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Career Path: Elaine Milardo, Senior Director, Data Platform at DraftKings banner image

Career Path: Elaine Milardo, Senior Director, Data Platform at DraftKings

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What does the career path and a day-in-the-life look like for a Senior Director, Data Platform at DraftKings?

We interviewed Elaine Milardo to find out!

Where did you grow up?  What was your very first job (either pre-college or internship)?

I grew up in Middletown, CT and Wethersfield, CT. I have a huge extended family (25 first cousins). I think the last name “Milardo” took up about half of the phone book in Middletown! It was amazing growing up in a small town where everyone knew the family.

When I was in middle school, I was a papergirl delivering the Hartford Courant, on foot, around my neighborhood...in rain, ice, and snow.  I think it’s where I got into the habit of getting up before dawn and acquired my aversion to the cold. I also worked as a cashier Sears for many years during high school and college.  I really enjoyed retail. I’m an extrovert and learned a lot about how to be a good manager from watching my supervisors at Sears. For example, on a busy holiday evening, the manager of the store came down to my department and worked the registers with us for hours, regaling us with stories. That stuck with me - he wasn’t above jumping in and helping out his team while bringing the positive vibe.    

You graduated with a Psychology degree from Smith College.  How did you get into the tech industry?

Like many, after I graduated, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue on with graduate school and was eager to start working (and my parents were also eager to have me start working!). I was able to focus on a few things that I knew I wanted in a new job.  I wanted to work in the Boston area, at a startup, in a field adjacent to psychology or medicine, just in case I wanted to revisit the decision on pursuing an advanced degree. I was fortunate to find an opportunity with a startup that focused on conducting a meta-analysis of clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies. Twenty years ago, those studies were reviewed and compiled, prior to analysis, manually. So, I spent a lot of time mastering a photocopier at the Harvard Medical Library!  On the flipside, though, I was introduced to methodologies behind consolidating, cleansing and preparing data in order to enable the statisticians to run their data models.  In essence, at a much larger scale, that’s what I continue to do today!

Your career has been centered around data. What is it about working with data that has been a passion for you?

In my first job, I was able to have a significant impact on the efficiency and value of the business by wrangling data - as an entry-level assistant research analyst! That was powerful and motivating to me, especially at that point in my nascent career.  After that first role, it helped me define and focus on what I enjoyed doing at work. I began studying and learning more about data engines, administration, transfer processes, design principles, reporting and delivery tools, and analytics use cases. I took classes, read a ton, developed, and, eventually, got an entry-level data warehouse job at AT&T working on their local AdSales warehouse.  In each of my roles, with the mentorship of highly skilled data technologists and really good managers (I’ve been exceedingly fortunate), my technical skill set grew and I was able to take on designing more complex and large-scale data infrastructure.  

The data industry is dynamic; there is always something new to check out and dig into.  It could be a new design pattern to consider, a new storage engine to test, a new way to deliver or visualize data or a new data product to build or iterate.  

To distill it, I love being able to create a platform that enables folks to more easily diagnose, discover and action data.  I love working with a broad set of teams to make finding that value, easier. And, finally, I love working in an industry that is never stagnant.  I’m never bored.

How has the use of data evolved in terms of its ability to drive businesses forward since you started your career?

When I first started my career, it was typical to have a small database that was updated, with few transformations, nightly. Analysts leveraged the data to see what happened and, potentially, did some diagnostic work into certain patterns or trends. They would run database connected spreadsheets or direct data queries. The users were specific to teams like Finance or Operations.

As the accessibility of the data changed, the user profile changed. Data wasn’t just for a specialized team or users. There was a push to democratize data to the broader population of an organization. Everyone needed access to self-serve reports, dashboards were pervasive and intraday updates were essential for improving operations.

Data volumes continue to balloon. Near-real-time batch and streaming are now essential. Descriptive and diagnostic analytics are still at the core, but enabling predictive and actionable insights through machine learning has become critical in driving better decisions.

Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as Senior Director, Data Platform at DraftKings?

The Data Platform organization at DraftKings is made up of two amazing teams that I am grateful to lead: Data Engineering and Data Science Engineering. On the Data Engineering side, we are responsible for designing, developing and managing the data infrastructure at DK.  We are the builders and plumbers - we assess data sources, build pipelines, design data stores, transform data, enable a variety of delivery methods, ensure governance and support the users of the infrastructure. These folks are a keystone in enabling our wide-ranging data capabilities.

On the Data Science Engineering side, we are responsible for the creation of data products.  Our Data Science Engineers are just that...they are software engineers with excellent quantitative skills. They leverage both of those skill sets, extensively, and are responsible for the curation of a portfolio of data products ranging from personalization and recommendation engines to customer modeling to fraud detection. These folks are essential to realize and achieve value from our data.

I’m responsible for leading and managing these teams and enabling and supporting our technical leaders in creating a scalable, speedy, and well-architected data environment.  I spend time in planning organizational roadmaps that align with DK’s strategy and I work closely with our Product folks to help drive product vision through specific initiatives and projects that can be implemented in a highly iterative fashion

Tl;dr:  I get to do both technology and management and it is awesome.

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

Coffee.  So much of it.

What time do you get into the office?

I’m a morning person that likes to ease into the day.  I’ll get up around 5:30 AM, make a coffee and hang out at my kitchen table with my cats and my laptop.  I’ll catch up on email, review my calendar and prepare for meetings I have that day. Once I get into work...my butt isn’t in my chair for more that 30 minutes a day, so this is my time!  I end up heading in around 9-9:30 AM.

What are three things that motivate you in your role?

I love mentoring and coaching. I have strong satisfaction with seeing others grow and achieve their goals.  It seems trite, but it’s been an evolution over my career. I used to be a kick-ass individual contributor and felt successful when I personally delivered awesome stuff.   Fifteen years ago when I started managing, I stepped away from IC work and shifted my worldview. It’s common, of course, as you grow as a manager. I am successful (and feel amazing) when my folks succeed.  That is the biggest motivator for me. I’m a quintessential manager.

There are always new technologies out there for data.  Like many, I have to balance my desire to try a new data processor technology with successfully maintaining our existing infrastructure.  My folks are pretty effective in pushing me to let them try new stuff. My vocation, for many years, was data engineering. With the integration of data science engineering into data platform and the hiring of a fantastic head of data science and his team, I’m continually learning.

The Data Platform team has a huge, positive impact on DK.  Whether it’s, for example, providing a data product that increases revenue or reduces risk, or providing a data store that allows for both the rigor of a single source of truth and the flexibility of multi versions of the truth, our team is so valued and valuable at DK. It’s a good feeling and huge motivator to feel the love.

Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?

I need to get myself organized before I get into the office.  I prepare notes or comments for each of the meetings I have that day and I should have a priority of tasks that I need to accomplish.  I’ll usually meet up with the technical director, leads and product, informally, each morning to catch up on their evening and if they have any potential concerns or issues.  Then, I’ll end up in meetings for most of the day. These range from discussions about new product dev, product, and technical planning, recruiting/interviews, 1-1s, or key technical design discussions.  I’ll usually end up walking around and checking in with the teams, again, in the afternoon and make myself available if folks want to quickly chat on a project, an approach, or anything that’s forefront of the mind.  At the end of the day, I’ll either be ready to go home or feel up for hanging out with people in the office, after work.

What time do you head out of the office?

I’m usually out around 6:30 PM. I’m social, so I do try to wind down the day with some good conversation with folks from around DK.  We have a bunch of after-hours groups or events at DK from D&D, board games, trivia or, even, karaoke!  My favorite (and I’m a bit biased since I started it!) is WhiskyKings, a bi-weekly get together where we do whiskey tastings (though we have expanded our portfolio to bourbons, recently). Just like I like to ease into the day...I also like to ease out of the day!

Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?  

Yeah, me and Slack have been pretty tight in the eve.  With my wife’s encouragement, I’ve gotten better at putting down the phone when I get home so I can cook and chat with her about our day.

Any productivity hacks?

I try to bundle all my 1-on-1s and staff meetings on the same day.  I find that it helps me keep on schedule and allows me to be more focused on the conversations.

