Learn how professionals in the tech
industry got to where they are today 
and what a day in the life looks like.

Cover Photo: 
Thumbnail Photo: 
Banner Color: 
#71c2cf
Alternate Thumbnail: 
Career Path: Maggie Brenner, Product Manager at Ellevation banner image

Career Path: Maggie Brenner, Product Manager at Ellevation

Open Jobs Company Page

What does the career path and day-in-the-life for a Product Manager at Ellevation look like?

We connected with Maggie Brenner to find out!

Ellevation is hiring, click here for job openings.


Career Path

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Larchmont, NY which is a suburb of New York City.

Where did you go to college?  What did you study and what were some of your initial jobs out of school?

I have a BA from Bowdoin College and a master’s in urban education from Loyola Marymount University. My undergrad degree is in visual arts/art history, but I would say that I have a true liberal arts degree and studied everything from calculus to infant & child development to the arts of Japan. I worked for an orphanage in Malawi, Africa right out of college and then quickly made my way into the education space focusing on charter school operations first at the NYC Department of Education and then for a network of charter schools in Harlem. From there, I applied and was accepted to be a TFA corps member and taught in San Jose for two years.

What has contributed to your success thus far and has helped propel you to the position you have now?

Being relentlessly curious, developing and leveraging strong networks and finding opportunities to explore topics/skills that interest me. As a little kid, I was always analyzing which jobs I didn’t think I wanted: crossing guard sounded too cold and garbage person too dirty. Although a seemingly straightforward exercise, this tendency to continuously analyze what I like or don’t like about a role has enabled me to clarify what I’d like to do next and intentionally move towards my goals. I’ve also been incredibly lucky to have worked with a unique number of supportive and collaborative co-workers and managers.

Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as Product Manager at Ellevation Education?

  • Engage in discovery

  • Ship Minimum Viable Products often

  • Curate our backlog - create and prioritize user stories, review any new bug

  • Evangelize our product

  • Track and analyze key metrics

  • Engage our customers to get input and feedback on product development

Any tips for someone considering transitioning to a career in Product Management?

  • Talk to anyone you can who’s an engineer, product manager or designer. Learn about the variations between companies and which type of role you think will be best for you. I also went to a few meetups and introductory courses which gave me some solid baseline knowledge.

  • There’s a ton of great literature out there about the PM role, product teams and how to work best with engineers which I would recommend reading. I found Cracking the PM Interview helpful in understanding what the interview process might look like.
     
  • Think about what your best entry point is. For me, it has been beneficial to move internally. While I’m learning the role, I’m able to leverage strong knowledge of our product and customers.

What drew you to Product Management?

I had the opportunity to participate in a discovery sprint internally. The focus on solving challenges and the iterative nature of the work got me hooked on learning more about product development. I’ve learned that being a PM isn’t just running discovery sprints, but the continuous cycle of developing hypotheses, testing, learning, and iterating to address our customers’ biggest challenges keeps me excited every single day.


Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

Coffee

What time do you get into the office?

Usually between 8 and 8:30.

What are three things that motivate you in your role?

  1. Our customers and the students they serve

  2. A desire to solve problems and understand how things work

  3. My co-workers

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

I’m only in month two of the PM role at Ellevation, so I’m still figuring that out a bit but here’s a high-level overview:

  1. Pour myself some coffee and assemble some sort of yogurt/granola/fruit breakfast

  2. Review any new bug or feature improvement tickets that have come through

  3. Look at our health and OKR metrics in Splunk

  4. Troubleshoot/Look into anything that our Product Support team has flagged

  5. Review the virtual stand up where everyone on the team shares what they’re working on

  6. Attend Stand Up with other Engineering/Product leads to discuss what’s up next to go into production and how we’ll sequence it

  7. Meet with Product Marketing to discuss roll out of a new feature

  8. Lunch

  9. Review feedback from usability sessions and identify key functionality that we’ll want to add

  10. Curate our backlog, create and prioritize user stories

  11. Review any new bug or feature improvement tickets that have come through

What time do you head out of the office?

5:15ish

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

I’ve gone through phases of each but for the most part try to shut down completely when I leave and only log back in when there’s something that might require monitoring or night time work. I’ve learned over time the lines that I need to draw for myself to ensure I don’t get burnt out and do my best to stick to them.

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

  1. Slack

  2. Splunk

  3. Evernote

What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?

  • Becoming a Product Manager

  • Hiring and developing a collaborative team of high performers (in my last role as a Director of Implementation)

  • The relationships I formed with my students

Bowdoin Alum

Who do you call upon for professional advice?

I lean on my family and my boyfriend as thought partners in most professional decisions. We circulated Radical Candor by Kim Scott around the office at one point and there are a lot of concepts in that book that have really stuck with me. The importance of pairing caring personally with challenging directly about reports and colleagues (which I think is fair to call the thesis) is something that I think about often.


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

Images courtesy of Maggie Brenner and Ellevation

About the
Company

Ellevation is the first and most powerful suite of tools designed specifically for professionals serving English Language Learners   .

