The Tricia Maia Hypothesis: Always Explain the Why Behind Actions If You Want Your Team to Thrive

Tricia Maia is a product leader with 9 years experience in designing, launching, and scaling digital products across industries, from startups to Fortune 15 companies. She has spoken and written on topics ranging from human-centered design in the enterprise to digital inclusion, and specializes in mobile platforms, design thinking, and product growth.

In this episode of the Product Science Podcast, we talk about lessons Tricia’s learned working for both small startups and large organizations, and why great management starts with listening.

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Resources

Questions We Explore in This Episode

The Tricia Maia Hypothesis: Always Explain the Why Behind Actions If You Want Your Team to ThriveHow did Tricia go from a degree in economics into a career in product? How did responding to a vague Craigslist ad have a profound impact on her career? What was her experience like working in product management for a large company like Verizon? What does she do in her current role at AlphaSights? What was it like building a product team from the ground up at a small startup?

How does Tricia deal with engineers who push back on adding process? Why does she feel that you don’t necessarily need to know how to code to be an effective product manager? Where are the first processes Tricia puts in place when working with a new team? Why is communication the biggest make or break factor for any good team?

Why did working at Verizon teach Tricia that there’s more to building your career than simply doing good work? What did she learn about how to manage other product managers? What are the pros and cons of working in a huge company versus working in a smaller one? What products did Tricia launch during her time at Verizon? How do you cut through the hierarchy and talk directly to users?

Why did Tricia make the decision to leave Verizon and go back into the world of startups? What did she learn about building a product for a service organization at AlphaSights? How does she handle pushback about investing in design, and why is it so important? How do you let the value of bringing in designers speak for itself? How do you prioritize innovation and user experience when there are so many things that need to be done to keep the lights on?

What things did Tricia do to help her become a product leader? Why does she place so much emphasis on listening first before acting? What advice does she have for early career product managers? How do you give yourself permission to ask more from your team? What work does Tricia do with the mental health advocacy nonprofit I’ll Go First?

Quotes From This Episode

I always paint the why behind what we’re trying to do, it helps people relate and gives you a chance to do what you’re trying to do. – Tricia Maia

I think communication is the most important quality of any product manager and product team. It’s where things can go right and it’s where things can go really wrong. – Tricia Maia

I had always thought you do good work, it gets seen and that’s that, but unfortunately, that’s not enough…it’s also how you package, market, and sell it for the value it’s creating for your users. – Tricia Maia

