Q1. Hi Sinéad, can you tell us a bit about what you do at Arkivum? What does a typical day look like for you?
I run the product management side of the company. Really there’s no such thing as a typical day as I interact with customers, engineering, customer success, operations and sales, but usually I start with checking emails and replying to anything I need to, then catching up with engineering on the daily standup call to make sure there’s nothing holding them up or needing clarification.
The rest of the day for example I can be on meetings with customers or partners, organising product releases and making decisions on the priority of market requirements for our roadmap, working with marketing on product messaging, making sure sales are lining up with the messaging and roadmap and getting feedback from them, researching the market – talking to analysts, reviewing competition and market trends, etc. with a view to our future product strategy.
Q2. What attracted you to the role here?
What first attracted me to the role of product manager was a great boss and mentor – he made me realise what a great job product management is and how the varied nature of the role appealed to my nosey nature so much – I love being in the middle of everything and product sits right in the middle of our business between all areas, it’s hectic but there’s never a dull moment that’s for sure!
Q3. Did you always know that working in technology was what you wanted to do? How did you decide to go into it?
When I went to university to be honest I had no idea what I wanted to do, I was always an odd combination in that I loved languages but also solving logical problems – so I did my 1st degree in Industrial Management and French which was a mixture of engineering, business studies and French.
After that I did an MSc in Computer Science and Applications which moved me in the tech direction (while keeping my hand in languages by doing my project in France), and afterwards I got accepted on the British Airways graduate scheme as a programmer – if I’m 100% honest the appeal was more the airline concessions than the programming job, back in the 90s we didn’t have Silicon Valley or the startup culture so it wasn’t seen as the cool role it is these days and people were always surprised when I said I was a programmer as I didn’t fit the “nerdy” image 😊 But really it was the best thing that happened to me – we were put into a classroom for some intense training for 2 months and at that time BA really invested in their employees, that training and the mentoring that followed really set me up for life, not to mention the great friendships we built.
Things might have changed a lot in tech but the groundwork was so important! Since then there’s been no turning back – I spent 13 years as a programmer before moving into a more customer facing technical role as an application consultant then into product management.
Q4. What’s the best part of being a woman in tech? And the worst?
Nowadays it’s a great time to be a woman in tech – when I started in tech it was a very much male dominated industry but now there are so many great female leaders out there as role models, doing a great job of balancing families and careers, flexibility and being able to work from home has helped considerably to balance the numbers. Women bring so much to the table, we’re able to see things differently and that balance is really important. When I started in Arkivum we didn’t have a great balance – the engineering and QA team were mostly male, which was fine but now we’re pretty much evenly split and seeing the difference that having this balance has made makes me really proud to be part of the team.
The worst, well unless you’re unfortunate enough to work with people who have attitudes still in the stone age I don’t think there are any – this is a great time to be a woman in tech 😊
Q5. Any advice for women looking to work in the tech industry? Anything you wished you had known before you started?
Don’t be shy – the most vocal person in the room isn’t always the most knowledgeable so never be afraid to voice your opinion if you have one…. And there’s no such thing as a stupid question.
Q6. How do you keep physically and mentally fit?
I have a work hard and play hard attitude so it’s very important to have a balance for your own mental fitness – socialising with friends and travelling are always high on my agenda, as is enjoying working with the people I share an office with. Physically I’m not as active as I should be but I use walking and swimming to give me some good thinking time.
Q7. Who are your influencers?
Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, my old bosses Mark Selcow and Johnathan Hodge (not female!), Pragmatic Marketing podcasts and blogs. I have filters set up on Google and Medium with things that interest me and they throw up lots of interesting articles to read.
Q8. How do you keep up to date with the fast paced tech evolution?
It really does feel like it’s moving faster and faster – I keep my toes in the technical side of things mostly through meetings with the team and trying to have enough up to date knowledge so I don’t sound too old school in front of our young team 😊 I also read books and blogs.
Q9. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
When I was moving into product management I had a chat with my then CEO who was a great leader and he said “always lean forward, we believe in you” – it’s really important to have leaders who believe in you and let you make the mistakes you need to learn from.
Q10. What’s next for you?
We’ve achieved so much in the last few years in Arkivum, and I feel we’re in a great place now for ongoing success – long term data management is something that’s gained momentum so much in recent years with so many regulations taking effect, but there’s still so much to do and so much room to grow in this space so I don’t see myself going anywhere soon!
Next Monday, we’ll be hearing from Alexandra Nel, a software engineer at Arkivum.