View Company Page
Career Path: Addison Maupin, Technical Recruiter at athenahealth banner image

Career Path: Addison Maupin, Technical Recruiter at athenahealth

Open Jobs Company Page

What does the career path and a day-in-the-life look like for a Technical Recruiter at athenahealth? We connected with Addison Maupin to find out.

Visit athenahealth's BIZZpage for their latest job opportunities!


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

I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. My dad owned his own landscaping company, and my mom was a teacher. My very first job was starting my own lawn mowing business.

You graduated from Boston University in 2008, right as the financial crisis was about to hit.  What were your initial jobs out of school and what did that period teach you?

My initial job out of school was to lead the writing program for an ESL tutoring organization. I was laid off after a year-and-a-half there. Following that, I was unemployed for the better part of a year. No period of time post-college has taught me more. It’s what I think of the most as I interact with job-seekers. I’ll never forget how brutal it was to search for a job during that time with minimal work experience that was relevant to the areas I wanted to take my career.

How did you get into recruiting?

I fell into it. I was called by a recruiting firm that was willing to train me, and I didn’t have many other options. I realized very quickly how much I loved it. It allowed me to help people every day, and eventually teach and train new employees on what I had learned. Those were two things I was interested in doing before starting my career in recruitment, so it was a natural fit.

What did you learn in terms of running recruitment process outsourcing programs at large companies like CVS Health, General Motors and other companies?

I learned that even the largest and most successful companies in a given industry undergo large-scale, tumultuous change with surprising frequency. Companies are merging, getting acquired, and buying out other companies like never before. It helps me greatly to structure conversations with people that get caught up in those situations and are affected personally by them.

Why did you decide to join the recruiting team at athenahealth and can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as Technical Recruiter?

First and foremost, I wanted to join a software company that builds products that genuinely help people. Athenahealth is the epitome of that. Secondly, I wanted to find a team that I liked as much as my team at my last company, which set a high bar. I’ve never felt more aligned with an interviewing team as I did following my interviews with athenahealth.

As a Technical Recruiter, I support some of the most niche areas of the business, including Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platform Engineering, and Business Intelligence. IaaS and Platform are working towards enabling microservice architecture via automated solutions across the entire technology stack. Business Intelligence is working towards providing reporting services across all areas of the business. Needless to say, it’s an exciting time to join any of these three groups!

I spend most of my time fleshing out a sourcing strategy for finding the best talent in these areas. I’m always exploring new ways to source, organize and present information, and collaborate with technical teams to build an airtight end-to-end hiring process.


Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

Coffee

What time do you get into the office?

Usually 8:30 AM.

What is something you look forward to everyday in your role?

Using tools that are new to me, and discovering ways of using them to make my life and my managers’ lives easier.

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

I’ll always spend a chunk of time in the morning organizing my day. I’ll usually source and reach out to candidates in the morning, and schedule phone screens for the afternoon. These activities are spread around meetings I have with my internal team, and also with my hiring leaders. I do also spend time every day learning more about the roles i’m staffing for and the techniques I can utilize to best fill those roles. This involves watching online classes in Cloud Engineering and other subjects, watching product demos, etc.

What time do you head out of the office?

Usually about 5:30 PM.

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

I log back on. Often candidates cannot talk during working hours, so I need to make sure I make myself available to them as needed.

Any productivity hacks?

Yes - the system that I use to track all progress on a given position is the same tool I use to correspond/collaborate with the hiring teams that I work with. It’s saved me a lot of time.

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

Mint, Spotify, and Reddit

What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?

My best stretch of hiring when I was supporting Equifax for Sevenstep. I went over 13 months without a single offer decline, which included a month with 18 hires (3 of which were SVP level, 1 of those 3 had been open for over two years before I filled it).

Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?

My best friend Tom. He began his career for a marketing agency, and he’s made his way into a DevOps engineering role without a degree in Computer Science or any formal training on the subject. He’s a great example of how much someone can do professionally when they dedicate themselves to moving into areas that might be out of their comfort zone.


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

Image courtesy of Addison Maupin.

About the
Company

athenahealth is a leading provider of network-enabled services & mobile apps for medical groups & health systems.

View Company Page
Career Path: Garrett Rapp, Senior Solutions Architect at Bullhorn banner image

Career Path: Garrett Rapp, Senior Solutions Architect at Bullhorn

Open Jobs Company Page

What does the career path and a day-in-the-life look like for a Senior Solutions Architect at Bullhorn? We interviewed Garrett Rapp to find out.

Visit Bullhorn's BIZZpage for their latest job opportunities!


Where did you grow up?  What did your parents do for work?  

I grew up in a town called Harvard, Illinois near the Wisconsin border. My mom was a teacher of all different types (she also has a law degree). Although we lived pretty far into the country, my dad worked as an attorney in downtown Chicago. As a kid, I spent a lot of time roaming around the woods surrounding our property and both reading and emulating Calvin and Hobbes comics. Pretty much the rest of my time was spent playing piano.

Where did you go to college?  What did you study and what were some of your initial jobs out of school?

