Angela Daniels has a B.A. in theater, background in stage management, and can do her own data analysis. Her Senior Product Manager role at Name.com couldn’t be a better fit.
The Spark is a new column from Elpha about how women in technical roles harness their creativity and stay inspired even when obstacles mount, as told to Elpha writer Cassie da Costa.After completing her master’s degree in Emergent Digital Practices at the University of Denver in 2014, Angela Daniels (@angeladaniels) joined domain registrar company Name.com in the customer support department. After two months, a Product Manager position opened up. It wasn’t an obvious leap, but she knew that since she already worked at the company, she was in a unique position to convince hiring managers of her qualifications, which included experience with SQL and performing her own data analysis. “I saw the job description and knew that I had the skills required based on my knowledge from my master’s, but also from years working in different fields,” she told Elpha. “My undergrad degree was in theater and I have a background in stage management, which is very close to product management in terms of the skills required to succeed.”Now, Angela is a Senior Product Manager, and she is running the Product team as well as managing another Product Manager and the company’s UI/UX designer. Angela shared with Elpha what it really means to be a Product Manager, how she harnesses her creativity in the role even when the challenges mount, and how she pays it forward to the community of women in tech, especially women of color, in Denver and beyond. --I am the senior Product Manager at Name.com, a domain registrar. I also run the Product team. We're a pretty small team so I manage another Product Manager and our UI/UX designer. A lot of my day to day is spent both doing product management and managing people and also coming up with our overall product strategy for the company.How I got the jobFirst, I worked on my resume to call out what experience I had and how that matched the skills and background Name.com was looking for in product manager candidates. I then set up a meeting with the hiring manager and used the major points from my resume preparation to state my case. The hiring manager was impressed that I had a master’s degree, knew SQL, and had all this relevant experience, including seven years of data entry and account management experience. She told me what the interview process would be like and that it would include a test on Google Analytics and SQL. I spent around eight hours a day every weekend in a coffee shop brushing up on SQL and taking classes, including the Google online certification for Google Analytics.The sparkWhat I love about Name.com is that there's a lot of autonomy and trust. And as a Product Manager, my job is changing all the time. From what I’ve heard from other Product Managers, right now, it seems like a lot of their jobs are focused on creating user stories. Honestly, that sounds really boring! Instead, at Name, I get to create the processes for how I achieve goals and every single day is different. The creativity comes from having to come up with different solutions to problems. In my job, I get to look at a challenge or at an outcome that is desired, then analyze data and user research to determine what the best solution is, and then design it. And I work with designers, engineers, and other product managers to create these solutions. It is so fulfilling to see the finished product knowing that it was created out of thin air.I also love using data to create meaningful experiences for people. An example is our current search page test. We've had the same search page since well before I started at Name. There have been a few iterations, but basically it's included the same colors and sections for years. This is the most important page on our website, so we decided to test a complete redesign. We got to decide what it would look like, but also how it would function. There are an endless number of ways that search results can be displayed for domain names. Do you want to change the search term entered or keep it the same and try to suggest more relevant domain endings? For instance, if I search for “iloverocks”, should I show you ilove.rocks or i-love-rocks.com first? We've been testing both our design and page functionality against two other pages for the last month and it has been a lot of fun.The many lives of Product ManagersI have recently been attending a lot of events with different Product Managers and I moderated a panel at Galvanize, a summit for tech professionals, that was an introduction to product management. I was able to hear other Product Managers talk about what they do on a daily basis and how they got into the role — it was enlightening. It seems like the job is very different for everyone. I think of the five of us, one person had taken a product management course at Galvanize and everyone else kind of fell into it through different experiences without a background specifically in tech. Somebody was a DJ, for example, but also loved data. My experience is similar in that I didn’t necessarily know I wanted to be in Product, but then I heard about it and it turned out to combine everything I love doing: the communication, the data analysis, the day-to-day project management. My role involves a lot of cross-collaboration, which usually translates into meetings, so I've been working on injecting fun and creativity into those meetings. Sometimes I will start meetings with improv exercises that I learned when I was a theatre kid, or with pump up music that I think will lift the energy in the room. I also try to keep things creative by changing meetings and processes when they're not working. Just because something is the way it has always been done doesn't mean it is the right way to do it! Staying inspiredFirst and foremost, I take a walk. Getting outside and walking it off has always inspired me. Sometimes I will go with a coworker and we’ll talk, too. Other ways that I have gotten out of a rut is by doing headstands. There was an empty office next to ours for years, so I would just get up, go next door, and do some headstands. Literally changing my perspective!