I do tend to move from one meeting to another.  Sometimes, though, I require uninterrupted time to just, well, think.  So, I secretly block off an hour during the day to focus on a particular problem or project.  I’ll leave it to my coworkers to try to figure out what hour that is...and attempt to book over it!  

What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?

  • Slack - Because I don’t want to miss a thing
  • Spotify -  ‘Big Band‘ and ‘Deep Focus’ playlists
  • Starbucks - see above
  • (and, of course) DraftKings

What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?

In my previous job, I relocated to Europe and established corporate Business Intelligence teams in Barcelona, Spain and Winterthur, Switzerland. It was an amazing experience for me, professionally and personally. I learned so much about hiring, communication, and collaboration across regions and cultures.  I made meaningful connections with colleagues and friends whose expertise and judgment I value immensely.

Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?

I’m fortunate to have excellent relationships with many of my current and former colleagues. The data community in Boston is relatively small, so it’s easy to stay in touch and keep up with everyone. I definitely have a few fellow data and management experts who I got to for professional or technical opinions.

My mother, father and sister are all incredible listeners and when I’m stuck on something I’ll run through different scenarios with them - just having that objective and balanced sounding board usually brings insight and clarifies the situation for me.  And I can always rely on my wife to help me work through scenarios; she’s a creative professional, and helps bring a different perspective. I am lucky to have a large pool of people to call on for valuable points of view!

Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz.  Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6

About the

It’s simple, at DraftKings, we believe life’s more fun with skin in the game.

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Career Path - Morgan Bradford, Project Team Manager at Toast banner image

Career Path - Morgan Bradford, Project Team Manager at Toast

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What does the career path and a day-in-the-life look like for a Project Team Manager at Toast?

We interviewed Morgan Bradford to find out!

Where did you grow up?  What did your parents do for work?  What was your very first job (before any internships)?

While we moved around a bit when I was very young, I grew up north of Boston. My mom was an extremely involved stay-at-home mom (who was always the president of the PTA), and my dad worked in the tech space. My first paying job (outside of babysitting) was scooping ice cream at the local stand. They were ahead of their time and tried charging per ounce- it wasn’t long after they implemented that they went out of business!

I noticed that you studied Applied Science - Food Studies at NYU and after you graduated, you pursued a career as a Pastry Chef.  What prompted you to pursue this career path initially?

I grew up baking with my mom all the time. We had the staples for any basic baking adventure at any given time. I found it very alarming when I would go to a friend’s house, and we couldn’t make a batch of chocolate chip cookies because they didn’t have any flour! As I grew older, that evolved into me dreaming of opening my own bakery (serving chocolate chip cookies of course!). Studying food as an undergrad and attending culinary school was each a step towards that goal.

Following your time at Flour (a Boston favorite), how did you make the career switch into tech by becoming a Project Coordinator at Toast?

When I first left the kitchen, I thought I wanted a complete 180 away from my past to make a fundamental change. I took a couple of months off to regroup and came to terms with the fact I shouldn’t turn my back on my strong restaurant background simply because I was burnt out. I had heard about Toast as I was leaving Flour (they were starting the implementation process) so it was a natural place to start the search. After an informational phone call to hear about a few open positions, the project coordinator role seemed to be the perfect way to leverage my background while stepping my foot into the corporate world.

Since joining Toast, you have already been promoted a couple of times.  How have you been able to achieve such a rapid ascent in your career path?

I came in the door with a fair amount of management experience, but not very much corporate expertise, so I understood that I needed to start at the bottom. I made it very clear, when I started that I was interested in growth and threw my hat in the ring whenever there was an opportunity for stepping up.

Morgan Bradford with Toast

Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as Project Team Manager?

I currently manage a team of nine, comprising of Project Coordinator and Project Managers. We are responsible for taking our customers to live on the platform, and we manage everything that goes into successful implementation. My role is to ensure that my team can be as efficient as possible, stay on track to meet our goals and that our customers are as obsessed with Toast as we are.  

Any tips for someone considering a making a major career change to a new industry?

It’s very humbling to make a career change and feel like you are starting over. Coming out of college, I thought I was ahead of the game and knew exactly what I wanted out of life (professionally, at least!). I fell behind in a sense after leaving the kitchen, so making a change into an extremely high growth company made sense for me to fast track my development.

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

Must always have coffee.

What time do you get into the office?

Around 9 AM.

Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?

The day always stars with clearing out my inbox and unread Slack messages that piled up from the night before. Given that our customer base is restaurants, a lot happens after our typical work day so mornings can sometimes equal catch up. My days are packed with meetings, and whether they are one on ones with my team members, discussions about how to best institute process changes and standardize our communication strategies or interviewing amazing candidates to support our ever-growing company, I generally don’t have very much time just sitting at my desk. The days absolutely fly by.

What time do you head out of the office?

Usually between 6 and 7.

Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?  

Absolutely! Especially if I left the office earlier to try and squeeze in some exercise.  

Any productivity hacks?

Do all things all the time. No, but seriously, with this job, if you cannot multitask, you are DOA. In order to stay productive, it is essential that I own and manage my own calendar - I have very little free time each day, so it’s imperative for me to buckle down and focus on the task I’ve assigned myself. One thing I’m consistently working on is being more present in meetings - Slack is such a distraction and an implementation can fall apart at any moment. You can be “unavailable” for 30 minutes and miss everything.

What are the three apps that you can’t live without?

Spotify, Instagram, and Zillow (love searching for real estate!)

Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?

My Dad! He and I are very similar, which tends to result in us butting heads (we are both very opinionated and very stubborn) but at the end of the day, he had an incredible career primarily in the tech space and is a great sounding board both when I was in the kitchen (though he had a hard time understanding some of the characteristics of that life!) and is especially helpful now.

Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz.  Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6

About the

We empower the restaurant community to delight guests, do what they love, and thrive.

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Career Path: Julia Cohen, Business Development & Corporate Strategy at Bowery Farms banner image

Career Path: Julia Cohen, Business Development & Corporate Strategy at Bowery Farms

What does a day-in-the-life look like for a professional in Business Development & Corporate Strategy at Bowery Farming?

We interviewed Julia Cohen to find out!

Where did you grow up?  What did your parents do for work?  What was your very first job (before any internships)?

I grew up outside Boston, MA. Both of my parents are therapists (I know…). In spite of that, I had a pretty normal childhood, but we probably talked about our feelings more than the average family.

My parents always encouraged me to find something that I was passionate about, and where I felt like I could make the biggest impact on the world around me. In high school, that thing was ice cream. I worked as an ice-cream scooper and occasional cake decorator at the local ice cream parlor. I also ate a lot of free ice cream.  

After graduating from Penn, you were an Assistant Brand Manager at PepsiCo.  Which products did you work on and how did that job lay down the foundation of your career?

Julia Cohen, Business Development and Corporate Strategy at Bowery Farming
Julia Cohen, Business Development and Corporate Strategy at Bowery Farming

As evidenced by my ice-cream scooping days, I’ve always been passionate about food and the power of shared experience. After college, I knew I wanted to do something in that space that combined hard business skills with creativity and innovation, so I joined PepsiCo. At Pepsi, I worked across our North American Beverage portfolio on brands ranging from Pepsi to Aquafina, and spent time working on product innovation across the portfolio.

Pepsi laid the foundation for both how I think about the transformative power of business and its responsibility to society. It also sparked my initial interest in sustainability. CEO Indra Nooyi defines Pepsi’s guiding philosophy as “Performance with Purpose,” which essentially holds that businesses can do well by doing good. In her 12-year tenure, Nooyi has transformed PepsiCo’s portfolio to include healthier products and reduced global environmental impact, all while maximizing shareholder value.

PepsiCo defines sustainability as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Bowery takes that notion one step further with its mission to grow food for a better future by revolutionizing agriculture.

What prompted you to go back to business school at HBS?  Based on the clubs you were involved in, it looks like you were interested in entrepreneurship.  What sparked that interest?

While undergrad was a mind-expanding opportunity to learn about a broad range of topics, business school was an opportunity to go deep. It tends to foster this weird, amazing ecosystem of incredibly passionate, engaged, and interested people who are willing to openly and honestly share their experiences and learn from one another. Starting my career in brand management was a great introduction to product and P&L management, but I wanted to round out my holistic knowledge of all of the functions and idiosyncrasies of running a business. I learned immensely from the people around me.