I attended Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU) in Bloomington, Illinois after a tough decision against pursuing piano performance. Instead, I enrolled at IWU as a biology major. By sophomore year, I switched to a religion major while I worked at the campus newspaper and the campus radio station. By junior year, I added an English and writing double major, and going into senior year, I was editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper. I still credit my time behind the wheel of The Argus as one of the most eye-opening and best educational experiences of my college and early career.

After school, I had a brief stint at the University of Chicago in a religion graduate program, from which I ended up withdrawing. At the same time, I was working the phones in an hourly job for TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson (a F250 transportation and 3PL company). I also did contract work in search engine optimization and content development for a company called L2T Media.

Garrett Rapp, Bullhorn
Garrett and his wife, Linda Martin, in London

What has attributed to your success thus far and has helped propel you to the position you have now?

For better or worse, if I’d continued in the graduate program I was in, I wouldn’t be here now. That’s not to say I regret it at all though: I got some real exposure to handling debt, grappling with sunk costs (and their associated fallacies), and weighing my pride and the idea of quitting against the likely outcomes and my personal happiness. I made the right choice, and I believe that you can learn a lot from agonizing over hard choices.

There may be a way in which that decision caused me to double down at the job I was working. I really dedicated myself to my career, and over the next several years at TMC in Chicago, I worked my way through several promotions into a key role in their internal Operational Excellence group. This role stoked my interest in consulting as a general career path and in technology (especially automation) as a focus.

What made the most difference at that early stage of my career was an obsession with efficiency, including typing speed, automation, templates, and organization, which freed up time to self-teach. There was no problem that I wouldn’t try to figure out myself first before I asked someone else. If you can afford to spend some time digging around and trying things yourself, you can learn all you need. If you don’t have time to do that, you have to make time for it first.

Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as Senior Solutions Architect at Bullhorn?

Solutions Architect is a broad term, which can mean varying degrees of pre-sale business engagement and technical delivery engagement depending on the business. At Bullhorn, the role truly encompasses both, but a descriptor that really resonates with me is “Solution Owner.”

If we’re implementing our software for a client, we have a project manager who is the delivery owner, but we, as Solution Architects, are responsible for helping to ensure that the holistic solution works for the client. This goes beyond ensuring that our software does what it’s intended to do as outlined in the statement of work. We also need to know what systems the client depends on for their day-to-day operations beyond our software and how our data needs to interact with theirs.

Any tips for someone considering a career in Client Services?

A genuine interest in positive interactions with other people, even those you know little or nothing about, is the single most important piece. Dedication to your customer’s success is table stakes; to excel, you have to put yourself and the urge to blame aside, and refocus on the problem you have in front of you.

If you can find a way to build a rapport with your clients, you’ll enjoy making them successful. Face-to-face interactions make this easier, so I’d recommend opportunities to connect in-person with your clients. Bullhorn hosts an annual conference series called Engage that creates an opportunity for everyone in our company to meet our customers, and it’s consistently a highlight for me.

Beyond this, building your personal toolset is a key ongoing project. Whatever your specialty, try to broaden your horizons. For me in the technology and software space, this means looking at methods of conflict resolution and negotiation (I love the book “Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher and William Ury), trying to understand profit and loss and balance sheets, and brushing up on consulting skills. Some classic consulting case interview preparation and practice is invaluable for anyone who aims to grow their career.

Garrett Rapp Bullhorn
Garrett Rapp in San Francisco 

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

Lots of coffee! Not too picky about it - I’ll trade quantity for quality here.

What time do you get into the office?

About 7 a.m. I get a lot of mileage out of the first 1.5 hours of office time before my email, phone, and Slack messages start increasing. If I’m onsite with a client, the goal is arriving a minimum of 15 minutes before any meetings with them start, but ideally 20-25 minutes so I’m ready for a productive conversation.

What are three things that motivate you in your role?

  • I care deeply about my team and my department. I’ll go a long way to help other people in my organization because I like seeing them succeed.

  • Getting to be a problem-solver. In most jobs, when you get handed a problem, you actually have a plethora of resources, tools, and some time allocated to solving it. Real-life problems aren’t always that accommodating!

  • Getting to meet, understand, and make a difference for customers directly. I love working with end users of our software (especially in-person, like during user acceptance testing cycles) and helping them learn new things about the tool.

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

This varies throughout the year based on what project I’m working on, but it can involve:

  • Participating in client calls (design and requirements, demos, handoffs, and defect reviews)
  • Participating in internal calls with our sales department
  • Creating statements of work for services engagements
  • Creating functional specifications for custom apps and automations
  • Troubleshooting or testing our software and custom automations
  • Deploying our software

What time do you head out of the office?

Anywhere from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., depending on what’s going on that day. All bets are off when I’m on-site with a client though - spending from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. with a client in their “War Room” builds camaraderie!

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

I often will log back in at night, if only to file away emails that I don’t have to respond to, or hit off quick answers. I don’t find it stressful to keep up on things after hours - it’s worth it to me to have less noise waiting when I kick off in the morning. It’s relatively rare that I need to get on the phone with my project teams or clients for urgent matters. That said, as a project and implementation consultant, there will be occasional evenings or weekends for working on big deployments and go-lives.

