Product Managers at Two of Boston’s Top Companies.
It’s been so rewarding to hear from Internship Connection alumni. Discover how a high school marketing internship and a high school graphic design internship jump-started Mike and Will’s careers. We will be forever grateful to the wonderful mentors who have taken the time to advise the students in our school-to-career program.
Mike (pictured on the right) is currently the Senior Product Manager of Digital at Vistaprint. In high school, because he was interested in marketing, we established an internship for him with David Richard, Emerson College professor and CEO of Big Fish Communications.
Will (on the left) is the Product Manager of the CMS Developer Platform at HubSpot. When Will was in high school, he enjoyed graphic design and business, so we connected him to Rick Sands, the CEO of the Fenway Group.
Mike and Will, What would you say were your biggest takeaways from that initial high school internship?
- Will: Learning what it took and meant to work as part of a larger team was incredibly valuable. Being part of something larger than yourself, and contributing to a shared mission helped me learn how business works, and how solving for the customer is the result of many moving parts and people.
- Mike: I learned that there were no rubrics or study guides to help me succeed in the business world. There was no teacher to say, “this will be on the test”. If Big Fish’s customers could have found the solutions to their problems in textbooks, they wouldn’t have become customers.
Tell us where you went to college.
- Will: I went to the University of Vermont, and studied Business and Environmental Studies… and Skiing 😉
- Mike: I graduated from UMass Amherst. My major was Marketing, but my favorite learning experiences came from my Psych minor and the less conventional classes I took (e.g. Astronomy, Chinese Mythology). I also loved my job as a co-manager at Campus Design & Copy, one of the school’s student run co-ops. It unexpectedly ended up being the biggest factor in landing my job at Vistaprint!
Did you have additional internships after high school?
- Will: I interned for a Marketing Agency in college, New Breed Marketing, where I was first exposed to HubSpot (my current employer). This internship is what landed me a job at HubSpot, and exposed me to the industry I have now been working in for 5 years.
- Mike: I had internships with Kraft Sports Group (Patriots / Revolution / Gillette Stadium), Vibram, and Covidien. They were three very different experiences and taught me a lot about what I liked and didn’t like. Even though it wasn’t glamorous, the story of what I learned from taking a turn as Slyde the Fox (the mascot for the Revolution) made for great conversations during future interviews!
Tell us briefly about your career paths.
- Will: I started at HubSpot in their entry level role, customer support. I quickly saw a knowledge gap in that web developers needed help building websites and app, but support did not have that skill set. I taught myself to write code and proposed to the director of the support department that I focus on support for developers. I created many resources for developers to scale supporting web development. Through my work in support, I build connections with leaders in the Product org who work on the developer platform, which led to a natural transition into being a product manager working on developer tools.
- Mike: It’s eerily similar to Will’s! I started off as the fourth member of a new team at Vistaprint focused on customer service strategy. This meant that I got to work on challenging and interesting greenfield problems, including launching design services products. I loved working with a cross-functional team of engineers, designers, analysts, and operations that could take an idea all the way to a tangible experience on the website, which was a job that I didn’t know existed beforehand. I then got the opportunity to expand on this product management scope by switching over to the arm of the company that owns the digital marketing subscription products.
Any mentors or professional role models? …and what they’ve meant to you.
- Will: A boss of mine at HubSpot, and VP of Product, helped me a great deal in getting to where I am today in my career. She saw my desire to solve for the customer, and helped me find a pathway to product management. Her mentorship has meant the world to me, and I still learn something new every time I speak to her.
- Mike: My first boss at Vistaprint was amazing. She instilled in me the importance of customer empathy, which will be invaluable for the rest of my career regardless of where I end up. She also helped me understand that a product is much more than something that is sold – it’s something that is experienced. To build a successfully product, you need to consider a customer’s end-to-end journey with it. My biggest professional role model is our mom though. She’ll be embarrassed to learn that we’re talking about her here (sorry, Mom!), but her career became being a single parent, which is harder than any job Will or I will ever have.
Now that you’ve had a great deal of career experience, what would you tell your 16-year-old self?
- Will: Focusing on trying different disciplines and not worry about how much money you are making. Loving every day of your work is far more important than money, and money will come when you love your work.
- Mike: Stop stressing about your grades and getting into a “good” college. My GPA and SAT scores have meant less in life than I ever could have imagined. Just focus on learning and challenging yourself and good things will follow.
Any final advice for our students?
- Will: Even if you do not have the highest paying job off the bat, working for a company or mission you believe in might lead you to greater success in the longer term. Both your happiness and drive to succeed at work have a huge impact on your personal life and career.
- Mike: Don’t pick your classes – pick your teachers. Don’t pick your job – pick your boss.