Career Path: Lindsay Matthews, Senior Product Manager at ezCater
What does the career path and a day in the life look like for the Senior Product Manager at one of Boston's leading marketplaces for business catering?
Where did you grow up? What did you parents do for work? What was your very first job?
I grew up in Sudbury, MA - my mom worked in early childhood education and my dad was a product manager at Hewlett-Packard (later Philips). My first job was babysitting kids in my neighborhood and then in high school, I lifeguarded.
Where did you attend college and what did you study?
I wanted to get out of New England for school, so I went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. I studied Mechanical Engineering. It was great, but I knew pretty early on that I didn’t want to go into “real” engineering.
How did you end up landing at Intuit out of college and what were some of the roles you held as part of their rotational development program?
A friend a year ahead of me at Vanderbilt had ended up at Intuit and he encouraged me to apply. We were both interested in the intersection of engineering and business, and product management seemed like an interesting fit. In hindsight, I got incredibly lucky to find that opportunity and to end up in Silicon Valley.
In Intuit’s RDP program, I rotated through four departments for six months each. I started in advertising and I was helping to analyze our (then very early) SEM program and the impact of radio advertising. It was so different than anything I’d done before, but it made me realize marketing was not a good fit for me. After that, I moved into Intuit’s Financial Services division, which provides a white-labeled online banking solution for small banks where I worked on a personal finance application.
For my third rotation, I was determined to get global experience so I moved to our Singapore office to do pre-market testing for a new product we were looking to launch. I was doing market research, strategy and putting together go-to-market plans for Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines. It involved a lot of getting out on the field and talking to customers and I loved it.
After that, I came back to the US and worked at Homestead (then called Intuit Websites) which was focusing on helping small businesses be successful online - to set up websites and sell online. I landed on a new product we were testing that was essentially a CRM system, integrated with a business’ website and Quickbooks. It was an agile, fast-paced environment and ultimately where I ended up after the RDP program ended. We actually ended up recommending shutting down the CRM product - we couldn’t drive enough growth, which was a fascinating learning experience for me.
Why did you end up focusing your career on Product Management? What products did you work on at Intuit and then at Yammer?
I love product management because of the combination of business, design, customer empathy and technical. I’m a product person at heart; I love thinking about products, what works, and what doesn’t.
After I left Intuit’s RDP program, I joined Homestead and worked on our CRM product for a bit. After we shut that down, I spent a short time on our eCommerce products before moving onto something more greenfield. Essentially, we were trying to disrupt ourselves by creating a new way for small business to build websites and get online. We started with a small, scrappy team and tried to iterate and validate our ideas.
I loved working at Intuit but I was looking to live abroad again and so I ended up joining Yammer in their London office. At Yammer, product managers don’t specialize in one area of the product so I worked across the experience. The most interesting project I worked on there was called External Groups and gave people the ability to communicate to people outside their company. At the time, Yammer was intra-company only, so it was a huge change.
How did you land your current position as Senior Product Manager at ezCater?
I moved back to Boston in November 2016 (I was living in London for four years prior to that) and took a few months off. When I started looking for jobs, I wanted something that was data-driven, fast-paced and a strong culture. Looking at companies in Boston, I found ezCater and was excited by what I read about them online. My first phone screen here was with the CEO!
Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position?
ezCater is a two-sided marketplace - we have customers and caterers. Right now I’m responsible for everything customer-facing on ezCater. This means any part of the experience that our customer experience (i.e. desktop, mobile web, and native iOS apps).
Right now, I generally divide my time into three main areas:
Strategy: What should we be doing? How can we grow the business?
Execution: Working with our designers and engineers to build and test features.
Interviewing: We’re hiring like crazy right now, so a lot of my time is spent interviewing.
Day in the Life
Coffee, tea, or nothing?
Coffee … lots. I try to cut back every now and then, but I always come back. Usually iced coffee except I can’t handle iced coffee in the winter!
What time do you get into the office?
I take the boat in from Hingham and get in around 9:15 am. Luckily that’s still earlier than my boss gets in!
Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?
Morning: I get up at 6:30 am and make it into the office by 9:15. We have daily standup in the morning, so I get an update on where each team is at and then plunge into work. Typically I have a lot of informal meetings with folks on the team - either to review upcoming feature work (e.g., a design review) or to provide feedback on the implementation of something.
Afternoon: My afternoons are usually some variation/combination of interviews, analyzing data and A/B test results and listening in on customer research calls.
Evening: I leave the office around 5 pm and head home. When I get home, I make dinner with my husband and then crash in front of Netflix :).
What time do you head out of the office?
Between 5 and 5:30.
Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?
I shut down completely. When I was in London, I was working insane hours since our HQ was in San Francisco and so I’d be up at all hours. Coming to Boston, I knew I didn’t want that again and now I make a conscious effort to shut down after I leave work.
Any productivity hacks?
Not really, but now I’m thinking maybe I need one!
What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?
I used to travel constantly (both for work and pleasure) and can’t live without TripIt. I love Wunderlist, I put all my to-do’s in there. I really love Duolingo -- I’ve been trying to learn German and I think their app is amazing.
What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?
Honestly, the thing I am most proud of is that I’ve given talks on A/B testing and how to leverage data when building a product at two conferences. I was incredibly nervous (my knees were literally shaking at the first one) but I felt so accomplished after. It can be terrifying to put yourself on the line like that, so publicly, but I met so many interesting people and learned so much from the experience.
Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?
So many people! I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with some amazing folks in my career. I had a fabulous mentor while I was at Yammer, Cindy Alvarez, who I go to for advice. I still think about a lot of the things she espoused and how she approached different situations. And honestly, one of the biggest reasons I joined ezCater was to work with Stefania and Briscoe, so I turn to both of them as well.
Images courtesy of Lindsay Matthews.