Any productivity hacks?

  • I couldn’t live without organized folders in my inbox, my desktop, my Google Drive, etc.

  • Know when to block yourself off and “hide.” If I have a deep, detailed technical specification to write, I’ll minimize email and Slack, silence my phone, and work in an obscure conference room to avoid interruptions.

  • I think it’s pretty common to freeze up or procrastinate when faced with tough problems. The key thing is to start on them anyway: start simple and don’t aim for perfection, but just start producing something. You can always improve it later, but you haven’t wasted time avoiding your main problem or displacing it with lower priority issues and requests.

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

  • Slack isn’t “the email killer.” Email has a very clear purpose and utility, but I do think that Slack is the ultimate office chat tool, and its iPhone app is excellent.

  • For traveling, ExpenseIt lets me photograph receipts and automatically puts their costs, comments, and allocations into my open expense reports. It’s a great way to not lose track of the money I spend while traveling for business.

  • I use the basic call, calendar, and mail apps a lot, but the other key apps in rotation would be podcasts and Spotify, especially for when I’m traveling.

What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?

Working my way into a technical and software specialist role over the years, given my lack of a technical and software degree, is my proudest accomplishment. The challenge now is staying up to speed!

Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?

If I call someone for professional advice, it’s likely to be a parent or sibling (who are all pretty accomplished). In terms of admiration, it would be one of my first managers - Adam Gerdel. He ran the Operational Excellence team at my first job, and he became a big role model for how to develop teams that want to work together, how to deliver results while also making time to think outside of the box, and how to support employees both personally and professionally - all while staying ruthlessly focused on efficiency and innovation. He’s a one-in-a-million team leader, and I’m grateful for all that I learned from him.


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

Top photo courtesy of Maximillian Tortoriello Photography, other photos were provided by Bullhorn.

About the
Company

Bullhorn is the global leader in software for the staffing industry.

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

Career Path: Thomas Salah, Sales Manager at SmartBear

Open Jobs Company Page

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?

Coffee

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
Company

Smartbear's tools are built to streamline your DevOps processes while seamlessly working with the products you use – and will use

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

Career Path: Riti Naik, Customer Success Analyst at Salsify

Open Jobs Company Page

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
Company

Salsify empowers brands to win on the digital shelf.

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

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

Open Jobs Company Page

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
Company

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.

View Company Page
Career Path: Rebecca Perry, Engineering Lead - Wayfair Next Research banner image

Career Path: Rebecca Perry, Engineering Lead - Wayfair Next Research

Open Jobs Company Page

What does the career path and a day in the life look like for the Engineering Lead at Wayfair's Next Research team?

We interviewed Rebecca Perry 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 Concord, MA. My father worked as an attorney specializing in employment relations law, and my mother worked as an economist. My very first job was at Sally Ann’s Bakery in Concord Center. I mostly worked at the cash register, but occasionally got to learn how to make something from Bill Griffin the baker-owner.

Why did you decide to attend Bowdoin and study Physics?

I finished high school knowing that I enjoyed Math and Physics and was also interested in Engineering. I loved Bowdoin’s campus and wanted to spend four years in a small vibrant community before likely spending most of the rest of my life in cities. It helped that at Bowdoin I would get to continue pole vaulting, which I had started in high school.

As for studying physics specifically, it was a summer internship with a physics professor that hooked me. Someone recommended me to Professor Mark Battle who had been away on sabbatical. I am still thankful for Professor Battle and the anonymous person who made this connection for me.

What was your first job out of undergrad?  

I worked as a Data Technician for a wind energy consulting firm. I was attracted to the job by the opportunity to make an impact in clean energy and because it involved lots of data and graphs. I assumed that the role would tick the right boxes to keep me happy as a quantitative person. I quickly learned that the parts of physics that had kept me engaged were not just the numbers and graphs but more importantly the creative and problem-solving aspects. After one year, I moved on to a different job that was a much better fit and led to grad school.

You went back to school to continue your studies at Harvard.  What did you study and did you work on interesting research projects?

My Ph.D. is in Applied Physics (think physics with an engineering bent). I studied the three-dimensional motion of solid plastic spheres so small that thermal motion of a surrounding liquid is enough to move them appreciably. While small, these spheres are actually big enough to see with an optical microscope, and you can actually watch them carry out real random walks just like those used in mathematical modeling! In the course of my research, I learned to code in Python and particularly enjoyed coding for image analysis. Hopefully one day my dissertation research will contribute to leveraging random motion to construct desired tiny structures.

What prompted you to pursue a career in software engineering and how did you land at Wayfair?

I was looking for a role where I would be able to continue writing code to analyze images. I was volunteering at an MGH research lab working with CT scan data when I applied for a data science role at Wayfair. During an initial phone interview, I explained the kinds of three-dimensional problems I hoped to work on and was kicked over to interview for a brand new engineering group, Wayfair Next. As the second member of this fledgling team, I was tasked with evaluating and improving 3D scanning tech and taking on other research and image-oriented projects.

Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position and any interesting products you are building?

The team has grown, and I now lead the Research team within Wayfair Next. I am responsible for evaluating promising technology for use at Wayfair, supporting my team so that they can make creative connections to solve challenging problems, and identifying research projects with ambitious goals and potential for many smaller secondary wins.

Wayfair Next Team at an escape room
Rebecca (holding the 'Nailed It' sign) with the Wayfair Next team at Escape the Room Boston.

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

Typically tea, but what I really love is hot chocolate!

What time do you get into the office?

By 9:30.

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

Morning: Answering emails, checking on output generated by computers overnight, and making small code modifications based on the output. Each morning, our team of 12 or our subteam of four has a standup meeting to discuss current projects.

Afternoon: I might have a short meeting or two with another team to discuss a project. Outside of these, you’d be able to find me at my desk working on code to improve current projects that we are sending off to production or crafting new engagements to make sure my team always has interesting projects coming in.

Evening: Sometimes at the end of the day, when meetings are over, and people have started going home, I delve into the more research-focused projects that have no predictable timeline for return-on-investment, but could be really exciting if they work out!

What time do you head out of the office?

Between 5:30 and 6:30.

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

I bring home the parts of work that I actively want to keep thinking about. There’s a great 3D scanning Facebook group that produces a ton of interesting content to read. Preparing for presentations is one thing I find I can only do at home.

Any productivity hacks?

I make a calendar event for anything that needs to get done, even if there is no good reason why it has to be done on that day or at that time.

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

Google Maps, OpenMBTA, and Lyft. Phones are transportation devices, right?

What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?  

Deploying 3D scanning tech to the two Wayfair photo studios is an accomplishment I am very proud of. I didn’t do anything like that during grad school.

Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?

There is a leader of an adjacent group at Wayfair whom I highly respect and look to as a role model. I also highly value what I have learned from my grad school friends and friends-of-friends who are successful in their careers in software engineering, scientific research, academia, and clinical psychology. I’m thankful for this group of peers who provide outside perspectives on difficult situations and happily bask in each other's successes.


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

Images courtesy of Rebecca Perry.

About the
Company

Join the team reinventing the way the world shops for home.

View Company Page
Career Path: Maureen Morris, Manager of Enterprise Sales at Quick Base banner image

Career Path: Maureen Morris, Manager of Enterprise Sales at Quick Base

Open Jobs Company Page

What does the career path and a day in the life look like for a sales manager at one of Boston's fastest growing tech companies?

We decided to interview Maureen Morris, the Manager of Enterprise Sales at Quick Base, to find out.​

Career Path

Where you grew up?  What did you parents do for work?  What was your first job growing up?

I grew up in Milton, MA, as the youngest of four children. My dad worked as a judge (now retired) and my mother stayed at home to raise us. When I entered kindergarten, she made the decision to go to college, she went part time and graduated when I went to 8th grade. It was her work ethic and dedication to family that helped shape my own path as a working mother of five.

All of my siblings followed in my dad's footsteps and became lawyers - one a real estate lawyer, one a liability lawyer and one a criminal lawyer. I was the “black sheep” who went into sales after college.

Where did you attend college and what did you study?

I went to an all girls high school in Hingham and then went on to Seton Hall University in New Jersey.  

I started as a nursing student, but after one year of science and math courses, I knew that it was definitely not for me. My parents were “thrilled” when I called and told them that I was going to take some criminal justice and communication classes. I went on to major in communications and knew that I had found my calling when I got to stand in front of hundreds of students to do my final public speaking exam.

What were some of your first jobs out of college?  

I worked all through college scanning cards in the dorms and tended bar over the summer at The Black Rose, The Purple Shamrock and Jose McIntyre's.

When I graduated, I got my first “real job” at ADP in Boston. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was excited to put on my first suit (it definitely had shoulder pads) and couldn’t wait to tell my friends about all of the glamorous business trips I would be going on.

Reality struck on my first day when my boss told me my first glamorous “trip” would be to Watertown and Arlington. I got to go knock on doors and “sling” payroll solutions. Not exactly what I expected, but that’s where my love affair with sales began.

What were some of the foundation skills that you developed from these early jobs that helped you in what you are doing today?

I look back on my early years in sales can’t believe how much things have changed. I actually used to walk up and down the streets, casually ignoring “no soliciting” signs and convincing business owners to buy from me. I was like a storm that blew in, made some noise, and walked out with a signed contract. There were no laptops or cell phones, so I had carbon copy contracts that I had clients sign before I excitedly ran off to a pay phone to call my boss and say “I got another one!”

I grew up in sales, I worked for some of the most amazing leaders who provided me direction, tough love, and recognition of my accomplishments. I also received some of the best career advice back in those early days. I was told that if I ever wanted to be a sales leader, I had to act like I was one already - not just once in awhile, but every day. Following this advice shaped my career and landed me my first promotion when I was the “first pick” to lead the sales office after my manager got promoted into a new role.  

How did you land your current position as Manager of Enterprise Sales at Quick Base?