From the time I was a toddler who would set up my own nursery school at home on the days school wasn’t in session, I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I love building things. At business school, I had the opportunity to flex that muscle and ended up spending time throughout consulting for a range of startups through InSITE Fellows, helping a friend with his emergency response communication platform, and even starting my own women’s intimate apparel line.

Bowery Farming Growth Process
Bowery Farming products in their growing stage.

After spending a year and a half in strategy consulting, why did you decide to join Bowery Farming?

I am grateful for the time I spent at McKinsey, which I view as a continuation of my business education; however, I always knew that I wanted to join or build a company after business school. Consulting taught me the value of strategic and structured thinking (who doesn’t love a good framework?), which has proven incredibly valuable in the ambiguous, amorphous, evolutionary environment of an early-stage, high-growth startup.

After about a year and a half I started to pick my head up and think about what I wanted to do post-consulting. I kept a list of all of the companies that piqued my interest as they popped up in tech headlines. At its core, my interest lay in companies that were using technology to offer a product or service that would make the world a better place for this and future generations. I remember reading about Indigo’s Series C in the summer of 2016 and thinking that was such an incredibly cool company (but what would I DO there?) I started to think more seriously about agtech, and was introduced to our CEO Irving Fain through a VC friend. At the time, the company was five people, but I fell in love with the vision and the opportunity to be a part of what Bowery was building.

Julia Cohen and a Coworker at a supermarket event featuring Bowery Farming Products
Julia Cohen (right) and a Coworker working a supermarket event featuring Bowery Farming products

Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position in Business Development and Corporate Strategy?

I’ve worn a number of hats throughout my time at Bowery, and have spent a lot of time working on all aspects of the commercial side of our business (from marketing to sales and product). In my current role, I am responsible for developing and executing partnerships and supporting strategic initiatives that accelerate Bowery’s growth. This can be anything from cultivating major sales and distribution-related partnerships, to managing go-to-market, product and growth strategy. I love my role at Bowery because it’s highly cross-functional and touches many critical pieces of the business.

Any tips for someone considering a similar career path?

If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be working at an indoor farming company today, I would not have believed you. That’s actually pretty much how I feel about every single career- or life-defining choice that I’ve made to-date. There is no perfect path, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to follow it. Instead, think carefully about all the things that matter to you, force rank them, and use that as your decision matrix when evaluating a new opportunity.

Julia Cohen working with one of Bowery Farming's salad products.

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

Iced coffee, 365 days a year.

What time do you get into the office?

Depending on whether I’ve made it to the gym in the morning and what I have going on that day, sometime between 8:45 and 9:30. If it’s a packed day and I need some quiet time to work in the morning, I’ll head in earlier.

Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?

I try to spend the mornings on “deep” work if I can avoid meetings because I am the most productive and focused then. Afternoons are usually spent hopping from meeting to meeting, and working on day-to-day work and cross-functional projects. I try to spend about an hour wrapping things up and cleaning the slate for the next day before I head home for the night or grab dinner with friends.

What time do you head out of the office?

Usually around 6:30-7:30.

Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?  

I aspire not to (with varying success).

Any productivity hacks?

Everything in my inbox gets labeled and archived, or moved to the “To Do,” “Follow Up,” “In Progress,” or “Parking lot” section of my inbox.

What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?

iMessage, Spotify & Gmail.

What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?

Trying and failing to start my own company.

Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?

My mentor who is a former startup CEO and a total godsend, my insanely insightful friends, my ever-patient boyfriend, and obviously my parents (since they give advice for a living).

Alyssa Oxner is a Customer Success Specialist at VentureFizz.  Follow her on Twitter: @Aoxner23.

Career Path: Matt Houser, Associate Director of Quality Assurance at Eze Software banner image

Career Path: Matt Houser, Associate Director of Quality Assurance at Eze Software

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What does the career path and day in the life look like for the Associate Director of Quality Assurance at Eze Software?

We interviewed Matt Houser to find out!

Career Path

Where did you grow up?  What did you parents do for work?  What was your very first job (before or during college)?

I grew up in Portland, Maine. My very first job was working for my uncle’s general contracting company, building and remodeling houses on the islands off Portland. After that, I had much more enjoyable jobs, teaching snowboarding in the winters, and working for a beer distributor in the summers.

Where did you go to college?  What did you study and what was your first job after school?

I studied mathematics and football at Notre Dame, in sunny South Bend, Indiana.

That lead me to my first job as an insurance analyst at Liberty Mutual in Portsmouth, NH, and eventually Boston. Going back to answer the part I left out of the first question, my parents all worked in insurance (and a number of other family members), making this a pretty easy selection of the first job between my family and the math.

How did you land at Eze Software and what was your role initially?  

Insurance is not the most exciting industry, so after a couple of years there, I decided to go back to school. I returned to Notre Dame and got a master’s in high tech entrepreneurship, with a focus/thesis in financial math.

After living in Boston in my previous job, I knew I wanted to return, so I reached out to the Notre Dame Club of Boston. A fellow alum sent me the opening for a spot at Eze, and the company looked like a perfect fit.

The role was in QA as part of a Leadership Development Program. It combined learning the software, testing, and troubleshooting, with developing towards another role at the company, generally in client service or product management. I went on to our Product Support team, which was our Tier 2 team, dealing with more technical issues and triaging defects. I now manage a team of QA Engineers, and try to make our support teams’ lives easier by releasing as few defects as possible.

You’ve been with the company for a while, can you share the details of what it is about Eze Software that keeps you challenged and moving forward in your career?

The thing that I love about Eze, above all else, is the people. It is full of extremely smart, motivated, diverse, fun, and just all around great men and women. On top of that, we try to be very socially aware, with an entirely employee-run nonprofit charity. I also run an “EzeVember” mustache competition for the past six years and have even managed to win. Coordinating these non-work centric events always invigorates me. Yes, you can see my championship mustache. I had this incredible ‘stache for an entire day at work.

Matt's "award-winning" mustache!

The things that challenge me are continuing to develop myself technically and professionally, and even more so, develop my employees. In an ever-changing software industry, there are always new techniques, tools, and languages to learn. It is great fun learning and teaching everything I can. I also know that since our clients are hedge fund managers and traders, that an emergency can pop-up for R&D on any day. I never know exactly what my day will be when I get to work, which keeps things exciting and challenging.

Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as Associate Director of Quality Assurance?

I have two different lines of responsibilities. First is to make sure my team is fully equipped and able to test, develop, and manage the quality of our product within their individual scrum teams. Second is to manage the overall structure and needs of the QA department (and often beyond) that spans a dozen scrum teams. Each team is unique, has its own needs, problems, and fires to put out.

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

Two seltzers first thing when I walk in every morning. I drink a lot of seltzer and water, but no coffee or tea.

What time do you get into the office?

I am in at 8 AM. When I get here early, which I’m trying to do less often, I sit at a nearby cafe and read.

Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?

  • Morning: Attend daily scrums for the teams and products that my employees work on. Manage testing environments and follow up with teams on outstanding issues.

  • Afternoon: Focus on my individual work. Avoid the scrum teams unless questions and/or issues arise.

  • Evening: Walk home along the waterfront. Read after dinner and decompress. Later in the week, there tend to be evenings involving drinks with coworkers or friends. Here is one example of a Friday afternoon team outing:

What time do you head out of the office?

Usually between 5:30-6. But it’s pretty free-flowing. If I have something better going on, I will leave early. For example, our company softball team:

Eze Software softball team

Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?  

I very seldom log back on at night. I check email and slack on my phone, but at that point, most things needing a real computer can wait until morning.

Any productivity hacks?

My productivity hack is making all my employees productive, so it looks like I am, without actually having to be productive myself.

What are the three apps that you can’t live without?

Ski Tracks is the only app I have ever paid for. It records everything you do during a day of skiing. Distance, runs, top speed, altitude. It is amazing.

Ski Tracks

Outside of that nothing exciting. Googles Maps (NEVER Apple maps) and Audible.com. I tried Candy Crush, but it didn’t do much for me. I’ll scroll Instagram and listen to Music, iPod style, but could live without those.

