Lead(H)er: Tricia Chang, Head of Product at Photo Butler
Similar to many recent college graduates, Tricia Chang wasn’t entirely sure of what she wanted to do for her first job. She graduated from Emory University with a degree in marketing, but when most of her classmates started careers in investment banking, Chang realized that she didn’t want to follow. Instead, she spent several years teaching English in Taiwan as a way to reconnect with her family’s heritage and with herself.
“I came back and cleared my mind and landed in a different place,” Chang said. “It opened up opportunities for me that I wasn’t aware of, given that I knew what I had studied wasn’t a good fit for what I wanted to go towards.”
Soon after returning to the States, Chang began working at Care.com, which was then in its startup stage. While her primary role was in operations, Chang latched onto every opportunity that came her way, getting involved in customer service, product marketing, internal and external communications, user retention and re-engagement, and more.
In addition to providing her with the skills she would need to be successful in the startup world, Care.com also gave Chang a strong desire to work in product as much as possible throughout her career.
“There's so much that I love about product,” Chang said. “It encompasses the impact each feature, every variable that you introduce has on an overall business. All of it is very analytical and critical, but there's also a creative part to it too. How do you design a product? How do you want it to look and feel to users? How do you optimize your conversion by placing a button in a particular area? It plays towards what I really love doing which is, how do I tackle a problem and how do I solve it?”
Chang looks forward to solving the problem of how to build her own company next. She gave it a shot with a group of colleagues while she simultaneously worked in product management for Nanigans, a Boston-based marketing startup where she quickly moved up the ranks of the product department. However, the team chose to put the project aside in the hopes of revisiting it at a better time in the future.
Now, Chang is bringing her product skills to the Head of Product role at Photo Butler. The brand’s photo-sharing platform combines marketing with photography, another of Chang’s passions. There, she manages product vision and execution strategy to help users get more out of their photos.
Her experiences in early-stage and post-seed startups have given Chang the perspective she needs to ultimately succeed in her own venture, a career goal that she’s looking forward to reaching.
“Your foot always has to be on the accelerator,” she said of working in startups. “You have to push, because the business is on the line. You're always contributing in so many different facets, and I think that's pretty special part of being at startups.”
Rapid Fire Questions
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to stay pretty active. I run, I rock climb, I travel a lot. O really love experiencing new places and new people and different cultures. It kind of keeps me grounded, knowing that the world is so big. My fiancé and I love going to Red Sox games. Recently I got to combine two passion projects, obviously work and photos, by going into Boston and celebrating the Red Sox World Series parade. Seeing two worlds collide is pretty special.
How do you generally handle your stress?
Rock climbing actually really helps me. I view it as a different form of problem-solving. There are different routes that you can look at, and you have to decide if you’re twisting your body differently or you're putting your weight somewhere else. It really helps me refocus and realign.
Often when I'm stressed, I realized that I’m staring at the trees and I lose sight of the forest, so taking a step back to breathe and look at the problem in a different way helps to reconnect and realign my thoughts. When I come back down to the problem, I usually see something differently, and so rock climbing kind of teaches my brain to look at that problem differently.
How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day?
Right now I'm actually trying to move away from coffee. Generally, it's one cup of coffee a day, but now it's two cups of tea a day, and it's a mix of green tea or ginger or something that wakes me up a little bit.
What’s one of your favorite places in the Boston area?
My favorite place in Boston is the Boston Public Garden. It’s beautiful to walk through, and I’m always kind of amazed. It's in the middle of the city, but it's so green and lush, and there's water while you're walking along. It's just it's just so picturesque, and for some reason, there's no way for me to keep my head down and just continue walking. I just need to stop and take a breath and just take it in. That's what captures me by surprise.
What would you consider one of your greatest accomplishment?
A couple of years ago, I was personally going through kind of a rough patch, and I signed up for a charity trek to Everest base camp. It was for raising money for earthquake victims and communities in Nepal. I was extremely inactive at the time so I had absolutely no business being on that trek. It gave me something really good to focus on and train for. I had really good days, I had really bad days, but in the end, I was able to reach base camp at nearly 18,000 feet.
It's kind of a roundabout metaphor, but I think it's an interesting way that I now approach my life and career. I know that no matter what, if you set your mind towards something you can do it, no matter what your starting point is. You need to celebrate your accomplishments and also have a good inner dialogue with yourself and give yourself slack on the bad days that you're going to have. Everyone is human, everyone makes mistakes, and you need to understand that, be introspective on those bad days, and continue learning. If you never stop learning, you never stop achieving new goals and setting new goals. Getting around to that perspective and having that good inner dialogue – I’m not done with it, but I'm really proud that I’m on a path towards accomplishing it.
Is this where you saw yourself 10 years ago?
Absolutely not! Ten years ago I really had no clear vision of what I wanted to do. I think that was a really good thing in how it played out for me in the sense that I was open to different opportunities and learning about different roles. I was afforded the opportunity to work with incredibly talented, smart people along the way and in so many different fields and so many different roles that I think it really did benefit me.
What’s your advice for recent college graduates?
My advice would be to not close off yourself to different types of opportunities that come their way and feel like you need to know what it is that you want to do early on in your career. Half of success is about learning as much as you can in any position and taking all of those learnings with you to your next position. I think really spending a lot of the time that I did in operations, marketing, product marketing, and having a career in both marketplace and advertising, helps me be a better product manager and to be able to understand other teammates and their goals and what they're trying to accomplish, to be empathetic to what they're bringing. Open up yourself to those different opportunities and don’t let that pressure to be in a particular set of shoes affect you.
For women in tech, I think it's very important that you stay confident in your ideas and share them. You're doing yourself a disservice and your team a disservice by not sharing your opinions. It’s what a well-rounded team coming together to do great things needs.