This past February my husband and I were taking the kids up to North Conway for our yearly family ski trip. All seven of us, my husband and 5 kids, were packed into the car when the phone rang. I answered, which I very rarely do when kids are around. It was a recruiter following up on a LinkedIn message she had sent me. She jumped in and started telling me about a position for an “experienced sales leader and a really great company.” I listened and did what every mom of five has to do on a long car trip -- pass out Goldfish, pick up sippy cups and mute the phone multiple times to ask my loved ones to “please be quiet.” At the close of the call, I offered to circulate it across my network and check back in a week. The response was clear - “we don’t want someone in your network, we want you.”

Though I was hesitant to leave my current gig and start over with a new leadership team, I had to stay true to myself, practice what I preach, and go check it out. Why not? I agreed to sit with other leaders at Quick Base. It was evident to me immediately that this was a company that valued their employees and invested in their employees’ success as I have always done with my own teams. I was excited to help shape and grow a sales team, be part of something new and put my mark on a fast-paced and growing organization.

After starting, I know that my instincts were spot on! The team and company have exceeded my expectations and I’ve never been so happy and fulfilled in a role.

Maureen Morris with her team out to dinner.
Maureen Morris with her team out to dinner.

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

At the end of the day, my number one priority is to make sure that every single person on my team is successful.

Sure, I have to attend the regular leadership meetings, pipeline discussions, client events etc. but I try to structure my day around ensuring my main focus is on the team and individuals success.


Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

Coffee all day, every day.

What time do you get into the office?

Between 7:30 and 8:00...depends on Route 128’s traffic.

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

Morning:

I am up every day by 5:15 am with the help of an alarm clock or my 2 and/or 3-year old (usually the latter). Next, I head downstairs, pop in my first K-Cup and open the daily sales dashboard to check out how the team is trending for the month.

The next hour can go one of two ways - smooth or chaotic. If all goes accordingly, I can hop in and out of the shower, blow dry hair, put on makeup, get dressed and go. Typically, though, things are a bit more hectic. I often spend this time running around with the kids, searching for binkies, dolls, cars or trucks, passing out waffles and juice....the list goes on and on.  

Regardless of how things play out, I am in the car no later than 6:45 am, at Dunkin by 6:50 for my second coffee (this one is extra large) and on my way to the office.

During my drive, I catch up with my husband on the “home life”. I’m lucky to have a husband who manages his work hours so he can be with the kids during the day and coordinates all of the activities - hockey, basketball, LAX, friends houses, camps and the list goes on and on. This is our time to catch up on what’s going on. I also try to chat with my mom at least once or twice a week.

Once I arrive at the office and settle in, I’m typically off to one of my daily meetings. I like to use the mornings to meet one-on-one with my account executives to strategize on deals, role play upcoming meetings or attend calls with their customers.

Afternoon:

Around noon I make it a point to go take a 10-minute walk outside to clear my head.  I make it a point not to look at email during this time. My guilty pleasure is to do a quick check of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Maureen Morris checking her phone
Maureen Morris checking her phone.

Afterwards, I head back up and most on afternoons I attend meetings with our marketing, customer success, product or finance teams. The culture at Quick Base is one of collaboration and these meetings allow all of us to ensure we are aligned as we all work toward a common goal of building on the success of this amazing company.

Evening:

It’s time for a coffee, a hunt for any kind of chocolate and an attempt to get through some emails before I head out.

What time do you head out of the office?

I try to leave the office by 5:30 so that I can make it home to kiss my 2-year-old goodnight. On my ride home, I make a few work calls to talk through anything my team needs. I prefer to pick up the phone rather than shoot off an email so we can better connect and strategize.

When I arrive home, I put work out of my mind and enjoy the chaos of my family. I know bedtime is just around the corner so I try to savor every minute of it before I tuck them all in and kiss them good night.

Maureen with her family at home
Maureen with her five children at home.

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

I log back in between 9-9:30 and work until about 11:30-12:00 doing follow up and preparing for the next day.

I’m also a firm believer in the importance of learning every day so for the past 18 years, I have made a habit of taking 30 minutes each day read or listen to something that will make me smarter.

Afterwards, I head up to bed with my guilty pleasure: M&M’s, Hershey Kisses, and Twizzlers.  I shut my eyes and do it all over again.

Any productivity hacks?

Waking up early, having my coffee and enjoying quiet time before the day starts has changed my life.  

I live by lists. I make my list for the day the night before. I have to get through the list before I head home for the day. I am flexible with the non-urgent items and I allow myself to move them only if the task does not impact someone else.

I often wake up in the middle of the night with a thought or an idea that I want to share with my family or team so I keep a pad of paper and pen next to me so I don’t forget my thoughts.

Regarding internal meetings, I’m all about delegation. If there is someone else that can relay a message back to me, then make a point of taking turns attending them so we can try and give back time in our days.

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

  • EasilyDo: it takes my Quick Base calendar, Google calendar and any events in Gmail and compiles it all into one daily schedule. It also sets reminders, consolidates receipts, and so much more. It puts everything in one place.