What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?

The success of my employees is what I am proudest of. There is no better feeling than promoting someone, which I, fortunately, got to do many times this year. So I guess my accomplishment is being good at hiring? I am extremely proud every time one of my employees checks in their first piece of code or automation.

From a company perspective, I am proud of the huge strides we have made in our efforts towards automated testing over the past two years. It has been an enormous shift, has taken a buy-in from all over, and has begun to really pay dividends. It is also more fun, interesting, and challenging work for everyone.

Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?

My current boss, who was also one of my first bosses at Eze, is an amazing wealth of knowledge for everything I could need to know in my job. Working for him was one of the driving factors for me returning to QA as a new manager.

For broader life and long-term career advice, my moms. They are all extremely smart, experienced, and successful. And I am pretty sure they still love any opportunity to parent by bestowing their wisdom upon me actively.

Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6.

About the

SS&C Eze works at the cutting edge of technology to deliver integrated, innovative investment management solutions, and we'll partner with you as a platform for growth. 

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Career Path: Thomas Salah, Sales Manager at SmartBear banner image

Career Path: Thomas Salah, Sales Manager at SmartBear

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What does the career path and day in the life look like for a sales manager at SmartBear?

We interviewed Thomas Salah to find out!

Career Path

Where did you grow up?  

I grew up in Gloucester, MA, a small fishing community located 45 minutes north of Boston.  

What did you parents do for work?  What was your very first job?

My parents owned and operated a restaurant for 25 years of my life. I think I washed my first dish at 10 years old. I was in the kitchen cooking with my Dad at 12, and I was waiting tables by 14. My grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins all worked at the restaurant – it was a family affair.

Where did you go to college?  What did you study?  

I graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in economics. My goal was to attend a NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) school and continue playing hockey. NESCAC schools offer a top-tier liberal arts education combined with highly competitive athletics. Wesleyan felt like the right fit for me from the other NESCAC schools I looked at, and I have no regrets in my decision. The classes were very challenging, we had the best hockey season in program history during my time, and I met people from all areas of the world with different perspectives that made me who I am today.

What was your first job out of college?

As senior year winded down, many of my friends were interviewing for finance and investment banking roles, but I knew that wasn’t for me. I am a people person, and I knew I didn’t have the patience or interest in living behind a spreadsheet and crunching numbers all day. I connected with people in my network across several different industries and liked the idea of technology sales. A family friend had been selling software at PTC for 15 years and helped me to get a job as an Inside Sales Representative (PTC’s word for Business/Sales Development Rep). This was six years ago, and I have been selling software ever since.

What are the details of your current role at SmartBear as a Sales Manager?

I manage a team of six-quota carrying representatives for one of our top product lines. As a sales manager, my focus is teaching my team sales strategies from the initial discovery through close to help each rep reach their goals. While I am involved in all deals that reps need assistance with, I pride myself on coaching and developing my reps rather than writing an email or taking a call for them. I really love working with my team to understand the “why” a particular result occurred to scale that approach if the result was positive and adjust the approach if the result was negative. All sales reps will tell you their goal is to hit their number, and I am responsible for helping them do that at SmartBear, but I believe my true value is helping my team develop the skills that are going to result in them always hitting their number and enjoying long-term success.

Your career path has consistently been on track for a promotion every 1-2 years.  What has attributed to your success?

This is no mystery - work hard, be accountable, and never settle for less. I’ve always had these core values at the top of mind. As in sports, if you put in the effort and stay focused on consistently delivering on your goals, then coaches/managers/leaders will continue to trust you with more responsibility and give you a chance in big-time situations. I’ve always wanted to have the ball in my hands when the game is on the line or a deal teed-up that gets the company across the revenue target. I see those high-pressure situations as an opportunity to prove my worth, and all I can ask for is the opportunity. What I do with that opportunity, well, that’s on me.  

What is your most proud accomplishment at SmartBear?

Without question - rolling out “Personal Development” sessions. Each rep on my team has a 30-minute recurring meeting on my calendar to discuss the topic of their choice in an open discussion format. Topics include written and verbal communication, objection handling, adding and selling value, creating urgency, negotiating, and many others. My intention in rolling out “Personal Development” was to offer each of my reps the opportunity to focus their attention on a specific skill that they would like to improve on and separate from the day-to-day grind of sales, separate from the forecast, the calling, and emailing. I want my reps to look back on their time at SmartBear working for me as being the most impactful years of their career. I hope to be a mentor for them for years to come.

Thomas Salah

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?


What time do you get into the office?

I get into the office between 8:30-9. My team covers the West Coast territory, so work starts a little later than most.  

Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?

I get up every morning at 6, gym from 6:30-8 and then head to the office. I have a good idea of what the day is going to consist of from reviewing my calendar the previous night and listing out my highest priority tasks.

My highest priority task daily is reviewing my pipeline and identifying the key opportunities that are going to get me to my goals and ask myself, “What can I do today to progress this opportunity?" I then look to start knocking down other high priority tasks before the rest of my team arrives, and the day starts moving along quickly. I have meetings to attend daily, but I strive to be at my desk at all other times.  

When I am not in meetings or on customer calls, I spend time reviewing our activity metrics, adding value to my team, and teaching. Around 6 o’clock daily, when the day is winding down, I spend time finishing any outstanding tasks and set my plan for the next day. I also like to spend some time before I leave catching up on the news for the day on Twitter.

I get home around 8:30, which is also when my fiancé gets home, and we sit down for dinner. Dinner usually consists of whatever we meal prepped on Sunday. Rinse and repeat.

Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?  

As much as I try to shut down, I really have a hard time doing so especially when I almost always have my phone in my hand. It’s nearly impossible for me to ignore my Outlook inbox, but I do try to limit myself to only responding to customer emails and discussions impacting revenue. The other topics can wait until the morning.

Any productivity hacks?

In a fast-paced technology company like SmartBear, it is very easy to get distracted. I work on staying organized and focusing on results, but if there is one issue I have, it’s thinking that I can do everything.

Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?

My Dad. While he has never had a corporate job, he has been managing people for much of his life running a restaurant, and he provides unique perspectives on how to overcome challenging situations. He is even-keeled and soft-spoken, so whether the day was good or bad, he usually knows what to say to bring my expectations and feelings back in line, if needed. He always taught me never to get too high or too low and keep grinding. I talk to him several times a week about sports, business, and just about everything else.

Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6.

Image courtesy of Thomas Salah and SmartBear.

About the

6+ million software professionals and 20,000+ companies in 194 countries use SmartBear products to build and deliver the world’s greatest applications.

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Career Path: Riti Naik, Customer Success Analyst at Salsify banner image

Career Path: Riti Naik, Customer Success Analyst at Salsify

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What does the career path and day in the life look like for a Customer Success Analyst at Salsify?

We interviewed Riti Naik to find out!

Career Path

Where did you grow up?  Where did you go to college and what was your first position after graduating?

I grew up in Redmond, Washington, which is close to Seattle. I went to Tufts University and majored in psychology, with a minor in entrepreneurial leadership studies.

After college, I was a Product Analyst at Liberty Mutual Insurance performing pricing and profitability analyses on our Umbrella Insurance product.

What are the details of your current role at Salsify as Customer Success Analyst?

Our team works as analytical resources for our customers. We work with customers to help them find the best way to represent their product content within Salsify and complete various projects for them as well. The members of our team also act as experts on content requirements for top retailers such as Amazon, Home Depot, Overstock, and Instacart.

What was it about Salsify that attracts you to join the team?

Insurance is a highly regulated industry that began to feel a bit dry, so I started looking at startup companies hiring, hoping to work in a more fast-paced environment. I was not only attracted to the fact that Salsify falls in the ever-changing space of eCommerce, but also excited that my role would be a combination of behind the scenes work and also customer facing.

What do you find to be the hardest thing about your job?

I think one of the hardest parts is that there is never one right answer for problems we solve, but there is a better answer. The more exposure you get to diverse business problems, the more efficient you’ll become at helping customers with data modeling tasks.

Do you have a hidden talent/fact that many people don’t know about you?