Transcription

Holly Hester-Reilly: Hi, and welcome to the Product Science Podcast, where we’re helping startups founders and products leaders build high growth products, teams, and companies through real conversations with people who’ve tried it, and aren’t afraid to share lessons learned from their failures along the way. I’m your host Holly Hester-Reilly Founder and CEO of H2R Product Science. This week on the Product Science Podcast I’m excited to share a conversation with Trisha Maya. Trisha is a product leader with nine years of experience in designing, launching, and scaling digital products across industries from startups to Fortune 15 companies. She has spoken and written on topics ranging from human centered design and the enterprise to digital inclusion and specializes in mobile platforms, design thinking and product growth. So Tricia, welcome.
Tricia Maia: Thank you so much.
Holly Hester-Reilly: So I always like to start by just sharing a little bit about people’s backgrounds and the way that they got here. So tell me a little bit about how you got into product management.
Tricia Maia: Sure. So I guess I’ll start from the beginning. I graduated in economics political science degree many years ago. And I was very interested initially in economic development, I worked for the New York City Economic Development Corporation for a bit and then I actually moved to Brazil to work in a micro finance institution there. So I was really, really invested in that space. I had to come back to the U.S. eventually and honestly it was just very unsure of what to do. Wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in a nonprofit or governmental space but to be honest, I just answered an ad on Craigslist for a really vaguely described job. But it happened to be a software development shop pretty small owned by a couple. And they were looking for someone to manage projects and it was a general project/product management business analysis role. And so that’s what I started with.
Tricia Maia: We had projects from mobile apps to eCommerce sites and everything in between, and it was again a really properly agile scrum led shop. So I learned all of those chops upfront which was great experience. I loved working on a variety of projects and really bringing things into life, so that was pretty cool. And that’s how I learned more about product management as a discipline and did my own research. I ended up going back to school to do my master’s for a couple years but when I finished I knew I definitely wanted to go back into product management. So I joined a startup called LeSS at the time and I was one of their first PMs. And it was a really exciting growth stage phase of the company, everything was really scrappy. There was a lot of smart interesting people.
Tricia Maia: And then over the years I decided that I really wanted to see what product management at a large company was. So I joined Verizon and worked on a lot of their mobile products and managing product teams there for about three years. And so that was a really exciting time and most recently I joined AlphaSights, which is an information services company not really a startup, not a large company somewhere in between. And so it’s been really exciting working on quote unquote knowledge products and working in more of the B2B services space as of late. So that’s high level about my journey and how I basically stumbled into product management and I am where I am now.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah, that’s awesome. I love how you answered the Craigslist ad.
Tricia Maia: I actually think it reveals my age because people are like, people used to take a job on Craigslist? I’m like, apparently I did. So that’s what happened.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. That’s awesome. So when you worked a long time ago at the New York City Economic Development Corporation you said, that’s fascinating to me, I worked at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation and we partnered with your organization, it was at a long time ago [crosstalk 00:04:10]-
Tricia Maia: Yeah. We were giving I guess the mission of the org is to give loans to small businesses, also large businesses to invest in New York and building businesses and creating jobs in New York. So the mission was very cool. It’s obviously difficult working for…. As you know, a governmental organization, things are moved very slowly, not tons of room for growth. So it was good while it lasted.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. Yeah, totally. That’s that’s about how I felt too. When you got started at that first small development shop, how many people worked there?
Tricia Maia: Well, let’s see. I remember it was a very small office so it was just me and the two co-founders. We had an office in Columbia and Ecuador so a bunch of developers offshore. I think we might’ve had one senior developer in the office so it was a pretty small company that we… It was also a great opportunity to learn how to work with distributed teams and manage projects that way. I know they’re probably bigger now and it was a great place to start my career and learn from but yeah, I remember being in a tiny little New York City office on 32nd street, so yeah.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome. Tell me more about the startup that came after that. So first of all, can you say what it was called again?
Tricia Maia: Yeah. So it was called Appboy and now they’ve rebranded to Braze. It’s a marketing automation companies so basically we worked with a lot of mobile app developers, marketers, product managers, we integrated our software into their apps to be able to communicate with their users better. So think like push messaging software, email software, in-app notifications, anything around how brands and apps communicated with their users. So really precise segmentation multivariate testing to make sure which messages are converting the highest, which ones are the most personalized. So there’s a lot of data oriented, marketing driven, I guess, product space there’s tons of competitors and really interesting problems happening there. But yeah, it was just one of those things that I found that was interesting.