  • LinkedIn

  • Outlook groups- for collaborating with my team

Personal: Nordstrom, LittleHoots, and Amazon


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

Images courtesy of Quick Base and Maureen Morris.

About the
Company

Unlock the potential of your digital operations with Quickbase's no-code platform.

View Company Page
Career Path: Virginia White, People Operations Lead at Formlabs banner image

Career Path: Virginia White, People Operations Lead at Formlabs

Open Jobs Company Page

What does the career path and a day in the life look like for the People Operations Lead at one of Boston's fastest growing tech companies?

We decided to interview, Virginia White - the People Operations Lead at Formlabs, to find out.

Career Path

Where you grew up?  What did you parents do for work?  What was your first job growing up?

I grew up in Houston, Texas. My parents worked in completely different industries. My mother is a database programmer for an enormous technology consulting firm, and my father is a paramedic for the city. Both my parents have been steady in their careers/industries for 30+ years.

The first job I ever had was at the Hyde Park Miniature Museum (in Houston, TX). I worked with the grandson of D.D. Smalley, who originally started the museum in his attic. The museum was resurrected and recreated in the gallery of a bookstore for nine months. I was lucky to work there. I was a ‘docent’ – but not in a traditional sense. I spent my weekends fixing model trains, organizing stamps, cleaning typewriters, and explaining the history behind all the objects. One of the really special things about this place was that all the patrons were allowed to pick everything up and play with it. I spent a lot of time repairing things and I loved the opportunity to talk to everybody that came in the door.

Where did you attend college and what did you study?

I went to the San Francisco Art Institute (S.F.A.I.) and I studied New Genres. The major was mostly focused on conceptual art and new media – but I did spend most of my time doing drawings. I’ve always loved making things with my hands. I still do a little bit of this in my spare time.

What were some of your first jobs out of college?

I never really had that big ‘line’ between college work and post-college work. I started working full-time when I was 17 and never stopped. In my first few years of school, I had a lot of different jobs and cobbled things together – writing tutor, library assistant, I even worked for a bankruptcy trustee for a while. I would do whatever was needed to make things work. After a few years that became stressful, so I decided to find one job and stick with it.

I got a job doing ‘Operations’ (aka everything) at a boutique wholesale-to-retail company, Keena. I started while I was in school, and stayed for 4 years. There were only two other people in the office, including the co-founder, and the rest of the employees were sales reps across the country. We sold high-end consumer gifts and accessories (like hand-silkscreened cards, designer pillows, art books, etc) and worked with companies of all sizes. I worked there for 4 years and I loved it. I got so much exposure to the nuts and bolts of running a business and forged a lot of relationships across the consumer goods industry, many of which I still have.

What were some of the foundation skills that you developed from these early jobs that helped you in what you are doing today?

For a long time, I worked at small companies (and Formlabs was small when I started!) and I learned a ton about general operations and ‘keeping the ship running.’ I was usually working with just 2-3 other people total, usually creatives, and I would be behind the scenes getting things done. I got a lot of experience in sales and working with customers. I also had the opportunity to build out an office twice for two different companies and I gained knowledge of project management. I was definitely a master of none; I enjoyed doing everything I could get my hands on, and I was always willing to take on more responsibilities.

The biggest skill I’ve built from these experiences was working with a variety of people and personalities to get the job done. I’ve always been good at (and enjoyed this) but this shows up in people management, project management, and general execution of everything I do. I spend a lot of my time in 1-1 interactions with employees, talking and debugging if there’s something larger we need to improve. At the size Formlabs is now, I hardly ever am doing something just ‘solo’ – most challenges need more than 1 person to ‘make it happen’ at the right scale.

What brought you to the Boston area?

I was ready to move out of San Francisco – I had been there a long time and I was ready to be challenged more. I had planned to apply to graduate school, but then got connected with Formlabs...

You were an early team member at Formlabs.  What employee number were you and how did you get connected with them?

I was 10 or 11, depending on how you count. I had been working with another technology and design company, Nervous System, that was using 3D printing, so Formlabs was on my radar. However, Formlabs wasn’t much of a company yet. I happened to be doing some consulting for other companies in Industry Lab, where Formlabs used to have their office, so I got an introduction and applied from there. I did have a ‘traditional’ interview process (phone call, face to face interview). I remember feeling that I bombed the phone interview (for Sales & Marketing Lead, something I wasn’t really ‘qualified’ for) and didn’t have good answers to any questions. I spent the next day or two doing research and figuring out what I could have done better. I vaguely remember emailing them begging them to give me another chance in person – and then I arrived very prepared. I had researched the two (!) jobs that I wanted and came with 4 typed pages that included a list of potential customers and a plan for their future office space. I think that interview went well...

Formlabs Sample Parts
Sample parts from a Formlabs 3D Printer

How has your position evolved since joining the company?

