Maps have always captured my imagination. It started when I was a kid — my parents and I went on a road trip every summer vacation. We would leave our home in Michigan and head west, typically to Colorado. My favorite part was sitting in the back of the car with a giant fold-out map, helping my parents navigate to our next rest area, hiking trail, or camping spot. To this day, whenever my wife mentions a new place to visit, the first thing I do is try to figure out where it is on the map.
I love the possibilities a map contains — from identifying places to explore, to planning the logistics of how to get there, and where to stop along the way.
I studied geography, Earth science, and geographic information systems in college. My inner map nerd was in heaven. I also applied what I learned in the classroom to my part-time job. I was responsible for mapping out all the buildings, utilities, and sewer lines on campus to help the school’s facilities team maintain and track these assets.
After graduating, I moved to Colorado to work at a geospatial solutions company. As a remote sensing analyst, I built elevation models and terrain maps with a wide variety of uses, from engineering and telecommunications to modeling outcomes for insurance companies and flight simulators. I eventually managed a team of 15 people — we produced highly accurate maps of dozens of countries.
After seven years of working with the data, I had a deep understanding of how to transform it into usable products. But I found myself gravitating more and more towards our customers. What were their pain points and how could I best solve them? I wanted to focus on devising solutions to our customers’ most complex and pervasive problems. So when I was asked to move into a product manager role, it felt like a logical progression.
I found that product management had many parallels to how I approached mapping — I loved understanding the problem and coming up with the best solution.
This work required envisioning the entire landscape of what was possible, defining how to reach a goal, and helping customers along the way. I worked with our partners and customers to understand how they were using the geospatial data we provided and offered them solutions to their problems.
A few years later, I joined another company with geospatial roots. I had used the company’s GPS-based survey equipment at my facilities job during college. But as a product manager there, I took on an entirely new domain — commercial construction software. The products I managed helped some of the world’s largest general contractors build on time and on budget. I spent countless hours with customers to really understand their challenges.
Until this point, I had used a smattering of development tools and spreadsheets — but there were no dedicated tools for product managers.
This changed in 2014. Our product teammates were early adopters of Aha! — the software changed the way I approached product management forever. It was refreshing to have a structured tool that defined where we wanted to go and how to get there. I also began reading the Aha! blog to learn more about product management best practices and became enamored with the company’s approach to building lovable products.
So when I learned about Customer Success, I could not imagine a better opportunity for me. From the first moment I interacted with the team, everyone was so kind, respectful, and responsive. It made a huge impression on me. The culture was and is clearly fantastic.
Since joining, I have been able to guide thousands of customers. Every interaction is an opportunity to help others build meaningful products and become better product managers. My days are very fast-paced and I am continually in awe of our highly productive team. We interact closely with customers, implement changes quickly, and track a large number of metrics that help us grow as a company.
There is no better feeling than knowing you are contributing to something great every day.
My teammates are smart, funny, generous, and deeply dedicated to the work we are doing. I have worked from home in the past, but it was nothing like the team spirit Aha! has cultivated. The whole company meets in person every six months at a destination location, where I get to run, hike, and explore the amazing locations we visit.
I have realized that most product managers already have an end goal in mind. Now, it is my job to figure out how to guide them on their journey. It is an exciting challenge and I love using my curiosity to help fellow product managers create their own roadmaps.
That is why I joined Aha! — and why you should too.