Blog

December 4, 2018

Career Path: Maggie Brenner, Product Manager at Ellevation

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