I have my Group Exercise Certification from AFAA (Aerobics & Fitness Association of America) and am a part-time faculty member teaching Physical Education at MIT. I currently teach two workout formats, POUND Fitness, a drumming-inspired workout, and BollyX, a dance-cardio workout.

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

Both! Or if I can’t decide, I’ll go for a dirty chai.

What time do you get into the office? 

It varies, but usually between 8:45 AM and 9:30 AM.

Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?

  • Morning: The first thing I do when I get in is usually going through my emails and Slack channels to see if I have any important messages that need immediate attending to.
  • Afternoon: From there, I take a look at my Wunderlist (a free app that helps create and manage "to-do" lists) and see what tasks I have lined up for the week, to decide what to work on for the day. Wunderlist is fantastic because you can set due dates and also check tasks off as you complete them, so it makes it easy to prioritize my workload and not forget about anything. We assign work a lot through a ticketing system called JIRA, so usually my Wunderlist will consist of those JIRA tickets and any other ad-hoc projects. 
  • Evening: Some days are meeting heavy, some days aren't. Depending on the day, I may also spend some time preparing for and attending meetings, which can range from internal to customer facing.

What time do you head out of the office? 

At Salsify, we receive a lot of flexibility with our working schedule, which is awesome! We are, obviously, expected to complete good quality work on time, but there is no company policy around strict hours. I teach my physical education classes in Cambridge on Mondays and Wednesdays, so I'm pretty much always out by 5 PM those nights. Otherwise, it depends on my workload. If I have a more substantial workload, I'll stay at work later, but I'm often out by 5:30 PM latest so that I can catch my favorite workout classes in the city. I'm a huge believer in an active lifestyle, so I'll often sometimes use an earlier workout as a "break" and then log back on to wrap up some work at home later.

Riti Naik teaching phys ed

Apple or Microsoft?

Most of my electronics are Apple, so Apple. Except I’d take Microsoft Excel on a PC over a Mac any day.

Reading or watching TV?

I watch a couple of shows, but I'm definitely been trying to read more recently.

Favorite movie?

Hmm...maybe Moulin Rouge!?

Looking towards the future, where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully, I’ll still be in an analytics-focused role, and maybe I’ll have added another fitness format to my skill set. Oh, and possibly owning a pug!

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to be in your position one day?

Excel will be one of your best friends, so learn as much about it as you can.

Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6.

Images courtesy of Riti Naik and Salsify.

About the

Salsify empowers brands to win on the digital shelf.

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Career Path: Alison Decker, Manager, Product Research and Design at Liberty Mutual Insurance banner image

Career Path: Alison Decker, Manager, Product Research and Design at Liberty Mutual Insurance

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What does the career path and a day in the life look like for the Manager, Product Research and Design at Liberty Mutual Insurance

We interviewed Alison Decker to find out.

Career Path

Where did you grow up?  What did you parents do for work?  What was your very first job?

I grew up in Newton, MA next to the border of Waltham, where my Mom has been a nurse for over 35 years and my Dad has been everything from a vitamin designer/ingredient sourcer for forward-thinking nutritional companies, to a personal investor, self-employed construction worker, and Zamboni driver. Both of my parents are lifelong learners who think outside of the “conventional box”. I believe these traits have proven to be wonderful assets for me, but do need to be tempered with purposeful focus, which, can be difficult for a human factors researcher; I tend to see limitless opportunities for how we can better support not only our customers but also essentially, our coworkers and team members.

My first job was at a local ice cream store. I started working at the age of 13 because I wanted a job and went out and got one. I later learned that, legally, I shouldn’t have been allowed to work until I was 14!

Why did you decide to attend Fairfield University and what did you study there?

I decided to attend Fairfield University because of the reputation of its business school, the Dolan School of Business. I wanted to be sure that after spending so much time and money in college, that I would leave with tangible skills. My Dad always said I had a knack for business, and I wanted to learn how to help influence the world for the better, through the lens of business.

Little did I know that Fairfield University highly focuses on ethics across all of its programs. I, fortunately, received an education where we explored the impact of “everyday” business decisions not only through the defined and typical stakeholders, but also through the “forgotten” or extended members of pipelines, such as the employees at vendor companies, or, the local/global environmental impacts of business.

At Dolan, I went into the very small information systems management (IS) program because I saw how tangible, valuable, and real the skills were in that space, and also because the professors were enormously inspiring. The professors and leaders of the IS program had been working with local and global non-profits for years, both in their own time and also through the partnership with the university and students. For just one example, I had the opportunity to travel with members of the IS program to Managua, Nicaragua to work with local business students to help create a more sustainable system to transport pottery from local ceramic designers to a defined market in Washington state. Being able to see such a real impact of technology management, was profound.

After starting your career as a Business Systems Analyst at Liberty Mutual Insurance, how did you make the transition into user experience?  

I made the transition through the relationships that I had built as a Business Systems Analyst and in researching the field and position in advance. At the time, user experience (especially user experience research) was not a popular or well-known field, but I could see that the human-centered information it was providing could become the cornerstone for making not only smart product decisions but also for building short and long-term business strategy. Even though my MBA courses at Bentley University never explicitly addressed it, I saw a pattern emerge across all the course materials over those three years; the influence of information gained from people (when accurate and used correctly) was almost always at the foundation of any successful innovative or strategic business decision from the small, to the industry rocking. It was at that point that I knew I should pursue a full career in user experience, founded in research.

What advice can you share with someone who is looking to pursue a career in user experience?

I would advise them to go for it! However, there is now a lot of interest in user experience, with many programs offering three-month programs to become a UX designer. I not only encourage any learning opportunity, but I would advise those that are interested to think carefully about the breadth of the UX field before perhaps choosing a particular job family that is becoming more saturated. Consider your personal strengths and weaknesses, and try to choose a path within UX that perhaps may not be as ‘popular’, but creates significant strategic value. I still see that User Research is significantly underrepresented in most organizations, and in the future, I would expect even that focusing on human factors psychology would be of enormous value to companies, especially as artificial intelligence progresses.

Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position at Liberty Mutual Insurance?

As a manager of User Research and Design, I’m responsible for helping to create a positive environment for both the research and design leads, as well as for our stakeholders and products. Creating a positive environment consists of everything from triaging product opportunities to assess fit and impact, to helping create highly flexible yet supportive processes for the teams, to advising on how to reduce bias in research, and assisting design challenges. I also look into how to develop new environments, or programs, for us to partner with. Often, these are internal functions of our 50,000 employee company, such as legal, finance, security, technology, or human resources. Outside of my direct responsibilities, I’ve found the UX Community, which is a grassroots organization that spans across the entire company and takes on important human-centered initiatives. For example, we are hoping to launch our company’s first-ever ‘accessibility design sprint’ intended to spread awareness of the importance and know-how of designing UIs that are accessible across our physical diversities and neurodiversities. This past fall, we hosted the first annual UX Summit and had 100 UX evangelists attend in-person and over 500 attendees online.

Alison Decker Liberty Mutual

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

Right now, it’s homemade coffee with a dollop of ice cream. :)

What time do you get into the office?

Somewhere between 7:45-8:30

Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?

  • Morning: I love exercising in the morning, but it’s tough to get out in the winter at 6 AM for a run in the blustery and cold dark mornings. Sometimes I get lucky and catch a moderately warm and quiet morning and get to see the sun break through the clouds before all of the city bustle picks up.

  • Afternoon: I usually use the afternoons in one of two ways; I’ve either carved out 3 hours of time to focus in on a challenge like a design or research gap in product strategy or training opportunities or, I save the afternoons for smaller 30-minute product check-ins or 1:1s with team members.

  • Evening:  When we have the chance to, cooking dinner with my husband is my favorite part of the day. Fortunately, it’s becoming more of the routine for us!

Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?  

I shut it down completely. I tend to work longer days because I prefer to create a clear headspace outside of work. I enjoy what I do and the teams I work with so it can be hard to shut off, which makes it especially important to not log in when I’m off work.

Any productivity hacks?

I’ll let you know as soon as I figure out some for myself! I have always found though that when faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge, that taking a 20-minute break to walk, stretch, or go for a run, has always helped to provide much-needed perspective and often, answers.

