It was a bit by accident, which I think is pretty typical of people working in this industry. I actually kicked off my career in product management for a financial services company. I spent most of my days working with clients and engineers to build detailed specs on new product designs. In that position, I bridged into some project management work to help keep our programs on track.
The company was purchased by a private equity firm and we needed a new brand identity. I volunteered to lead the charge in executing our new website design and launch. I’ll never forget the day that I walked into a meeting with the agency we had selected to build the new website with my stack of PowerPoint wireframes and said, “I already designed the website and I just you need you to build this.” They looked at me like I was insane, (and knowing what I know now I agree!) but through that project we ended up forming a really great relationship. Fast forward to a few years later, and I ended up going to work for them. Their agency was primarily focused on eCommerce and I helped to build up their project management team there as the business grew.
Getting initially engaged in the web development side of things with that agency really sparked my interest for the technology in general. Seeing what they were doing with their clients and how they were able to help those companies realize better revenue, better margins, and better brand visibility all through this online shopping experience — I just knew that eCommerce was something that I was going to be really passionate about moving forward.
I have a dual-pronged answer to this question, and it’s really due to the fact that I’m still acting as a business analyst with primary client responsibility on several accounts, but also managing a really awesome team.
First and foremost, I really love working with our clients. In an agency setting, you have a really unique opportunity to work within many verticals. We’re working in clothing, food, gifting, cosmetics, and many other areas. I think it’s a huge asset to our customers when we can refer back to the hundreds of projects that we’ve executed, and apply the best solutions that we’ve dreamed up previously to their own business.
Doing that while building strong and trusted relationships, and truly becoming a part of the client team is my personal driving force. When everything clicks and when the team is working together in complete sync it’s pretty amazing to see what can be accomplished — both on our side as a service provider and on the client side.
On the other side of the coin, I would be remiss if I didn’t shout out to the extremely talented group of the BAs that I’m lucky to lead. I was given the opportunity to build the group from the ground up, which I know is rare and totally awesome. I do truly feel like it’s the best team I’ve ever been a part of. Seeing them flourish and being able to learn from them as they grow and experience new things gives me all the feels.
I start off every interview that I do for either project management or business analyst roles by talking about how hard it is to work in this industry. It’s something that can’t be discounted, and if you have not worked in eCommerce before, it can be quite a surprise.
What makes it hard? In a nutshell, because the industry is constantly evolving there is always something new to learn. That evolution also leads to an extremely fast-paced release cycle for new features and functionality that must be introduced in order to keep up with consumer expectations. So, learn it all… fast. Then do the work to roll it out, assess, learn more and do it all again.
For the right person, that cycle is exhilarating. For others, it represents a level of consistent stress that isn’t desirable or sustainable. Given that, if you’re looking to get into the industry, I would encourage you to talk to people already working in it and get the true view of what the day-to-day looks like.
Then try to figure out which piece you’re actually interested in. There are so many different facets to our industry that it’s hard to just simply say, “I want to be in eCommerce.” Figure out, “Is it the marketing side?” “Am I interested in delivery?” “Do I want to be working on the client side where I’m able to dig in deep into one particular business?” Or “Do I want a broader type of exposure that I may get in an agency setting?”
One thing that I’m watching really closely is fulfillment. We already see nearly every retailer with brick-and-mortar introducing stuff like buy online, pick-up in store, or ship to store features on their websites.
As both shipping costs to the merchant and consumer expectations for free or really low cost shipping options continue to increase, I think that retailers without that brick-and-mortar presence are going to have to find a way to deliver to customers without increasing the overall cost of the transaction. Add to that an undisputed increase in porch package theft and I think that we’re going to start to see more and more retailers move to a carrier access point model for low cost shipping. So, instead of having a package delivered directly to my house, it’s being delivered to my local grocery store or convenience store.
This has the added benefit of having an environmentally stable approach to purchasing items online. If a truck doesn’t have to deliver to every single house in my neighborhood, and instead they’re delivering all of those 200 packages to the grocery store, that’s fewer trucks that are needed on the road and less associated emissions. Finding ways to reduce their carbon footprint is important to a lot of consumers, so I think that will play into consumer adoption of this fulfillment offering.
I’ve been really lucky to work with a lot of strong women in this industry throughout my career. One of them is Katie Dunlap (VP of Global Unified Commerce & Marketing GTM at Bluewolf, an IBM company). She was previously our VP of Customer Success at LYONSCG, and she was such a force when it came to being an advocate for the customer. Her passion in that area helped to shape my philosophy around relationships with our customers and also the way that I manage my team and my own expectations for how we work and why we do what we do as consultants.
I also have a good friend, Robbin Farrell, who I met by virtue of working on an account together at LYONSCG. She is a brilliant UX designer and strategist and she really taught me the value in collaboration. Being able to get together in a room and just sort through all of the ideas, whether they were good or bad, and being unashamed of bringing them to the table for the conversation was a revolutionary experience. I learned from her to never be afraid to ask why, to push the boundaries and to do whatever it takes to get to something that’s truly incredible at the end of the day.