Tricia Maia: I also really liked the fact that at that time they didn’t really have a product team. It was a bunch of really smart engineers building the product. And so it was cool to start to help out with just baseline processes for creating roadmaps. And this is how we work with sales teams. And this is how we start to talk about what we’re doing. I think when I started we didn’t have a product marketing function or a lot of major pieces of the company that exists today. So it’s cool when you work at a small growing company, you feel like you’re a part of a mission, part of a team and wearing a lot of hats. So yeah, so I would say I probably delved a lot more into the process development and setting up the team for the future rather than even just pure product work. So it was about wearing different hats and helping out wherever I could.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. So when you were doing that, I’m sure many of our listeners have experienced the engineer’s that pushed back on adding process. So is that something that you experienced and how did you get through that?
Tricia Maia: That’s a great question. I think I am always really self conscious of that because I am not a technical person, I don’t have a computer science or computer engineering degree. I’ve never worked as a developer and so I think that’s a natural question a lot of PMs ask, or I hear a lot at least is like, how much technical skills do I have to have? Should I go back to school and learn coding? And I don’t think that you do, some products are definitely more technical and that background is helpful. But I think it was also earlier on in my career so I was probably particularly self conscious about those things.
Tricia Maia: So I think it’s great when you work with a strong engineering team that is very product centric and product-led but on the flip side, when you’re trying to introduce new processes or new ways of doing things you get that pushback not just as a non-engineer, not just as an outsider but like this thing is working really well for this phase of the company but to get the company, but to get to where it probably wants to be to help it scale, there’s a necessary evil of making things more organized or more predictable. And working with new teams that exist the year before you have to introduce new communication mechanisms, how are we going to communicate this release to our internal folks, to our customers, someone needs to document these and create these repeatable sustainable processes. And it’s usually the product person that is the bad guy in that respect.
Tricia Maia: So I think just by trying to relate with folks and tell them what we’re trying to do, why we have to introduce this, try to paint things as the minimum viable process if that’s a way that resonates but just to show that we’re not doing things for your ocracy sake, or just trying to instill red tape but to get to this next level. These are the norms of how we’re going to have to operate moving forward but also being open to feedback. And if something’s not working or if a new process, whether it’s like, okay, we have to document all the requests we’re getting across the organization and rank them in a sauna or whatever our project management tooling is that is just something we have to do.
Tricia Maia: I know we tried to get really diligent about our internal wiki and saying everything that we do needs to be documented here, that’s so onboarding and new hires can be more seamless and that we can start to move forward. So I think always painting the why behind what we’re trying to do, but also being open to feedback if something’s just not working helps people to relate and just at least give you a chance to try to do what you’re trying to do.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. It definitely helps to paint a why for anything that you want people to help you with, right? What are some of the first processes that you’d like to add? I imagine not just at that company but at other since then you’ve been a part of a growing team and you had to add things. So where do you start and how do you decide what to do first?
Tricia Maia: I think communication it’s probably the most important quality of any product manager or product team. It’s where things can go right, it’s where things can go really wrong and so I try to look at least when I joined a company or a team, what are the existing communication channels between again, internal users and if you’re having direct communication with your clients or you’re your end users, what do they look like? Are they written? How frequent are they? Do you have quarterly newsletters to your clients? Are you having a monthly in-person roadmap review with your key business stakeholders? What is existing today and then seeing where there are gaps.
Tricia Maia: I think what I try to do too, is meet as many people as I can in the beginning of a working relationship. And I really just ask, what are the core pain points you see, what is not working? And probably almost unanimously I think you always hear, well, I’m not really exactly sure what the product or tech teams are working on, or why does it take so long or how do you get something on the roadmap, those come up every single time across companies, across industries. And so if those questions don’t happen in communications perfect obviously we move on. But I generally find that how the product and engineering teams make clear in their thought process, how do things get on the roadmap? What are we doing? When is it going to be ready? How will we be training? Whether it’s in a weekly recap email, a monthly, all-hands meeting, or even a quarterly newsletter, just something to start to communicate this in a more structured fashion. Because I generally find communication to be the biggest make or break aspect of any good team.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. That’s great. So did the team grow significantly while you were there and what did that growth look like?
Tricia Maia: So when I was at Braze not so much, I think when I was leaving we had established a proper product function but now I think the company is super successful. I think there probably several hundred people all over the world doing really well. So I’m sure they have a much more established product process organization than when I was there. So yeah, I’m really excited for what they’ve done so far.
Holly Hester-Reilly: That’s awesome. And so then after that, you said you went to Verizon?
Tricia Maia: Yeah.
Holly Hester-Reilly: So what was it like being a product manager of Verizon? So you wanted to find out what it was like to be at a big company, so how did that go?