What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?

Yelp to find and look at great food in the city, Google Maps to zoom in and out of the world, and Lyft.

What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?

The professional accomplishments that I am proudest of all relate back to the teams and individuals that I work with. Building trust among colleagues and team members that I collaborate with is the most rewarding aspect of what I do. Achieving product success is phenomenal, but there’s nothing better at work than being surrounded by inspired and energized team members. Plus, helping to cultivate this energy and support is a moving target, so there’s always more that can be done to improve it! To that point, I don’t necessarily have one particular professional accomplishment that I am proudest of, but there have been a variety of circumstances where I have stood up for the value of different individual’s unique skill sets, perspectives, experiences, and/or other personal characteristics in ways that have allowed that individual gain a better platform share, utilize, and grow their strengths. I’m particularly proud of those moments.

Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?

This is a tough one! Everyone has a perspective to share, so depending on the challenge, I’ll seek advice from particular people; from interns, to team members, mentors, current and former managers, and well as family and friends who are both in and out of “the corporate” world.

Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6.

Images courtesy of Alison Decker.

About the

At Liberty Mutual, you’ll help lead our digital transformation to deliver immersive and secure experiences for our employees, customers, agents, and brokers using cloud-native tech, scalable microservice architecture, and next-wave software delivery methods.

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Career Path: Okan Okutgen, Channel Operations and Strategy Lead at Formlabs banner image

Career Path: Okan Okutgen, Channel Operations and Strategy Lead at Formlabs

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What does the career path and day in the life look for the Channel Operations and Strategy Lead at Formlabs?

We interviewed Okan Okutgen to find out.

Career Path

Where did you grow up?  What did you parents do for work?  What was your very first job?

I was born and brought up in Istanbul, Turkey. I moved to the USA for college and have been living abroad since then. My father studied economics, but runs his own distributor business in Istanbul and provides spare parts to car manufacturing facilities. My mother was an English lecturer at a university, and she is now retired.

My first job was my college internship at Daimler AG (parent company of Mercedes Benz) in Stuttgart, Germany. I was placed there through my university’s “Summer Work Program in Germany.” I was working in the procurement department and had to develop a strategy and plan for procurement of industrial washing machines. The coolest thing about it was that I got to improve my German, and also got to experience a foreign working culture early on.

Why did you decide to study Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton?  It looks like you were very involved in various entrepreneurial efforts on campus. Can you highlight some of the details?

I love solving complex problems and engineering education gives you a distinct way of understanding, dissecting, and solving problems. I picked mechanical engineering because I think it is a fundamental engineering branch that has many broad applications. It does not narrow you down. I studied Aerospace Engineering because I love challenging myself.  I found “being a rocket scientist” pretty fascinating; in one class we designed a microsatellite that would detect new planets and tested our design at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Funny detail – since I was a foreign national, a security guard followed me during our entire stay at NASA, including accompanying me to the bathroom!

I have always been interested in the intersection of engineering/technical solution and business.  I believe a lot of the big problems in the world such as climate change, social inequality etc. can be solved by innovative businesses that make financial sense. Unfortunately – not everyone will be an environmentalist. However, if you build profitable green businesses that are integrated into a capitalist system, you can broaden the number of people who will contribute to a more sustainable life even though they might not be as passionate about the environment.

Princeton was a great environment to explore those interests and to highlight this message. I became involved with, and then served as President of, the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club. This is one of the most active and biggest student clubs on campus. One of my goals as president was to make environmental and social entrepreneurship a more prominent part of our activities such as our annual Business Plan Competition and our ongoing speaker series.

Okan Oktugen

What was your first job out of your undergraduate studies?  

I worked at RED (Recycled Energy Development), which was a small company with a mission to “profitably reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” The mission statement appealed to me since it aligned with my view that big problems can be solved by businesses. At RED we built, owned and operated combined heat and power plants and waste energy recovery plants that would produce highly efficient energy at industrial sites in the USA. In the business development department, I did the techno-financial analysis of various projects and worked on the acquisition of a major industrial park power plant. As part of my role, I had to be able to be down in the weeds of the technical, legal and financial details and marry them, but rise up to see the big picture and help craft deals that met the goals of various stakeholders. I also met one of my mentors Tom Casten, who was the chairman of the company. He has started or led multiple companies in the energy space. He is a published author who was also actively contributing to energy efficiency literature with articles. I was privileged to be part of some of his work.

Why did you decide to return back to school and earn your MBA from HBS?

I still wanted to do more in the intersection of engineering and entrepreneurship. Even in undergraduate, as I was studying engineering, I knew I wanted to go to business school and complement my technical education. Business is definitely not something that you can just learn in school. However, my two years at HBS were very defining for me as I reflected on what kind of a career I want to build and what kind of a leader I want to become. It is a unique place to do that – I was surrounded by diverse classmates who challenged me every day.

What kind of career do you want to build? What kind of leader do you want to become?

My goal is to become a leader who makes a difference in the world. I know it sounds like a cliche recruiting tagline, but it is true. Making a difference has many forms. It ranges from working in companies that have a mission that goes beyond profit, to being a coach and mentor to peers and direct reports every day. I found Clayton Christensen’s quote from his book “How will you measure your life?” very inspiring and eye-opening. He says:

“I used to think that if you cared for other people, you need to study sociology or something like it. But….I [have] concluded, if you want to help other people, be a manager. If done well, management is among the most noble of professions. You are in a position where you have eight or ten hours every day from every person who works for you. You have the opportunity to frame each person’s work so that, at the end of every day, your employees will go home feeling like Diana felt on her good day: living a life filled with motivators.”

What type of management consulting work did you do at Bain & Company?

Bain has a generalist model that focuses on strategy consulting. Given my engineering background and interest, I spent most of my time with IG&S clients (Industrial goods and services), who were more B-2-B and had technical products. I did a variety of projects such as developing a corporate strategy to drive the growth of a facilities management company, redesigning sales & operations planning for the global rental power company and streamlining the procurement efforts of a global EPC (engineering, procurement, and construction) company.

Personally one of the biggest highlights was my role in a pro-bono project as part of the Bain Green Team. We helped a sustainability data company perform more effectively by redesigning their entire operating model: including company structure, accountabilities, governance and ways of working. Our goal was to ensure that every resource and activity in the company is aligned with company strategy and mission, which is to make environmental reporting and risk management part of business decisions.

One of the key learnings from Bain is the ability to quickly ramp up about an industry or function that you are not familiar with and identify the key business levers that would bring the most value to the company whether in growth or operational efficiency. The 80/20 rule is crucial: 80% of the value comes from 20% of the work. It pushes you to do prioritization so that you only focus on the activities that will drive big change and impact, which is very important for every business where time and resources are limited.

Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position at Formlabs? Why did you join Formlabs?

I joined Formlabs because I was fascinated by Form 2, the most advanced desktop 3D printer ever created and the company culture. I think it is a company full of youth, drive, ambition, and willingness to set new norms in the 3D printing industry. And my time here has proven me that this was the right move for me. Every day I feel satisfied because I am building a company with my colleagues. As a fast-growing company sometimes we do things for the first time or we have to iterate fast based on new information we have. I tackle difficult problems that require trade-offs, quick thinking, flexibility, and creativity. That challenge invigorates me and grows me professionally, which I love.

My role has two hats. I am the Global Channel Operations Lead. Our channel is our network of distributors and resellers that sell Formlabs products around the world. My goal is to make sure this network works effectively and efficiently as we make more Formlabs products accessible to more end users around the globe. This involves project managing sales, marketing, customer support, and operations team globally to ensure products and services are delivered to channel partners efficiently while ensuring a good experience to end users.

I am also the lead for the North America and International Channel Sales team, where we work to grow our top-line revenue in North America, LatAm and ASEAN regions. We recruit and grow the right partners in these regions that not only allow us to hit our aggressive growth goals, but also provide the best customer experience and value to end-users. We want to make sure as many people around the world can have access to our technology and use 3D printing to create things.

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

I have one cup of coffee every morning. No more, no less.

What time do you get into the office?

I get in between 8-9 am depending on when my first meeting is. I try to get in about half an hour before my first meeting to just settle in and orient myself before I start the day.

Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?

Morning: I work out in the morning. Either I do HIIT (high-intensity interval training) or yoga.

Then I prepare breakfast for me and my wife: Boiled eggs and a breakfast smoothie with berries.

As I get ready, I listen to the Economist (the app has an audio version that reads you the articles).

Then as I am driving to work I talk to my family members on the phones (parents, in-laws, brother). Due to the time difference, it works best when I talk to them in the morning.

I go through my planner to orient myself for the day and prioritize my activities.

I usually have a couple of meetings especially with team members who are in European and Asian time zones.

Afternoon: I have few more meetings and usually have a couple of hours blocked for some alone working time.  

Evening: Early evening I go through my emails, to make sure nothing time-sensitive is pending.

Then I go through my planner and update it accordingly based on that day’s work.

I go home and have dinner with my wife, who is a current student at HBS.

We either go out to meet friends and attend a social school activity or stay in and watch one of our TV shows. We are obsessed with the Crown.

If she has still some school work to do, I do some reading on my own or pick up some work emails.

What time do you head out of the office?

It depends. Usually, I leave between 7-8 pm.

Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?  

I do log back in as necessary, but I usually prefer powering through and leaving a bit later instead of logging back in. Either way, I make sure I have my family time with my wife. I have dinner with her every night.

Any productivity hacks?

I use the weekly planner (not daily!) framework from Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habit of Highly Effective People.” In this planner, you divide all your tasks into 4 quadrants in a 2 by 2 matrix based on importance and urgency. You not only focus on important and urgent tasks but also focus on important and non-urgent tasks. This way you not only firefight but also spend time on what will drive long-term value. Read the book! It is not only for professional life!

What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?

  • 7 Minute Workout (by Johnson & Johnson): Great way to exercise and challenge yourself if you have limited time. I do 2-3 cycles of 7 min HIIT.
  • The Economist: I listen to the audio version as I get ready in the mornings. It not only keeps me current with what is happening in the world but oddly calms me down:)
  • Whatsapp: Need to stay in touch with friends and family.

What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?

Working in companies with cultures and missions that excite me such as RED and Formlabs. I am proud to have found companies and roles that appeal to my deeper values and motivate me to perform at my best. I enjoy coming to work every day and I think that is a privilege.

Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?

So many, but first that pops to mind is Elon Musk. I admire him, as he pushes the boundaries and tries to make the world a better place with business.

I call upon my core support network that consists of my wife, close friends, family and my career coach (yes such a thing exists and provided as support by my school to alumni.). My wife is my rock and best friend. She supports and challenges me every day.  

Also, I can admit that I read a lot of professional development and self-help books.

Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6.

Images courtesy of Okan Oktugen.

About the

Join Formlabs if you want to bring ground-breaking professional 3D printers to the desktop of every designer, engineer, researcher, and artist in the world.

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Career Path: Michael Metcalf, Account Executive at Turbonomic banner image

Career Path: Michael Metcalf, Account Executive at Turbonomic

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What does the career path and day in the life look for an Account Executive at Turbonomic?

We interviewed Michael Metcalf to find out.

Career Path

Where did you grow up? What did you parents do for work? What was your very first job?

I grew up in West Roxbury and moved to Foxboro in 2000. My mother was a nurse and my father was in construction. My first job was making pizza at Papa Gino's when I was 15.

Where did you go to college? What did you study?

I went to Umass Boston and studied politics.

Mike Metcalf and his younger sister
Michael and his sister.

What were some of your first jobs out of college? How did they lay down the foundation to what you are doing now?  

I have always been involved in some type of sales opportunity, but my first professional sales experience was with a brokerage firm selling investment services and securities.​

How did you land in the tech industry in a sales position at Turbonomic?

My old high-school classmate reached out via LinkedIn and wanted to discuss a sales position at Turbonomic (at the time, called VMTurbo). After our conversation, I quickly submitted my resume and was asked to come in for an interview. The product, culture, and team at Turbonomic are what really hooked me in. And as they say, the rest is history.​

Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position at Turbonomic?

I am an Account Executive in our commercial business and I work closely with BDRs (business development representatives), sales engineers, my Regional Director and our Vice Presidents. My focus is on uncovering opportunities to sell Turbonomic across my territory and engaging in proof of concepts with the goal of forming net-new partnerships.

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

I get a coffee from Dunkin Donuts every morning at the train station and typically have at least two more cups throughout the day. I stay away from soda and energy drinks and consume a lot of water to hydrate.

What time do you get into the office?

I usually get in between 8-9am.

Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?

Morning: Review to-do list for the week/day, research prospects.

Afternoon: Typically focus on completing high priority items with a mix of meetings/calls throughout the day.

Evening: Follow up with prospects and tie off loose ends with any outstanding emails.

What time do you head out of the office?

Anytime between 6-8pm.

Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?  

It depends, but I’m always subconsciously thinking about work even if I’m not doing actual work.

Any productivity hacks?

Paper and pen is never going to be out of style for me, crossing things off a list equate to a small win and small wins add up in the long run.

What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?

Google Maps, Google, TuneIn Radio

What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?

Three years of employment at Turbonomic. It was a surreal experience to stop and think for a little bit at the beginning of this year about how much has changed in my life since coming here for an interview in December 2014. So many great experiences and events have happened since joining. The great thing is, it’s only the beginning and there is so much more to come.

Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?

I admire those who pull themselves out of challenging situations and the people I typically call upon for professional advice are those who have achieved a level of success outside the normal duties in business... there are plenty of these people at Turbonomic for me to learn from. Our leadership team is always around to coach and mentor, which is great to have.

Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6.

Images courtesy of Michael Metcalf and Turbonomic.

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Turbonomic Application Resource Management matches application demand to infrastructure supply to continuously ensure application performance. 

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Career Path: Angela Bassa, Director of Data Science at iRobot banner image

Career Path: Angela Bassa, Director of Data Science at iRobot

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What does the career path and a day in the life look like for the Director of Data Science at iRobot?

We interviewed Angela Bassa to find out.

Career Path

Where did you grow up?  What did you parents do for work?  What was your very first job?

I was born and raised in Brazil and moved State-side when I was 14 with my parents when my dad transferred to WV for work. My father is an electrical engineer and my mother is a pedagogue - I definitely got a lot of my passion for science and learning from them.

When we first moved to the US, my mother and I weren’t allowed to work based on our visa status. My father has since worked in Mexico, France, and Korea; when I got accepted into MIT he got transferred again, so I’ve been living in a different continent from them ever since I was 17.

After graduating from high school I came to the Boston area for college and have been living here on-and-off for almost 20 years now. My first jobs were college internships where I tried to get a sense of the different kinds of work opportunities that existed for a mathematician. My first one was in the venture arm of a large multinational bank, then I spent a summer in the comptrollership of an aluminum smelting plant. I also spent a semester at the MIT Research Lab of Electronics in the Quantum Information Group where I worked on a project investigating the communication protocols necessary for getting two quantum computers to transfer data packets between each other. For my senior year, I conducted a comparative study of presidential election media coverage, highlighting the disparity between the alleged objectivity and impartiality of newspapers, and their potential subliminal impact as political agents during election campaigns. This “testing of the waters” was invaluable in helping me figure out what to do after graduation.

Angela Bassa with Lego Chewbacca

Why did you decide to study Mathematics at MIT?  Anything that you’d like to highlight from your time at MIT?

I mean, it’s MIT! To be frank, I never thought in a million years that I’d get in. I also didn’t apply to any “safety schools” because I figured that if I didn’t get into any of the ones I did apply to, I’d take some time to prepare for the Brazilian university system’s entrance exams and attend school there. But then the fat MIT envelope arrived (I’m old enough that they still let you know via envelopes back then) and I knew that I had to go there—it had been a dream of mine for a long time. Studying at MIT was amazing, but it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done; those classes are no joke, and there’s no room for slacking. It took me years to figure out just how uncommon the pace and rigor of MIT classes were.

I remember that I wanted to study computer science or economics when I first got there. There are some classes which all MIT students, whether they major in biology or music, must take—and they are pretty math-heavy. I had taken several advanced math classes in high school and fell in love with the subject even more at the Institute… I remember being conflicted about it, thinking “What am I going to do with a math degree when I graduate?!” But it turned out that the timing was perfect since the data analytic revolution was just around the corner.

