done. I am blown away regularly by the insights that they bring to our conversations and having a great team makes going to work not feel like work.
Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?
Right now no, but once my kids get a little older I look forward to it!
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
When I’m not running after my 2 kiddos, I’m playing guitar (poorly), running or rowing (not that long), or cooking (actually pretty good at that one).
How do you manage stress?
Finding time for myself is really important for me. I made a new years resolution that every day I will either row 1k meters or walk/run 1 mile and so far I’ve done it every day but 1! I need a goal to keep myself accountable, and being physically active really helps me stay grounded.
How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?
0.001 - I never really got into the coffee habit, but I’ll have one if I’m out at a coffee shop with someone else.
What's one of your favorite places in the Boston area?
Does my bedroom count? Just kidding. I went to college at Wellesley and the trail around the lake is definitely my happy spot.
Any book or podcast recommendations?
How much time do you have? I switch off reading business books and fun books and I’m in the middle of Ben Mezrich’s Once Upon A Time in Russia and it’s very good. Basically anything he writes is great! I’m not big into podcasts though.
What advice do you have for recent college graduates hoping to find a career in Product?
Find some way to build a software product -- it can be as a side hustle, a team project, a small web app, really anything that can show an employer that you’ve gone through the steps of Discovery / Development / Delivery before and have the battle scars to prove it.