This week I had a chance to catch up with Magdalena Georgieva, a Senior Product Manager at HubSpot, a sales and marketing software company based in Cambridge, MA. We chatted about building products and growing the women in tech space in the U.S. and Europe. Read below to get the full story!
Q: What’s your professional background?
A: I work as a Senior Product Manager at HubSpot which is a software company helping organisations take an inbound approach to sales and marketing. In this role, I focus on surfacing problems that our customers are facing, so I dig into usage data, support data, customer interviews, internal feedback, and evaluate whether the solutions to these problems align with our company mission and if so, how. Together with my team of software engineers and designers we think through potential solutions, test them, and iterate on them. I also work with product marketing on launching changes, training folks inside the company, and articulating the vision of the product externally.
Q: What attracted you to building products?
A: I ended up in this role organically. Before it, I worked on HubSpot’s marketing team to grow our lead generation efforts through webinars, ebooks, blog posts, videos, and other creative content. Throughout that experience I developed an expertise in marketing as well as opinions on how our tools can support me best. As a result, I started sharing feedback with the folks in product and became a really good fit for directing the evolution of the software. Then, I just started doing it full-time!
Q: What advice would you give someone who wishes to pursue a similar path?
A: Develop domain expertise whether that is in marketing, healthcare, sports or some other field. Such a deep background will make you an invaluable resource at a software company focused on solving problems within that area.
Also, run side projects. Nothing prevents you from building something on the side, such as a blog, an art initiative, a community event series, and so on... Such experience will demonstrate that you have a passion for building, commitment, and vision - all skills required to be a good product manager.
Q: Have you only ever worked in the U.S.?
A: My entire professional life after graduation from Mount Holyoke College has been in the U.S. However, I grew up and went to high-school in Bulgaria and that is where I held short-term summer jobs in hotel administration and as a tour guide, with the intention that they would give me opportunities to practice my English.
Q: What’s your opinion on the women in tech scene in the U.S.?
A: Having spent most of my professional life in New England, I have a biased perspective but have certainly seen the women in tech space here take centre stage and grow. I’ve been on the HubSpot product team for more than three years now and the number of female software engineers, designers, product managers, and UX researchers has only increased. We also hire a ton of interns and coops who share that much more women attend their computer science and design classes in college. Lastly, there are a lot of local organisations like She Geeks Out, Women Who Code, and the Women’s Coding Collective here that amplify the voice of women leaders. It’s a promising trend and really exciting to see.v
Q: How do you think the women in tech scene in the U.S. compares to anywhere else in the world?
A: It’s really hard to compare because my experience is limited to what’s happening here, but I try to stay up-to-date by following publications like Tech.eu, the Nordic Web, and the Canadian Women and Tech. It looks like there are efforts throughout Europe and Canada to strengthen women's leadership in tech and increase diversity in those communities.
Q: What is your opinion on U.S.-based companies with international offices?
A: HubSpot has offices in Dublin, Singapore, Sydney, and now Tokyo, so it’s really interesting to see us grow overseas and scale up in this way. After talking to Sile Brehony, a HubSpot Product Manager who is based in Dublin, I started realising what employees internationally are experiencing when working for a U.S.-based company. Sile mentioned that a lot of companies turn international offices into their satellite offices where employees just worry about localisation but don’t innovate in the same ways as those at the headquarters. So at HubSpot we make a conscious effort to have autonomous product teams in Dublin that work on product creating real impact for customers, not just localisation problems or playing catch-up with the rest of team. I’d encourage anyone in Europe applying for a job at a U.S.-based company to ask these questions and ensure they will be working on exciting challenges.
Q: How do you keep up with the European emerging tech scene?
A: I read the weekly updates from Tech.eu and the Nordic Web. Now that I became a mentor at MassChallenge I also support some European start-ups, so that gives me more exposure to the problems they are facing. And I can’t wait till the European Women in Tech 2016 conference so I can meet more folks over there!
Q: What resources do you use for your own personal development?
A: I work very closely with our entire product team, so I constantly learn from our UX researchers, designers, developers, and other product managers. I also follow the writing of inspirational product leaders like Julie Zhuo, Tom Tunguz, and Des Traynor and attend a ton of product events in the area, hosted by She Geeks Out, MassChallenge, HubSpot, and others.
Q: What skills do you possess that you think have been most valuable for your job?
A: Writing well. It seems to me that this skill is underestimated nowadays but good writing has helped me articulate ideas well, exercise editorial control when it comes to product decisions, distill ideas to their core, ask good questions, document my learnings in a compelling way, and present well in public. It’s the gift that keeps on giving and I want to keep getting better at it.
Q: What are some of topics of interests for you in the world product development?
A: I’m interested in exposing people to the various roles that exist in tech. People don’t always realise how blurry the lines are and that their analytical and communication skills are as important as coding. For example, there are non-tech roles in product management, product analysis, design, user research that are incredibly valuable for the success of a tech company.
Another big area of interest for me recently has become measuring product so you know how successful it actually is. At HubSpot, we started getting really focused on our activation and retention numbers and it’s fascinating to see how they turn into motivators and learning opportunities.
Q: How can tech companies attract more women?
A: Building an Associate program can work well for a lot of organisations to get more women in the door. For example, we built an Associate Product Management program following in Google’s footsteps and that worked out really well for us. Most companies hire product managers from within because they already have an understanding of the product and the customer. Some of the best PMs have backgrounds in marketing, support, or sales so associate programs help interested employees or interns to shadow current product managers and learn the ropes.
Q: What’s your advice for inspiring the next generation?
A: Always ask yourself, “what’s the worst thing that can happen?” That’s a piece of advice I got from David Cancel, our former Chief Product Officer and it has stuck with me. It empowers you to take risks and make big leaps forward.
Thanks Maggie! We look forward to working with you on the European Women in Technology conference :)
If you want to learn more on these topics make sure you come to our European Women in Tech event on the 23rd and 24th November 2016, in which women leaders will share more stories about their professional lives in tech: http://www.europeanwomenintech.com