What was your first job out of undergrad?  

My first job was as a financial analyst on Wall Street. The finance sector recruits heavily for quants graduating from mathematics degree programs, and I couldn’t really believe that I was going to be working in Manhattan… but it turned out to have been a poor fit for my personality. As with any first job, you’re really paying your dues—so if you don’t enjoy it, the long hours and subject matter can get to you quickly. I worked in the Secured Capital Markets division, which meant that I had to be at the bank when the trading floor got in at 6:30 AM and didn’t leave until the investment bankers wrapped up around 9 PM or 10 PM. I learned a ton, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to learn about capital structuring, complex deal financings, contract negotiations, etc., but it really wasn’t the kind of career I could see myself investing in for the long term.

I’m jealous… it looks like you spent a year living in the Virgin Islands as a SCUBA instructor, which must have been amazing.  Was that a way to take some time to think about your long-term career goals?  Did you find that experience beneficial?

This closely follows from the previous question: after a year of 100-hour weeks, I decided I needed to “decompress” (pun intended!). I packed up my nest egg and moved to the beautiful Caribbean island of St. Croix where I sold T-shirts for minimum wage while I racked up logged dives to qualify for the open water certifications. After about six months, I had jumped through all the required hoops and became a SCUBA Instructor. I then spent another six months or so as a teacher and dive master. This was definitely meant to be a time for me to recalibrate and figure out what I wanted to do once I rejoined the real world, but I honestly learned more about managing people under stress during this time than at any other “management” course I’ve taken since. Once you’ve had to safely deal with panicked divers who want to bolt to the surface (a very big no-no when you’re breathing pressurized air) or handle an inexperienced mother-daughter pair who could get mightily distressed if they saw that harmless but fierce-looking barracuda right behind them, many other stressful situations in the corporate world become a lot more manageable in comparison.

Angela Bassa, SCUBA

Prior to joining iRobot, you worked in various roles that were focused on working with very large data sets and analytics within industries like healthcare and energy.  How did that experience help you build the foundation for what you are doing today?

Working in such different industries has been very helpful because it has allowed me to become versed in different techniques that I can now use in a cross-disciplinary way. That “cross-pollination” has been a great source of ideas and inspiration for novel approaches to solving data problems. For instance: the work I’ve done analyzing and planning clinical trials has helped me think through A/B tests in software environments, simulating genetic trait introgression in soybeans has been a huge source of inspiration in designing energy efficiency models for building management systems, and so on. I think this has also given me a new perspective in hiring and management: one of the data scientists on our team has a marine biology background, and she often has surprising (to me) insights about robot fleet behavior that she derives from her time researching dolphin pod migration. Knowledge really is all around us and keeping an open mind to identify where seemingly disparate applications could transform an approach is incredibly useful.

Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position at iRobot and what your Data Science team is working on?

Our core responsibility is to study the behavior of our robot fleet in order to delight our customers and increase our revenue. This work is a combination of pure research as well as developing the tools and infrastructure that allow these scientific inquiries to be assessed quickly and accurately. The questions we ask run the gamut from "What is the reliability of our data collection platform?” to “When do our customers prefer to run their robots and why?”

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

My drink of choice is a large iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts—even if it’s 20 degrees outside! I’m definitely a Bostonian now. I’m also almost seven months pregnant, so it’s decaf for the time being.

What time do you get into the office?

While it’s uncontroversial that “team time” is important, I’m a big believer that focused thinking time is crucial. Instead of wasting time in traffic, I try to take care of the emails in my inbox at home before getting in the car and am usually in the office around 9:30 AM.

Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?

Morning: Sleep is non-negotiable. I sleep at least 8 hours a day and am usually up around 7am. I usually hit the road by 8:45 AM. Our team has a daily standup meeting first thing when we catch up on everyone’s goals and progress. Then I’ll usually either have meetings with other teams or informal ones with my team to give feedback or direction on what they’re working on.

Afternoon: I try to set up some time for dedicated thinking in the early afternoons and catch up on reading technical papers, industry news, and emails. I like to check out our team’s analyses and get lost in our dashboards a bit to stay fresh on the latest findings. I also have many meetings with senior leaders across the organization to keep them up-to-date on the status of the fleet and other important metrics.

Evening: I’ll usually leave the office a little before 5pm and wrap up any threads for the day, get to Inbox Zero, and log off completely some 40-60 minutes after I get home. Then it’s time to play with the dog, the cat, have dinner with my family, and enjoy each other’s company.

What time do you head out of the office?

I try to beat the heavy Boston-area traffic in the afternoon as well, so I’ll usually try to head out before the big rush hour traffic in the afternoon. I’ll then put in another hour or so at home to catch up on emails and other tasks, where the only distractions are the dog and the cat. My philosophy is that if the work is getting done and we’re meeting (and often exceeding) expectations, I see no reason to keep office chairs warm given all the VPN luxuries we have available to us in a 21st century tech company. Obviously, there are times when unforeseen needs come up and we have to put in a bit more time in the office, but with good planning and preparation, those are thankfully few and far between.

Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?  

Unless there is a very good reason to log back on, I try to stay logged off once I’m done for the day. I seldom feel externally pressured to log back on, but I love what I do—so if the mood strikes and I’m struck with a good idea, I’ll take advantage of the inspiration while it’s there.

Any productivity hacks?

Like I said above, sleep is non-negotiable. This isn’t usually thought of as a productivity hack, but since I’ve gotten fanatical about protecting my eight hours of sleep I have gotten so much more productive and successful professionally! You can’t force your brain to be brilliant, but you definitely can stress it so much that it is unable to come up with any good ideas. However, I have heard that the whole “new parent thing” might have a material impact on this for the next several months. Another thing I’m zealous about is running two miles every weekday. I can’t say I manage to do it every day, but I’m pretty good about doing it at least four days a week.

In terms of more “conventional” productivity hacks, I try to get to Inbox Zero every day. I’ve been doing this for about 10 years. I also always leave my phone on silent and have almost no notifications turned on. The only alerts I get from my phone are calls from my family and calendar notifications.

What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?

1Password, Nuzzle, and Overcast.

I’ve been using 1Password as a password manager since 2006 and cannot imagine living without it. It is the first app that I install on any new device, and it makes me feel a lot safer and saner as I navigate the interwebs.

I have a Twitter account that I use quite a bit because of the strong data community there, but I hate the overwhelming noise that comes with it. To tame things I have hundreds of muted terms that keep the timeline healthy for me. In order to stay up on the conversations, I rely on Nuzzle to aggregate news, articles, and links my network is talking about in a dedicated stream.

I also love listening to podcasts on my commute; Overcast is a great player with tons of useful features like voice boosting and distortion-free silence shortening. If you’re looking for great podcasts to listen to, I really like Linear Digressions, 99% Invisible, Reply All, and Note to Self.

What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have many opportunities come across my path that I’ve been able to jump on: it was the honor of a lifetime to fly to Geneva and present at the WHO, it was an amazing distinction to be part of the team that won the 2015 INFORMS Edelman award, and I still can’t quite believe that I have almost 50 patent applications for inventions I’ve been involved in developing. But my proudest accomplishment professionally has been building the Data Science team at iRobot from the ground up, as we’re starting to see the seeds of all that hard work start to bear fruit and impact the whole organization.

Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?

There are so many people whose insight I rely on, I don’t think I can pick just one name. It takes a village and, in alphabetical order (because I couldn’t possibly figure out how to order them in any other way), I am often reaching out to Chris Albon, Husain al-Mohssen, Mara Averick, Ed Cuoco, Ben Kehoe, Jack Kloeber, Hilary Parker, Jason Emory Parker, Mark Potter, Mikhail Popov, Andrew Therriault, and Mona Vernon. This amazing group of people helps me with their expertise in data and data science, math, statistics, analysis, business, management, strategy, and life.

Angela Bassa Keynote Speaking

Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz.  Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6.

Images courtesy of Angela Bassa.

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iRobot, the leading global consumer robot company, designs and builds robots that empower people to do more.

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