Tricia Maia: I did find out and it was eye opening. Honestly I love Verizon, I had a great time there. I had really strong managers who helped me grow professionally learning the ins and outs. Less so I would say probably from the pure product management side and more so how do you get your ideas across in a compelling way when you have to compete with 1,000 other teams for budget or for attention, how do you package what you’re doing? And so those were new lessons I had learned because I had always thought you do good work, it gets seen and that’s that, but unfortunately that’s not enough. And I not to say that I am a self promoter by any means I’d probably could be doing a lot better there still, but I think those lessons of… Yeah, how you package, how you market, what you’re doing, what your teams are doing, the value of your product and really selling it for the value it’s creating for your users using user centric terminology, keeping things simple and keeping things understandable. I think those are some of the lessons that I had learned there.
Tricia Maia: And that’s also where I started to manage other product managers which was a first for me. I was just thrown into it not necessarily something I was looking for but it has turned out to be one of the most rewarding, but also challenging aspects of my jobs and things that I’ve been doing. But yeah, I saw really firsthand going from a really scrappy startup to 160,000 person company with all different departments spread across the entire world. In some ways it’s frustrating things move very slowly but then on the other hand you launch a tiny feature and it affects millions of people like that. That scale is pretty cool and awesome to consider. So there are obviously pros and cons to any of those situations.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. Are you able to speak to some of the things that you launched while you were there?
Tricia Maia: Yeah. Sure. So one of the main things that I was in charge of was, one of our consumer facing apps for our files customers. So that’s your internet provider, some people who have home phone service and probably most importantly the TV and everything around that. So we had a pretty old mobile application and so one of our first challenges was to recreate that app, really think about it from a human center design perspective. We got a new design team, we had new product folks including myself on the project and our main mission as a company which is not really surprising is to get more customers to engage with us digitally. Whether that’s on the website, the mobile app, mostly for a cost cutting perspective like, how can we transfer volume away from our call centers, but also from an experience perspective. Having a really great digital experience, giving people the tools they need to do what they need to do, not have to worry about being on the phone for minutes or hours, just trying to solve a simple issue.
Tricia Maia: And so we had we basically took a step back, did a lot of user research understanding, telecoms, Verizon, we would never say we had the best reputation with our customers. There’s a lot of angst I think with internet service providers and why do these things not work? Why is it so expensive? Why does it take me forever to get through to someone on the phone? And so really taking a step back to think through, what are the main perceptions of our brand, not making those assumptions but talking to customers ourselves. And so that was a really valuable process. We started doing designs for ins to try to iterate rapidly on potential solutions. And so we were most importantly introducing new ways of approaching product development at a very old company. And it was really great to have the space and support from our leadership to do that.
Tricia Maia: And of course, it’s not like the entire company just like next day was super agile and just working the way we were working. But even to make that impact on a small scale with a small number of teams was pretty encouraging. And so anyway, we redeveloped the app new look and feel, new functionality, we really invested in a lot of the internet tooling, because as we know a lot of people are cutting the cord not really purchasing their cable TV packages anymore but internet was becoming more and more important and so speed, reliability, those things. So we invest a lot in new tooling for our customers to check your wifi speed, get faster speed, solve issues as quickly as possible. And so those new technologies were really interesting. I knew nothing about router technology or anything from a hardware perspective.
Tricia Maia: So you quickly realized there’s also these groups in the organization that are just experts in that thing. And it’s fascinating like, A you didn’t even know they existed but B they just know so much about things that I was totally blind or naive too. So it was not that I’m using it now in my day-to-day hardware router technology but it’s just interesting to learn a new topic, really talk to people who are experts in that and figure out ways to bring them into your new digital experiences and things we were doing from more of your pure app B to C perspective. So anyway, yeah that was one of the main things that we worked on and continuing to evolve the app. Grow our active users, transition people the call centers to digital and so that was a pretty exciting time.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. That sounds really fun. There’s a couple things in there that I’m curious to hear more about. One thing that we often hear those of us that spend a lot of time working in product discovery is, people in larger companies saying, well, I’m not allowed to talk to these users. There’s all these people between me and them. Tell me more about how you did that when you were at Verizon, what did that look like?
Tricia Maia: Yeah. So we did have… Not surprising, many specialist teams that were focused on thing. So we had… I forgot what they were called, but voice of the customer function like, major organizations, hundreds of people that were constantly looking at any data that we were getting back from customers. We had pop-ups on the website that would ask people for feedback and lots of people gave feedback. And so parsing through that, measuring sentiment and we also had social media teams that were doing the same thing. They were obviously getting a lot of feedback and commentary from users through those means. And so there were teams that were responsible for aggregating that. So that was helpful as a starting point to see what data we had available, what will people say, but the most important thing was getting to user.
