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Women in Product at Databricks

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Databricks was a proud sponsor of the 2021 Women In Product Conference, which this year, had a theme of igniting possibility. We interviewed a few of the women on our product team – designers, program managers and product managers – all of whom play an integral role in Databricks’ success. We had the opportunity to speak to them, and learn more about their career journeys and what inspires them outside of work. Read below to get to know some of our Product teammates!

Miranda Luna - Product Manager

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
I’d have to call it a tie between Join a company where, more often than not, you’re in a room where you’re actively learning from someone else.’ and ‘Get comfortable bringing structure to ambiguity. I can't emphasize enough how important it’s been for my career path to be surrounded by intelligent, driven and intentional colleagues and to learn from them every day. It’s been equally as critical to deeply understand customer problems and distill what’s required to solve them.  As your career progresses, the problems only get bigger and more amorphous, so a commitment to strengthening that muscle over time has an outsize impact on your effectiveness.

Who’s a person you look up to and why?
I’ll always look up to my mother, someone who embodies both hard work and a true love of learning. She obtained her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering while raising three kids and working full-time at NASA. While the previous statement is impressive, she also made a fairly significant career pivot from designing air-cleaning systems for the shuttle and space suits to studying the impact of different weather patterns on climate change. Truly a lifelong learner.

What’s your favorite book and why?
Every year, I come back to John Steinbeck’s East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath. Even after reading them many times, I can always find a new facet to appreciate.

Ginny Wood - Product Designer

How did you decide you wanted to become a product designer?
While I was a graphic designer, my friend helped me get a product design internship to explore different options. Once I discovered design systems, I knew this work could fascinate me for my whole career. I love principles, patterns, and systems. I love that I get to be craft-oriented about solving detailed problems while scaling them to serve a whole product ecosystem.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
“Art is not about thinking something up. It is the opposite – getting something down.”  – Julia Cameron
Creating anything is a process of discovery, not generation. You are responsible for the quantity of attempts, and the universe is responsible for the quality of what you find—the solution already exists, and you are merely discovering it.

Who’s a person you look up to and why?
My brother Robinson Wood. He inspires me to take creative risks, trust the process, and approach people with curiosity.

Anna Shestinian - Product Manager

Who’s a person you look up to and why?
My sister Leah for her resilience in the ongoing call for justice, belonging, comradeship, truth-telling, and joy.

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
There is power in a pause. Pausing and reflecting allow us to make better product decisions and deal with more complex issues. A false sense of urgency around a project creates a lot of activity without productive results.

What book(s) would you recommend to our readers?
I just finished the Broken Earth trilogy by N. K. Jemisin, which blends sci-fi and fantasy with ecological consciousness.

Stephanie Liu - Program Manager, Product

Any good books you’ve read recently that you’d like to recommend?
Invisible Women should be required reading in all school curriculum. It’s well researched, infuriating, and will change how you see the modern world around us -- how the world is not designed for women, despite us being half the population, and how that hurts women and society. You will finish the book and start chanting “sex disaggregated data NOW!”
The Hidden Life of Trees is well-cited and a fascinating look at how trees communicate and the importance of old-growth forests to the planet. Braiding Sweetgrass is a compelling blend of botany and motherhood and moving nature prose.

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
Poke your head up every few years and re-evaluate your career goals. Are you learning what you want to be learning? Is this the best job for you right now? Imagine yourself at 30, 35, 40, 45, 50… what job/role/title do you want to be searching for?

Who’s a person you look up to and why?
Marian Croak, a successful woman technical leader (over 200 patents) who also doesn’t necessarily fit the stereotypical mold of an executive. She’s very soft-spoken, and earlier in her career had to make her voice heard by recruiting others to her cause to amplify her positions. I was always impressed with her style when I briefly intersected with her at Google. It’s inspiring to see the different ways that women, especially women of color, can be successful in their careers without adopting more “male traits” to be heard and gain credibility.

Noa Braun- Program Manager, Product

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
There was an exec at my previous company who was known for saying that “the whole person comes to work - not just the employee”. This seems obvious, but I think we can all recognize how important it is to understand this when working on a team, or cross-team. Blockers and issues will arise no matter what you work on, but approaching them with a desire to collaborate and understand others will consistently lead to stronger outcomes.

Any good books you’ve read recently that you’d like to recommend?
Most recently I’ve finished Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. It’s an incredibly emotionally compelling exploration of the journey to seek purpose and identity in reacting to and processing loss. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker, but is definitely a beautifully told story - I would definitely highly recommend it (and her other book)!

Who’s a person you look up to and why?
My sister has always been my role model, for her thoughtfulness, intellect, determination and seemingly never-ending care for those around her.

Stefania Leone- Product Manager

How did you decide you wanted to become a product manager?
During my Ph.D. and postdoc, I worked on developer experience and loved it. I then started to work on a low code platform product on the customer success side and quickly realized that I can have a greater impact on the product side. That’s how I moved into my first product role (and never looked back)!

Any good books you’ve read recently that you’d like to recommend?
I just read Educated by Tara Westover over the weekend - I did not do much else but read

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
It’s not advice I have been given, but being a planner, I had great success setting a goal and making a  plan on how to achieve it. For example, I always wanted to work and live abroad and with this approach, we went to the US for a postdoc (even though we had a small baby, which was not initially planned  and recently relocated to Amsterdam with the whole family when I joined Databricks.

Learn more about databricks and open roles to join these fabulous women on the product management team! See our open roles here.