My Name Is Madeleine Black — This Is Why I Joined Aha!

Madeleine Black

It started with a big book of code. At 8 years old, I was given a guide to BASIC. The idea was that you could copy the code from the book to create simple computer games, like hangman. Once I had copied every line in the book, I started altering the codes — tailoring the games and ultimately building my own versions. I loved the logic of the code and also that I could transform it into anything I wanted it to be.

I have always been able to tap into both sides of my brain — the logical left and the innovative right.

As I got older, I continued to tinker with computer programming, while also playing the flute in a youth orchestra. When it came time for university, I did not want to choose between my two passions — so I did not. I pursued degrees in both computer science and musicology at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa.

After university, I was recruited to work at a technology company as a developer. It was a fantastic time to join. The company was in a transitional phase and preparing to launch a new product that managed risk-based internal audit processes. I loved how my work played a part in this new product, but I wanted to do more than write code — I wanted to think about the big picture too. What did customers really need and how could we build it for them?

About a year into the job, I got the chance to go after those big questions when I was promoted to lead developer. I worked closely with the company directors and they encouraged me to talk to customers to help guide what we were building. I instantly connected with this work and it must have shown — the directors asked me to take on a product management role as well.

I was involved in deeply technical work while also helping to guide product innovation.

At that point, I had been with the company for 10 years and felt I had contributed meaningfully to its success. In that time, the company launched three new products and became market leaders in South Africa. I was ready to tackle my next challenge too. So, I joined a large financial services software company as the head of development. But I stayed close to the product side, playing a key role on our SAFe portfolio team to ensure that we were funding the initiatives that made the most sense for the business.

This is when I first learned about Aha! — our managing director introduced me to the application. I loved the visibility it brought to our work, helping us create visual roadmaps and tie everything back to our strategy. The structured approach led to a lot of product success. I used Aha! to help launch a new tax product for our cloud platform and for our architecture team as we optimized our platform.

There was just one problem — I was so focused on the operational aspects of the development team that I did not have as much time for innovation.

A big part of this was that I was no longer talking directly to customers. Most of the information came from the product managers and sales team second-hand. I missed the challenge of listening to customers’ problems and searching for creative solutions.

One day, I was reading the Aha! blog and spotted a listing for an opening on the Customer Success team. It almost seemed too good to be true. Here was a role where I could use my product management skills to engage with customers and help them innovate. Plus, I would get to be part of a world-class SaaS product that I already loved. I applied right away.

The interview process was refreshing — things moved quickly. It was clear the team really did live by The Responsive Method that I had read about on the blog. There was a sense of urgency to the process, and I could see how this applied to helping customers as well. I was excited to join the team and be part of a globally distributed company, working with people all over the world from my home in South Africa.

Now that I am on the Aha! Customer Success team, I get to work with product managers, executives, procurement teams, and everyone in between.

Each day feels unique. I could be helping a customer build out a roadmap presentation on one call, and then be sharing my knowledge of SAFe just a few hours later. And through it all, I get to provide feedback to our product team — helping them understand our customers’ pain points so we can look for the best solutions together.

Now I never have to choose between my logical and innovative sides. I get to use both fully.

That is why I joined Aha! — and why you should too.

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