Overheard in Product Management: How Eavesdropping Makes You Better

September 7, 2018 | Talia Moyal | Culture

In the fifth grade, my teacher sent me home for asking “inappropriate questions” about her personal life. I continued to get in trouble because I just couldn’t stop eavesdropping. And it wasn’t eavesdropping in the intentional sense of the word, it was my utter lack of ability to not hear everything that was going on around me. Because of this, I heard her chat with the other adults about her latest dinners, mishaps, obsessions, etc., all very interesting topics to a nine year old…which is why I asked questions.

This ‘feature’ of mine has followed me throughout my life. It has made me hyper aware of my surroundings and enabled a curiosity that made me want to dig deeper.

My early career

I started my career in a role that quickly became boring. My old habit of listening too hard and asking a few too many questions caught up with me. I found myself wanting to spend my time understanding the in-the-weeds details of every question a client asked, rather than optimizing to answer those questions quickly. After a few months, I realized I wanted to be in a role that satisfied and encouraged my curiosity. That’s when I started looking into product management.

I made the transition into product management, and after two years, I felt closer to my ideal position, but still not nearly close enough to my ideal home. I left the company and downsized 5,000-fold to a startup. I was the first product manager and the first female hire in that office. At the time, I was blinded by the excitement of this role and all of the challenges that came with it. It wasn’t until six months later that I felt something was missing, which surprised me. I was finally able to ask questions and explore as I had wanted. Eventually, I realized there was a hole created by the lack of diversity and comradery. This hole meant that I could take my time to find answers, but I had to do it alone.

My journey at LightStep

Fast forward a few months, and here I am at LightStep. A place that I can only describe as a community of individuals who are forward-thinking, foster creativity, curiosity, and diversity, and who embody what it means to be genuinely supportive colleagues and friends.

As in every new role, the first day can be scary, but this time especially, the stakes felt higher. Here, I was looking for more from my job than just work. My inner dialogue was going something like this, “Does anyone want to be my friend? Are there cliques here? If so, are there ones that will accept me? Do I even have a choice?” All of these questions are very close to the feelings I had when starting my first day of school.

But here, things are different. That dialogue lasted no more than a day or two. I felt like I’d joined a family, because of the warmness that everyone extended to me from that first day. The people here wanted to know how my days were going, they wanted to know what I did outside of work, and there were no cliques.

LoL

Then I met the women, the Ladies of LightStep, or LoLs as we like to call ourselves. If I wasn’t sure enough already, the LoLs solidified the feeling that I had found what I was looking for.

The LoLs are a group of mostly engineers, which might feel intimidating, but not here. We have monthly events, trading off between lunches or dinners. We share stories about our careers, what’s been difficult and what’s been easy. We include each other in project brainstorms. We go for coffee or boba tea dates, and we’ve even gone salsa dancing. Each one of these women has made the effort to welcome me, and they continue to make me feel welcome and that they’re open to getting to know me.

Being a part of this community has allowed my curiosity to grow in a way I didn’t realize I was missing before joining LightStep. It’s not just about the questions I want to answer, it’s also about collaborating with those around me in a way that isn’t just a back-and-forth answering of questions, rather, a journey together to land on the best idea.

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