Lead(H)er: Tara Haas, Senior Vice President, Chief of Staff, and Head of Innovation at LogMeIn
When Tara Haas’ parents moved to Alaska without having ever seen their new hometown in person, something about their brazen decision might have stuck in their nine-year-old daughter’s brain. Almost ten years later, when it came time for Haas to choose a college, she applied early decision to Northwestern and, like her parents, set off on her new adventure with no concern for the fact that she had never visited the campus before, much less Chicago itself.
“I do wonder,” said Haas, who is currently the Senior Vice President, Chief of Staff, and Head of Innovation at LogMeIn. “I don’t know if that just sort-of planted the seed that if you can move to Alaska, you can do anything!”
In any case, the leap to Chicago set the tone for the rest of Haas’s career, in which she has taken every opportunity available in the pursuit of new challenges.
She worked in market research in Chicago after graduation before making another move—sight unseen, of course—to the Bay Area to take a job in the marketing department at a division of Sara Lee. It was her first exposure to true marketing, and she stayed at the position for about two years before taking her brother’s advice and seeking out a role in the tech industry.
“My brother was a grad student at Stanford at the time, and he said you couldn’t be in the Bay Area and not be in technology, which at the time was very true,” Haas said.
She dropped off her resume at Intuit’s career night and, 30 days later, became a brand manager there. Haas knew little about technology when she began at Intuit, but relished the chance to work in a Quickbooks business. She kept her role in the marketing department and helping launch Intuit’s developer network when she moved to Boston about a year-and-a-half later.
Over time, though, it made less sense to Haas to be the company’s only branding employee on the East Coast. After her first child was born, she came back to work and was asked to be an engagement leader for Intuit’s brand-new innovation lab.
“I had no idea what an engagement leader even was,” Haas said. “The I-lab was very new to the organization, and they were just figuring out what it even meant.”
Over the course of eight years at Intuit, Haas and her team helped define the role of the lab, establishing the approach and processes that formed the foundation of how Intuit develops ideas for new products and innovation.
Haas took a break from the working world for about a year following the birth of her second child, then joined LogMeIn as a product manager for the company’s mobile applications. She is now LogMeIn’s Chief of Staff and is also leading the initiative to help the company develop its own innovation lab.
“I’m passionate about the lab regarding being able to empower the entrepreneurs in the organization to do and explore things that they’re passionate about really,” Haas said. “It’s very customer focused, and I’ve spent most of my career being in roles where it’s all about understanding customer problems and finding unique ways to solve them, so I’d love to spend more of my time in that space, continuing to help LogMeIn and entrepreneurs and small businesses explore and solve their problems using technology.”
Throughout her career, Haas says that she has been lucky to work with people who have been willing to mentor her, recognize her skills and how they could benefit the company and set her up for success.
“Everybody kind of succeeds together, and I think that makes it possible to enter those situations and be willing to ask questions, reach out to people, be ok with not being the smartest person in the room all the time, and really leverage and lean on the skill sets of people around you,” Haas said.
She isn’t sure about what comes next, but she considers that uncertainty to be part of the appeal of working with a top five global SaaS company. Each day had presented a new challenge and new perspective, even when she spent all those years working on Intuit’s Innovation Lab.
“Today is going to be different from yesterday, and tomorrow is probably going to be different than the day before in some fashion,” Haas said. “I think that nature is appealing to me.
Rapid Fire Questions
What do you like to do in your free time?
I have five kids, so there’s not a lot of that, of course. I do like to cook with my husband. He’s a phenomenal cook. He stays home with the kids which is fantastic. When we have time to cook together, I love to do that and travel when we can manage. Usually, that’s a little bit crazy—we take the crazy on the road—but I do enjoy to travel. We have every kind of challenge and fun you can think of.
How do you typically manage stress?
I do try to take time for myself a couple of days a week. I try to come in extra-early to avoid the traffic, and getting a little bit of a workout in to start my day differently is helpful. I have recognized the value of a good massage or pedicure every once in a while, to make sure I’m taking care of me, and that helps manage stress. I am a list-maker and to-do person by nature, so having my list of things to do and being able to check things off and keeping it to the three things I need to do today, and if I do even two of those three that’s a good day. Trying not to expect that I can do the 12 things on the list helps me manage the stress. Setting my own expectations I think is helpful.
How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day?
I try to hold myself to one Venti a day. I try to make it last the whole day if I can, but coffee is certainly my fuel. Coffee and water are pretty much all I drink, so I try to have a balance of water with the coffee. Coffee is definitely necessary.
What is your favorite spot in the Boston area?
I am loving where we are in the Seaport area, in Fort Point. There’s been so much growth in this area, so many new fun spots and restaurants. It’s a great place to be able to walk around during the day and even at night. You can go from work to social very readily. I love that. It would be great if they could stop building, though.
Aside from family, what would you consider your greatest accomplishment?
I would say that one of my greatest accomplishments was the development and growth of the innovation lab at Intuit. It was brand-new when I joined the team, and we built it into a thriving organization that was able to basically teach some of the rest of the organization how to think about customer-driven innovation, as well as partnering with the other business units across the company. We launched into a lab, which is a way for entrepreneurs in the company to get their ideas out into the marketplace. This was a huge accomplishment in terms of getting through the systems internally to let people do it, and then really powerful for innovators to see their work hit the light of day and start to get traction and customers. That’s an accomplishment I’m proud of. It’s still around today, which is something I really love about it. There’s a legacy there.
Where did you see yourself 10 years ago, and how does that compare to where you are now?
I certainly never expected to be in Boston in a Top Five SaaS company with this huge staff, I don’t think I could have scripted that. I come from small-town beginnings, so this was a world away from where I grew up. It’s been a career of fortunate accidents, almost, and opportunities and doors that have opened that I walked through. I worked hard once I got there and delivered for each organization I was with in order to get to the seat that I’m in. Given the path to get here, it’s hard to imagine what’s next because there are so many possibilities from the seat I’m in now, even within LogMeIn and beyond that. I wouldn’t have imagined even five years ago where I would be.
What advice would you give recent college graduates?
I would say, certainly be willing to take an unknown path. There’s so many things that are scripted for kids today—you come out of high school and you have to go to college and you have to go to a particular type of college and take a particular type of job. The direct path is not always the best, so I would say be willing and open to the unknown and trying something new and different, and make sure that you balance the experiences that you have as a person with the experiences you have in the workplace. Really figuring out for you what your work-life balance is, because it’s different for everybody.