Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Erica Jenkins, Chief Product Officer at Crayon.
Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?
I grew up just outside Rochester, NY about an hour from the Canadian border. As a child I was into several sports, including horseback riding and I loved Summer camp. My teachers would say I was very bright but a little too social so I probably talked to my friends more than I should have! My folks would say that I asked a lot of questions which has proven to be a valuable personality trait in my career. #curiosity
Spending time with my daughter supporting her passion. We travel often for her shows around the SE US.
What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?
Looking back I wish I’d known more about technology and computers but it just wasn’t taught much in the early 1990s, especially to females. Traditional sciences were a big interest to me so I entered college as a biology major. Once I realized this wasn’t a true passion, I swapped over to business studies with a focus on PR. If I’m honest with myself, I learn best by “doing” and shadowing others. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to “grow up to be” so I took a break. After a short self-reflection, I jumped into a real estate career. It was pre-social media but I quickly learned how to become a marketing lead engine with content and engaging on forums. This digital transformation of marketing tactics and consumer communication ignited my entrepreneurial spirit.
Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?
As I mentioned, in the mid-2000s marketing tactics and consumer communications with social media emerging created a pain point for me as a business owner. I needed time back and the idea for my startup was born. I didn’t realize it at the time but social media management to publish, drive engagement and measure the impact was emerging as a big business. Expion was competing with Hootsuite, Sprinklr, Sprout Social and many others. Learning enterprise marketing challenges was extremely valuable for me to see how large corporations were in need of so many different types of collaboration tools. The knowledge I’ve gained from working with large global brands, social media developer partnerships and the many brilliant engineers I’ve had the pleasure of working with has been invaluable.
Another aspect of what I’ve learned is growing a team and having empathy for employees. My hope is any of my old colleagues would want to work for me or with me again. People matter far above building software.
What is your current role and responsibilities?
Chief Product Officer at Crayon. We’re growing our team to unlock competitive intelligence to infuse competitive awareness for positioning, sales enablement, and overall stronger business awareness of competitive moves in the market.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
Bootstrapping a startup and successfully getting acquired.
Last International Trip on March 11, 2020- I was the only person in my cabin to London
Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?
I join a few product management mentoring Twitter Spaces to help share my journey and the executive viewpoint of skills and attributes I value in a product manager. Volunteering is scattered amongst my daughters' school events when I can. I need to lean into joining more organizations to learn or contribute my experience to my Personal development goal for 2022.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
In season, I love to spend time on my boat with friends. I’m always reading tech and business news to keep a pulse on the latest and greatest for work and my own knowledge. Working at a growing series B startup keeps me busy so a quiet Saturday with some Netflix is my time to chill out and not feel guilty for being lazy.
I enjoy getting out on the boat to spend the day on the water and occasionally drop a line!
How do you manage stress?
Great question, one day at a time! As a single Mom, I have to really try hard to make time for myself. Walking outdoors helps me de-stress. An early morning routine I’ve tried to adopt during the pandemic is listening to a guided meditation for 20 minutes before I start my day. It helps with centering my thoughts to start the day.
How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?
2 cups before 10am. One to get me through carpool, the other to get me through my email backlog.
Any book or podcast recommendations?
Radical Candor by Kim Scott
What advice do you have for recent college graduates?
Be curious. Coursework can only teach you frameworks in technology. The more you dig into a business problem, the more you understand and generate empathy about how to solve it.