Jennifer Rosenberg Baker is no stranger to the enterprise software industry. With previous roles—and proven success—as VP of Corporate Strategy at CA Technologies and as Director at IBM’s Center for Advanced Visualizations, her experience runs the gamut from customer service and technical support to product management and user experience.
You have nearly two decades of experience in the enterprise software industry. What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned while working in this field?
The other day, someone told me that I “keep it real”. So with that in mind, I’ve learned that being in technology is a life-changing experience and it can also be a grind. I try to be myself, and part of this is being a little zany at times, or being able to fail in a safe environment and learn from my mistakes. I love a good office Nerf battle and believe we need to have more fun in the workplace.
I have also learned that I am nothing without the people around me. You need to surround yourself with diverse skills and good people. Never underestimate the importance of relationships. This is a critical lesson that everyone must learn and experience.
Finally, invest in yourself by building your brand, both internally and externally. While it’s important to make sure you have good brand recognition internally, it’s equally important for you to network professionally.
What drew you to product management?
I was chosen for my first product management job while I was a quality engineering team lead for a small graphics software product line. After one release, I knew I was hooked on the role, and haven’t looked back. As my career has grown, I’ve taken roles in different parts of an engineering organization to round out any skills gaps I’ve had. But I always find myself back in a product-focused role.
How would you describe your approach to understanding MicroStrategy’s users and ensuring its products are best in class?
First, you need to understand the product, its capabilities and limitations. Next, you need to be constantly working with the field, customers, and the market to understand the business problems they’re trying to solve.
This is one of the reasons relationships are so important. You need access to customers. When you’re a credible product manager, you work to build relationships with the field, and in turn, the field can broker introductions to key accounts for you. A good account executive or senior executive knows their accounts inside and out, and can also be a great source of intelligence.
We can’t design software in a bubble. We need to be constantly innovating and iterating through designs, and partnering with trusted advisors, whether it’s the field, our customers and partners, or industry analysts. They give us the external perspective we need to understand what our end users need and how our software can help.
What are the biggest misconceptions about product management?
That it’s easy. No two days are ever the same. Some days are easier than others, but generally speaking, it’s not a 9 to 5 job; it’s 24/7. Product managers need to be product experts. They’re responsible for ensuring a clear product direction and managing the lifecycle of their products. You really are the mini-CEO of your business, and must act like it at all times.
Product management is an art and not a career path for the faint-hearted. You can’t jump into product management right out of business school. It’s a discipline like any other, and it’s been my experience that inquisitive, intelligent, and creative folks make great product managers.
What do you find most rewarding about being a woman in the BI space? Or in the product management space?
Mentoring is a big responsibility and one that I don’t take lightly. Knowing that you have a hand in empowering and inspiring someone and passing on your knowledge and experience to them is very humbling. Personally, my mentors or board have been largely made up of men. Yet, throughout my career, I wish that I would have consistently strong female mentors as part of my board.
What is your perspective on mentoring other women in tech?
We need to do a better job showcasing the diverse opportunities in the STEM world available to women. We need to create excitement about tackling challenging problems that can transform the world. Mentoring offers high-quality opportunities for women to engage and interact with someone in their field of interest. This provides a gateway to opportunities that women may not have otherwise had.
What do aspiring analysts or BI professionals need to know about the future of the industry?
Unleash your inner data scientist and be curious. Whenever I’m with a customer, I take the opportunity to be curious, asking probing questions to gain insight about their business problems. I love seeing applications customers have built in action, and how they’re transforming their businesses through analytics. There’s an abundance of university courses and degrees, books, tools, and applications available—all of which can help individuals break into the industry.
Interested in joining the team? Learn more about career opportunities here.