October 10, 2018

Getting to Know: A Great “Fit,” Melissa, Senior Director, Product Management at PebblePost

Melissa Tanzosh

What was your initial reaction to the concept of Programmatic Direct Mail®?
It is unique, and in the world of marketing technology, where everyone does the same thing, “unique” is a breath of fresh air. It really intrigued me how PebblePost was able to bridge the gap between online and offline.

And what about your first impression of PebblePost as a company?
As much as I was intrigued by Programmatic Direct Mail® as a concept, what truly attracted me to PebblePost was the people. Through the interview process I didn’t just meet the people I would be working with directly but also from across different departments. So I had a lot of exposure to a lot of different folks, and just hearing the way in which they thought about problems and the way that they spoke about PebblePost — that really was the thing that brought me here.

Let’s backtrack for a second and talk about the trajectory that brought you here. How does a person who was born in Canada and graduated from the University of California Berkeley but considers Texas home wind up in New York developing a cutting-edge product like PDM?
Maybe I should just focus on the product portion of that question [laughs]. I actually started in account management. That was at an early-stage startup with 10 employees. We all wore multiple hats, doing multiple jobs. I ended up working with engineers to essentially build things for clients. Once I realized that there was a specific job called “Product,” I dove right in.

How did you develop that technical fluency?
I’m all self-taught. I took a lot of online courses, General Assembly classes, and so on. And I also asked a lot of questions. Anyone who built something, I would ask them questions about how they built it and where I could go to look up more information.

And do you see that continuing here?
Definitely. It’s an extremely collaborative environment. Everyone just wants to get to that common goal however they need to. So they work toward that whether or not a specific job falls in a specific department. All that matters is getting the job done and done well.

What’s the biggest misconception about product management?
Every product management book you read throws around the phrase “the product manager is the CEO of the product.” That insinuates that there’s a power dynamic going on. I don’t think that’s accurate. Product management should be all about building bridges. It’s about balancing the development needs with the sales and marketing needs, which often are conflicting. That requires a lot of empathy, understanding and problem solving. You need to instill trust and build relationships with every side to get things done — and that includes customers. If those relationships aren’t there, you cannot be successful.

Can you give an example of how a product manager builds bridges?
Well, in martech, a lot of things are revenue-driven. So whenever something comes up that could potentially drive revenue, there’s a lot of incentive to push it through — even if it goes against technical best practices for whatever reason, such as stability, or the timeline is too rushed to be able to do the necessary checks and balances. So it’s up to product management to balance the priorities and calibrate the timing of it all. Risk mitigation is often the biggest priority. You have to explain to the business side the risks of an aggressive timeline and ensure that they are ready to accept those risks and stand behind their decision. It’s important to have everyone’s buy-in on that.

What’s the best part of the job?
It’s kind of the same — working with both business and engineering teams. They have entirely different challenges, different dynamics and different ways of working together and solving problems. You end up being sort of equal parts translator and mediator.

Do you lean toward a mediator’s role outside the workplace as well?
Actually, no, not at all [laughs]! I’m very outspoken.

What do you do for fun?
I like CrossFit, especially with my husband. We met at a CrossFit gym. We both also love to travel, so we’ve kind of married the two: We often visit different CrossFit gyms around the country and the world. It’s a great way to meet locals and see how different communities represent the sport. CrossFit travel also teaches you to count really well in other languages — and that the word “burpee” is not translatable.

What’s the best advice you ever got?
My mom told me this when I was young: “Hard work pays off.” I know that’s very cheesy, but I literally live my life based on that. I’ve worked hard to achieve everything that I have. More recently, an old boss of mine told me I should never stop standing up for myself. That’s great advice, especially for a female in tech.

PebblePost Engineering
Blog content created for engineers

README

Subscribe

Most Popular