Career Path: Christine Sullivan, Senior Product Manager at SessionM
What do the career path and day-in-the-life look like for a Senior Product Manager at SessionM?
We connected with Christine Sullivan to find out.
Also, SessionM is hiring! Click here for all of the company's job openings.
Where did you grow up? What did your parents do for work?
I grew up in Melrose, MA. I'm a local. My dad is an estimator and project manager. My mom is a nurse. They are awesome people and an awesome team.
Where did you go to college? What did you study and what were some of your initial jobs out of school?
I studied psychology at Harvard and spent a few semesters as a research assistant in psych labs.
After college, my first job was at Boston-based asset management firm, New Frontier, focusing primarily on marketing and client services. Towards the end of my time there, I was managing business strategy and development, specifically regarding new investment product opportunities. This is also where I managed and owned the design and development of my first product, a client portal designed for investment advisors to interact with New Frontier and stay up to date on New Frontier’s investment strategies and their performance.
What has attributed to your success thus far and has helped propel you to the position you have now?
I am committed to growth. It is what drives how I approach my life, work, the products I manage and the relationships I build. An enormous amount of my success can be attributed to that commitment -- treating life as an experiment, investing in learning, and trusting myself.
I also think I balance intensity and drive with keeping things light, having a positive outlook and having a good sense of humor. Communication, collaboration and accountability are critical. Building rapport and trust matters. When I am able to focus on making teams thrive, just as much as making features work, I’m in my element and consider that one of the best markers of personal success.
What drew you to a career in tech? Please tell us about how you landed at SessionM.
In 2015, I started thinking about what was next for my career. At the time, a few good friends from college were working at tech companies in Boston and San Francisco. Each of them kept telling me to look in product management. They thought I would be really interested. They were right.
I did a lot of reading, went to a lot of meetups, and then left my job at the start of 2016 and headed to a boot camp in user experience, knowing by then that I wanted a product management role. As fate would have it, I connected with SessionM through the boot camp and here I am, three years into working with the product team here. It's been a wild ride full of learning and growth. I love the people I work with and what I do.
Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as Senior Product Manager, CDP Product Lead at SessionM?
I manage the overall product strategy and roadmap for SessionM’s Customer Data Platform. SessionM works with some of largest and most innovative brands in the world to help them optimize how they understand and engage with their customers. As the product lead for the CDP, I focus on how we make sense of customer data coming in from disparate marketing channels and other data sources, ingest it into our platform, and then provide insights and the ability to take action off that data. That goal ends up mapping to several products that span data ingest, export, orchestration, customer profile views, audience segmentation, reporting, etc. Ultimately, I am responsible for assuring that we are delivering value and differentiation on all those fronts. I work closely with other PMs, engineering squads, and designers, as well as our clients, to make sure we are building the right products to accomplish our goals as a first class CDP.
Any tips for someone considering a career in Product Management?
Reach out to people currently working in product. Ask to get coffee. Go to meetups and read as much as you can about the role. If you come from a technical background, that’s awesome, If not, don’t be intimidated or count yourself out of a career that really interests you. Figure out what draws you to product. Once you know, repeat that back to yourself and get good at telling that story to other people. If you come from a place of authenticity and genuine interest, people will respond well to that and want to help you as you jump into a new path.
Day in the Life
Coffee, tea, or nothing?
Coffee. Gracenote Coffee is my favorite.
What are three things that motivate you in your role?
- The teams I work with
- Helping our users
- Feeling like I continue to have so many learning and growth opportunities.
Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?
Morning: I check email and slack before getting ready for the day. Once I get to the office, I typically spend an hour or so heads down reviewing market research, user feedback and outstanding work from the day before.
Before noon: I have dev standups and then rotate through regularly scheduled cross functional meetings.
Afternoon: I’ll either have a mix of team meetings, which include strategy or feature brainstorm sessions or I’ll have calls with clients. If I am working on a product requirements document or roadmap planning, then I am usually slating in that time in the afternoon.
Throughout the day: I communicate with a lot of people, including other PMs on my team, UX designers, the engineering leads I work with, as well as people on the client delivery and sales teams.
Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?
I log back in. What that looks like depends on the day.
Any productivity hacks?
- Have a solid morning routine that makes you feel good. Make your bed. Stay hydrated.
- Set three top goals for the day and acknowledge that there is always going to be stuff you don’t get to. I start with my journal and believe that writing things out by hand vs. typing is very powerful, so I write down my goals and to do’s.
- Give yourself 30 minutes when you get into the office in the morning to get organized and intentional.
- Prepare for meetings, own when you are not, and close each meeting by summarizing what happened and what next steps are. Being accountable is key.
What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?
10% Happier, NYT, Podcasts
What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?
I hired another woman to join our product team this past summer. She recently shared that one of the things she really liked about the opportunity at SessionM was having a woman as her boss and how, now six months in, feels like she is learning a ton and feels supported and motivated. As a manager, I want to do my best and set someone up to fully thrive in their own right. Her feedback made me feel like I am doing a pretty good job of that. It also helps that she was a great hire. Having worked in two male dominant fields, finance and tech, I am invested in women supporting and encouraging other women-- professionally and all other domains. I align my life with this value, so having another woman reflect that back makes me proud.
Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?
I talk to my best friend, Andrew Fried, CMO of Allswell, all the time. He leads marketing for a rapidly growing brand, and I lead a Customer Data Platform for marketers at some of the biggest brands, so it’s been interesting to see how our worlds collide.
I start almost every 1:1 with my boss, Mark Herrmann, CPO at SessionM, centered around where I am at and how I can continue to grow. It is reaffirming to receive his advice and then hear about his experience starting SessionM. One of the great things about this company is how accessible the senior leadership team is, so I reach out to many of them regularly to hear about their career experience and get advice for my own career.
I also previously worked with Eben Pingree, VP of Product at EverTrue. I really admire what he and the team are building there. He is one of my go to people for coffee to talk product and career development.