March 6, 2020

Q&A with Michaela Smith - VP of Product

Louise Naqvi
PR Manager

What is your role at Upgrade Pack and what does that entail?

As VP of Product it’s my role to ensure the Product vision and direction for our app for exclusive offers on flight and hotel upgrades is understood across the company, and that we’re all working towards the same goal. While representing the customer at the organisational level, I also need to consider the needs of our clients and travel partners to make sure our Product (and the app) also reflects their needs.

Who or what encouraged you to get into product development?

I was initially attracted to digital as there was so much opportunity to shape the future. My first role was in editorial for the digital arm of a big publisher, but the nature of the team was that if you could spot an opportunity to improve things, you could make it happen. Over time I found I gravitated towards product management, where I had the freedom to explore and drive my career path forward. I do not have any formal product training but my background in digital strategy, project and management, requirements gathering, budget management, and a genuine interest in product was well suited to the transition into product and I’ve not looked back since.

What are the most important skills or qualities to have in your job?

Curiosity and the capacity to drive change. The ability to listen and build relationships: to know when to be diplomatic and when a decision needs to be made.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

When looking for a new role, you are interviewing your potential employer, as much as they are interviewing you.

Which women in business or in the public eye do you admire? Why?

Since being introduced to her work as a teenager, I have been in awe of Maya Angelou: her writing and intellectual clarity, her dynamism and strength of character. I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to see her speak at the National Institute of Health when I lived the USA.

Poet, singer and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou

How have you found being a woman, working in the tech product industry?

In my experience, diverse companies have offered the most positive work environments where I have felt empowered and been most successful, both in commercial and personal terms.

How does the tech startup environment compare with your previous industry experience?

I enjoy the fact that I can make my own role. Of course there are specific things I need to achieve, but the nature of a start-up means there are countless opportunities to learn and grow outside the confines of your job description.

What do you do to relax and take time out from the demands of working life and relax?

I read a lot of fiction and I also try to go to the theatre or to a gig at least once a month. I think it’s important to step outside of your normal space and be able to shut off for a short time. Usually the best ideas pop into your head when it’s clear.

How do you feel the balance / representation is in terms of women in tech and / or product development?

There are some key female leaders across the product industry, and generally representation is better than in some areas of tech, however it could improve: it appears the vast majority of product leaders are white men and I would like to see this change: increased diversity will help us create better products for more people.

What would you say to women looking to get into tech product development?

Discover what works for you: is it becoming a specialist? Is it people management? Do you thrive in an agency environment or client-side? There is no right answer, it’s entirely personal. This is as true across all industries and genders!  

International Women's Day
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