Here at Upgrade Pack, it was important to us to gather the right team together in order to achieve our goals. We wanted to not only hire people who were experts in their field, but who would bring the right energy and mindset to help our overall mission. Over the next few weeks we’ll be featuring each member of our leadership team in a Q&A to hear a bit about what they do at Upgrade Pack and get their perspectives on startup life. First up is Michaela Smith, our Vice President of Product.
WHAT DOES A VP OF PRODUCT DO?
I define what the product is; the vision and strategy. My team, UX & Product Design, specify the “how” of our Product, alongside the tech team. It’s my job to manage the big picture and ensure we stay on track throughout and don’t lose sight of the product vision.
WHY UPGRADE PACK?
The first thing that drew me to Upgrade Pack is simply that it’s a great idea. That Craig is so knowledgeable, well connected, and visionary, just added to that. I also really liked Craig and Urchana’s vision for what they wanted for a team culture, which is a factor that has become more important to me over time.
WHAT ARE THE NEW TRENDS OR INNOVATIONS IN YOUR AREA THAT YOU THINK WE SHOULD LOOK OUT FOR?
In terms of product in general, I believe voice technology is going to fundamentally shift the way we interact and do business. Even HMRC is experimenting with Voice ID!
WHAT FOR YOU MAKES WHAT UPGRADE PACK IS DOING DIFFERENT?
I was immediately impressed by how open everyone is to hearing other people’s ideas; it is a very collaborative environment and everyone wants to learn, share and grow. In terms of the product itself; I think we’ve identified a sweet spot between the partners, users, and clients - where we can create a win for everyone.
HOW DOES YOUR PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE INFORM YOUR CURRENT ROLE?
I have worked in Digital for 22 years! At the start, there was less structure and you had to do a bit of everything which has given me a broad understanding of many different disciplines, which is definitely an advantage. I have also managed a range of international digital products so have a thorough understanding of the challenges of languaging and remote team management. My last role was at a digital transformation agency where I learned a huge amount about a wide range technologies, experience I wouldn’t have gained had I remained client-side. However ultimately, I missed owning a product so coming to Upgrade Pack has allowed me to employ what I learned in agency, while once again being responsible for the complete product journey, which I’m really enjoying.
WHAT IS THE BENEFIT CUSTOMERS WILL GAIN FROM USING UPGRADE PACK’S PLATFORM?
A convenient means of attaining exclusive upgrades to some of the world’s greatest experiences, through an elegant and intuitive interface.
WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILLS OR QUALITIES TO HAVE IN THIS JOB?
The ability to balance the needs of customers with commercial requirements and technological capabilities. Diplomacy is always handy, as is the ability to communicate your vision clearly. A desire to collaborate balanced by the ability to make a decision.
WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILLS OR QUALITIES TO HAVE WHEN JOINING A START-UP?
You need to be flexible and independent, with the ability to move outside of your role, as needed. You also have to be resourceful, strategic and not mind getting your hands dirty!
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE PRODUCT DEPARTMENT?
We’re looking at bringing in a product manager and additional UI and UX designers to take us through to launch.
WHAT IS YOUR NUMBER ONE TRAVEL DESTINATION RIGHT NOW?
I have always wanted to go to Bunaken, a small Indonesian island that is a diving haven. The whole island is a nature reserve, so it would be a really unique experience.
CHOOSE: CITY BREAK, BEACH HOLIDAY OR ACTIVITY/ADVENTURE-BASED?
Can I say beach/adventure holiday? Especially with kids, the beach is ideal. But it definitely has to be warm!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE THAT YOU’VE VISITED?
I went to Namibia for my honeymoon, which was pretty incredible. It’s a very interesting country and it’s so different at different times of year. I would love to go back after the floods to experience another side of the country.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TRAVEL HABITS OR QUIRKS?
I have a weird thing where when I am in a hotel I have to unpack immediately and fully, it helps me feel settled.
WHAT ITEMS CAN YOU NOT TRAVEL WITHOUT?
Ear plugs and an eye mask.
WHO IS YOUR IDEAL OR NIGHTMARE TRAVEL COMPANION?
I have to say my family – for both. Ha! Seriously though, I am very open to new experiences and don’t get very stressed about things being out of my control, so I find it difficult to travel with people who can’t handle this and who get frustrated when things are not just like home.
FINALLY – HAVE YOU EVER BLUFFED TO GET AN UPGRADE?
Well, it wasn’t exactly a bluff, but once when I was flying back to Washington DC on points in economy, I got automatically upgraded to business, and I was very happy and thanked the woman at desk for 'making my day!', by the time I got through security, I was in first! Pays to be kind, I guess.