Tricia Maia: So in one in some ways I talked to people I knew who had used the service and so I didn’t really get permission. I just got to talk to either acquaintances or just people I knew that had the service and really used it to see what they had said. We also had a really great… I don’t know, organization or part of the company where we would do testing labs. Headquarters in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, they have a room basically or a number of rooms that resemble a house. So a user can come in and they can watch TV, and they could go to the kitchen and it was to simulate a real life experience. And so we could use those labs and those things to really simulate. Imagine you’re here and your Internet’s down, what would you do?
Tricia Maia: So again, maybe over the top for special ed you’d never find that probably at a startup or some company that lacked resources but whatever Verizon. So they had these testing labs that we could use and so we did have teams that were responsible for hooking us up with clients and getting whatever permissions they needed to do. So I would say Verizon was probably pretty good about connecting us to our users or to our customers when we needed to so I’m pretty fortunate.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. That’s always good to hear. Did you have a sense of what percent of the people or what portion of the people who use Verizon internet actually use the app?
Tricia Maia: Yeah. I probably knew this a lot better a couple of years ago but I think when we started, honestly it was probably less than 10% of customers really use the app. And that was because there was not really a focus on it. Honestly became a dumping ground for a lot of things. I think the whole strategy was very much like, people are calling in about topic X. Add feature to the app that addresses it, but there was no focus on product marketing or how do we tell customers that now we have this feature or how do we develop this in a way that’s meeting those problems? And that’s something that we tried to do as the new more like product driven team with design driven team whatever you want to call it, more user-focused team I guess was trying to address those more holistically.
Tricia Maia: I think we probably got up to about 20% or 25. It doesn’t sound a lot but I think from where we had come from and knowing the amount of customers that Verizon has, we were pretty excited about how many people were at least experiencing it occasionally. Even if it was just to pay their bill or check their bill or something like that, the awareness piece was key for us. And so that’s hopefully something they continue doing after I left. But yeah, it was a combo of things working with call center operations, working with the marketing team, working with the technology teams and which is the essence of product management but it was cool to do it with that organization that large.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. That’s a really interesting story. So why did you decide to leave Verizon and did you go straight to AlphaSights from there or?
Tricia Maia: Yeah. I did. Yeah, I did. Yeah. I was at Verizon for three years which for me felt like a nice time to reflect and think about what I had done and where I wanted to be. In some ways Verizon has always been a large company and things move more slowly, and it was my first quote unquote big company experience. And I think at my core I’m more of a nimble startup scrappy person for better and for worse. And so I think at that point I felt like I learned all those maybe big organizational lessons. Some of the things I mentioned earlier in terms of how to communicate your message, how to work with other people and I was just really itching to go to a smaller company.
Tricia Maia: But I also saw that I didn’t necessarily want to go to a startup as small as some of the companies I had worked for previously similar to I guess my decision to go to Verizon. I was like, I never worked at a midsize company so let’s give it a go. And so AlphaSights was very much within that camp but it was also interesting because the AlphaSights is a services company. First and foremost, we have a service, we connect our clients with the knowledge they need to make better business decisions. So a matchmaker between our clients and these advisors are experts in this field. So it was also an interesting challenge again, because I just had never done it before of how do you take a traditionally service based company and put a product or tech lens on it? What does that mean? What do you focus on? What does success look like? How do you even tackle these issues when you’re not building the thing that you’re selling? A core tech company and so I think that was just an interesting challenge for me.
Tricia Maia: The team was strong but relatively small. So being able to be part of a smaller team and help grow it and help define how we work together, that was a unique opportunity and that was what interested me initially.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Cool. What are some of the things you learned about that experience of building a product for a company that’s mostly a service organization?
Tricia Maia: Cool. So, yeah. The main goal for us is really building internal tools for our [inaudible] team to serve our clients. So that is a basic custom workflow we have built internally to manage projects, manage payments end to end. And that was doing that better, faster, everything around that was the core purpose there. And so I think that focus on internal tooling was very different. I had never really worked on internal tools. And how you think about them as slightly different. Because at the end of the day those people have to use your software it’s not like they have a choice. And so it’s different not that you want to create a terrible experience just because people have to use it, but you’re really thinking about how to make things more efficient or in ways… Yeah, sometimes they did have a choice.