My role has (and continues) to change constantly. Every 6-12 months, responsibilities or scale have shifted. I started as ‘Facilities & Operations Lead’ – which was pretty much an office manager role. I thought I was a bit overqualified, but we grew so fast I quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing. I thought, “I had better catch up.” In my first year, I was the ‘first’ person for a lot of roles that are now much bigger teams (customer support, sales, logistics, finance, etc). I always thought I would remain more customer-facing, but at some point, I decided what I really cared about were the people who worked within the company, and I wanted to put my attention there. My work in Operations became more focused on scaling our space and how we take care of the people within it. A few years after that, our team and our people needs had grown, and it made sense to build out a People Operations function as well. I’ve worked across the spectrum of People Operations work, from recruiting to HR – and have just now landed on the part that I really love.

Even though I feel like what I’m doing now in People Operations is ‘new’, I see that I’ve always been focused on these themes, just through a different lens. The real difference is that now this is 100% of my job, not the extra sliver that I’m fitting in on the side.

Virginia (lower right hand corner of the picture frame) is sure fitting in with the rest of the People Ops team.
Virginia (lower right hand corner of the picture frame) with the rest of the People Ops team.

Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as People Lead at Formlabs?

While it is not only on my shoulders, I definitely feel responsible for keeping Formlabs a great place to be, as we scale. Right now, that translates into finding and growing employees, and general engagement. That includes recruiting (Formlabs is still growing tremendously, so we are investing a lot of energy into hiring) and the arc of someone’s life-cycle when they are here (onboarding, growth & careers, offboarding).

What I’m doing right now hits the perfect intersection of working on things that cross both people and culture – with the extra challenge of doing it well while we hire like crazy.

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

Gave up caffeine a few weeks ago, so currently, chamomile tea.

What time do you get into the office?

Between 8 - 10 AM. I prefer to start my working time by 9 AM, but that doesn’t always happen.

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

I definitely live by my calendar. I’ve only recently learned to find the right balance between ‘scheduled time’ and ‘available for what comes up’, but that’s definitely been a challenge.

Morning

- Wake up at the last possible minute and head out the door (I’d love to change this habit)

- Eat something at work, we have so much good food here!

- Read, respond, and organize emails, omnifocus, and administrative tasks

- Plan out the two important things I will get done TODAY

- Knock out phone calls

Afternoon

- Remember to eat something for lunch

- Reserved for project time or 1-1 time (as needed)

- Make sure the two important things got DONE

Evening

- Overflow time for reading, responding and organizing emails

- Spend time with my cat and partner OR go to the gym

- Most evenings I also cook dinner

- Clean something (helps me relax)


What time do you head out of the office?

Depends on what time I got there, and what is happening on that day. Almost never around 5 PM. A few days a week I leave by 6, and at least 1 day a week I work later than that. I love to get things done while the office is really quiet, which is usually before 10 AM and after 4 PM.

Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?  Or… how do you decompress at night?

I’ve never been great at shutting it down completely, but I’ve been learning how important this is. I prefer to spend my energy getting things done during the day, so in the evening I can be available for the other people and things in my life that I want to spend time with. That said, if I’m really excited about something, I will just work on it until it’s done, even if that means staying up late. I like to follow the energy and inspiration when I have it, not just structure it all into my day.

I do have a lot of blend between work and personal life – almost all of my closest friends work at Formlabs – so even something like cooking dinner at my place for a crowd might turn into some work-related discussion, and I’m OK with that.

Virginia White and Jory Block
Virginia hanging out (or onto) Jory Block, who also works on the People Operations team at Formlabs.

I’ve also been teaching yoga at Be. since I started working at Formlabs, and I can’t imagine having one without the other. The contrast between the two environments is pretty extreme. Formlabs energizes me and keeps me charged up, Be. slows me down. Yoga has really been my life-raft if didn’t have this practice I wouldn’t even know how to shut things off.

Recently I decided that I wanted to become a ‘runner’ – so I’m slowly working on that.

Any productivity hacks?

I am a huge believer in the David Allen GTD methodologies. I have been practicing these for years, and still feel like an amateur, but I believe my capacity to take on bigger challenges must be related to my ability to stay productive and get important things done.

Focus on TWO important things you want to accomplish every day, and that’s it.

If possible, don’t keep your email open during the day. Email is a complete time-suck, and even if a lot of your work happens via email (like mine), you’ll probably get more done if you check it less frequently. Responding to emails can ‘feel like’ work, but at the end of the day, if I didn’t reserve time for my brain to really work on something non-reactive, I probably didn’t finish one of my important things for the day.

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

Omnifocus – I started using omnifocus a few months ago, and now I think I couldn’t live without it. It takes ‘organizing time’ and commitment, but it’s so worth it. I use it for both work and personal life projects.

RescueTime – This app told me how much time I was spending responding to emails and working on my calendar. It was shameful. Made it much easier to change my working habits when I could quantify where my time was going.

Apple Podcast App – I’m so obsessed with podcasts that I’ve read very few books the last few months.

What time do you go to bed?

Between 11 PM - 1 AM. If I’m teaching yoga the next day, I go to bed early. Otherwise, I’m at the whim of my energy levels, which can be pretty unpredictable.


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

About the
Company

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.

View Company Page

Pages