Tricia Maia: They would keep notes externally and a local document versus within the system. So figuring out what was happening that was not intended and figuring out ways to incorporate that behavior, bringing it into the core workflow process. I think the types of problems that we were trying to solve were just different from things I had worked on in the past. But also I think there’s more of a perception or I guess a transformational process that’s happening in the sense of like, in the past I think at many service companies and also at AlphaSights tech was always there. We’ve always had a website, we always had a system, but more of the mental transition to thinking about, okay, how do we use technology as a poor enabler or what new products and services can we offer above and beyond what we’re doing today? Because we have a strong technology team or we’re investing in data science, it is not easy. It’s not clear exactly what that roadmap looks like or what we have to do, but even just getting people across the org to understand, yes, we have a tech team, this is what we do, this is what product managers do, it’s not just making this internal system better we’re trying to also understand what our clients need the same way that you guys are and figuring out ways that we can uniquely help them potentially with our technology and our product strategy.
Tricia Maia: And so that’s the transition we’re going through now which is a really challenging thought exercise because again, it’s not clear. There’s not a clear cut roadmap for what we have to do, but it also makes it very interesting.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. Have you gotten pushback in the company about things like, investing in design or caring about what the user of the tool thinks?
Tricia Maia: Yeah. Yes. I’ve definitely talked about this with my teams before. We didn’t have any designers when I joined last January and so that was one of my first priorities was getting a design presence because I’ve always worked really closely with designers at any of my previous jobs. And it’s always just a critical function I think to product management and to technology in general. So for me that was really clear. Even if we only invested in internal systems it’s still very clear, someone who is thinking about the end to end experience and how things fit together, and how things are perceived, that level of nuance and detail is so important. So A that is important regardless, but B as we want to again, get into a world where we are thinking and creating new experiences or things we haven’t done before definitely we’ll need strong product designers.
Tricia Maia: And so I did get some pushback initially from to different people who just were, we didn’t have designers so why do we need them? We can do this ourselves but it was so great. Because as soon as we just started getting design talent in it unlocked the doors and everyone was like, okay, we need more now or this team doesn’t have designers. And it was a great… Not experiment, it was a great way to show the value of design as soon as we again, unlock that door. And now they have way too much work to do. We probably do [inaudible] more to design.
Holly Hester-Reilly: What are some of the other pushbacks you’ve gotten while working at AlphaSights?
Tricia Maia: Yeah. I think there’s just a lot of… And this is natural I think anywhere, it’s like the time you spend on optimizing your current product and what you’re doing versus creating the mental space to think about what’s next or what are we not even thinking about now that we should be investing in. And it’s difficult because we can have work for twice as many people for the next 20 years. We know X, Y, and Z reasons why the system is broken or why it needs to be better or how we can get more efficient at this. And the problem is unless we… Or at least some people take themselves out of that and say like, okay, we acknowledge there’s tons of work to do but if we just heads down focused on this we’re never going to be able to create again, those new experiences, really have time to listen to our customers or our clients and do that.
Tricia Maia: So it is a constant struggle because you want to keep the lights on you. Don’t things can’t break. We have to have a working ecosystem, but we don’t want to spend 100% of our time focused there. So honestly it’s not like we have a rule where it’s like, okay, 20% of the time we’re going to focus on quote unquote innovation products. I think it’s just everyone product engineering design has to be thinking in this duality really of approaching how we focus our time and energy.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. Absolutely. So it sounds like you had a pretty natural progression from the beginning of entering into product to managing other product managers. Are there things that you did along the way that you think really helped you level up to be able to really become a product leader?
Tricia Maia: Yeah. I think I just naturally really enjoy reading and meeting other product managers, going to conferences, when we can go to them. And so I’ve always really appreciated different ways of approaching product management. I really strongly believe that there’s not one right way to do it, there are probably wrong ways to do it that we want to avoid, but really looking at how someone approaches product differently in an eCommerce setting versus a financial institution or someone who is more junior in their career versus more senior and seeing the ways and the frameworks that they use. So more from I guess a social perspective, I just like learning from people and different ways of doing that. And so I think I just have a lot of tools in my toolkit to be able to say, oh, I heard about someone had this problem before this is how they tackled it.
Tricia Maia: But on the flip side I don’t really have a strong prescriptive way, you must do product management this way, and this is like X, Y, and Z, what you have to follow. So I guess it comes with its pros and cons but I think just naturally I’m a good listener. I think I’m a good communicator which I mentioned before, I think it’s one of the top skills of any good product manager. And so I think I carry that over to people I’m working with or who are on my team. I always try to listen first, really understand where they’re coming from before just shouting at them and I think generally that’s probably a good way to approach interpersonal communications.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I agree. Definitely. Are there any other lessons whether about becoming a product leader or just product management in general that you would give pieces of advice to somebody who’s younger in their career?
Tricia Maia: Yeah. I can speak to maybe some of my earlier experiences especially when I just started becoming a manager again, like I mentioned I was thrown into it. Verizon did give trainings on how to become a manager, I think I got them like six months into the job. It was a little late at that point. I think I needed to be a little bit stricter especially with some members on my team. They’re always like, if you see signs and you have a gut feeling that maybe someone is either coasting or they’re not giving it 110%, not tolerating that for too long is probably important. And so I probably could have been much stronger in those ways and listening to my gut instinct. Because I think when you do these manager trainings especially at a big company it’s very formal.
Tricia Maia: You need to give someone X number of weeks morning, and then you have to write up a performance improvement plan, they have to go on the plan. And so you’re naturally like, oh, it’s just such a big deal to put these measures into place and potentially get rid of someone who shouldn’t be on the team anymore that you almost just ignore it. And that’s something that I did admittedly and that I definitely learned from, and hopefully I’m getting better at that but not tolerating mediocrity I think was something that learned the hard way because at the end of the day it reflects poorly on you and your team’s results. And when you are presenting your output to leadership or other important stakeholders it makes you look weak if you tolerate that behavior. And so that’s something that I definitely learned.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. That’s definitely a hard thing for a lot of us, I think. I don’t if you’re familiar with the framework for radical candor but that upper left quadrant of ruinous empathy is my danger zone too, that I have to stop myself from being like, oh, but they had a rough week or their wife is sick or whatever.
Tricia Maia: 100%. Yeah. So it’s definitely easier said than done. It’s like, just don’t do that. But yeah, it’s very real, people, emotions and situations come into play and you’re a human at the end of the day. And so you have a heart but not that you have to be heartless as a good manager but yeah, radical candor for sure is the way to go if you’re able to master it.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So I know for me it always was helpful to think about the other people on the team. Because I think we’ve probably all also been on a team where there was someone who was not pulling their weight and it’s demotivating for the rest of us, right? That’s my-
Tricia Maia: They also say, at the end of the day it’s probably better for the person as well to leave when they need to. And so they can either have a wake up call, look at themselves more self critically or just move on to an opportunity that suits themselves and their skills better. And so that’s also another way to look at.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I feel like this is a good segue. I know you had mentioned that you’re involved in some nonprofits, right? So can you tell us a little bit about that?
Tricia Maia: Yeah. Sure. So a few years ago I participated in a program called Delta NYC which was sponsored by Civic Hall Labs, which is I think like a semi governmental nonprofit organization in New York City. And the program was really awesome. They paired product people, designers, engineers with local nonprofits that requested some help whether it was building a new website. In our case, I was paired with an organization called I’ll Go First and we really wanted to build a mobile prototype.
Tricia Maia: And at the time again, I was working at Verizon and so I was really heavily involved in mobile and I was the product lead on that project. We were paired with some really awesome designers, really great engineers and yeah, we built a prototype. And basically I’ll Go First is an organization that really focuses on mental health and using mental health tech to help people deal with trauma and deal with issues that they’re going with in a way that focuses on storytelling narratives, really trying to get people to express their feelings and what they’ve gone through in ways that honors where they’ve come from, honors their struggle, but really puts into words what they’re going through so they don’t bottle it in, they don’t hold it in, but they can express it and then get help for the things that they need.
Tricia Maia: And so it’s run by a woman, Jessica Minhas who is awesome and is an entrepreneur activist and has been involved in many really important projects. And so she has a podcast you should definitely check it out. She talks to people in an array of industries, other activists who have struggled with their own stories and how they tell them. And so anyway, I was paired with this organization and we helped them a little bit from the mobile side. And since then I’ve worked really closely with Jess and trying to further the organization and the great work that they do. And so it’s been really rewarding. I’m again really interested in obviously mobile and technology but also mental health tech and all of the opportunity that it could provide if leveraged the right way. I think there is a underserved need there, so I’m excited to be part of that organization.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah, that’s awesome. Do you know what her podcast is called?
Tricia Maia: Yeah, I think it’s called I’ll Go First but let me check.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Okay. That makes sense.
Tricia Maia: Yeah. It’s called I’ll Go First with Jessica Minhas. So check it out, we just launched a new version of the website. So you can get on the podcasts on, illgofirst.com.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Okay. Awesome. That sounds like a really great initiative. So awesome. And how can people find you if they want to learn more or follow you online?
Tricia Maia: Yeah. I’m pretty boring I should have a Twitter, I don’t. But you can connect with me on LinkedIn, under Trisha Maya. I’m happy to meet new people. Again, I’m really interested in learning how different products operate, how they’re built, how people approach some of the same challenges that we all have in product management in their own unique ways. So I’m always happy to meet fellow product folk.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much, Tricia. It’s been really fun talking to you today.
Tricia Maia: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a great time.
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