Sidebench Talent Spotlight: Anna Lee
Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I was raised in Southern California in the suburbs of Orange County. It was a comfortable, small town where I played with my friends at the neighborhood parks after school and participated in the community orchestra and volunteering events. My childhood friends lived within walking distance where I would spend most of my free time, and most of our parents were Asian immigrants, working late hours while we played and did our homework. I loved growing up in this community and being close to my family and friends.
Outside of work, what are you irrationally passionate about?
Outside of work, I’m passionate about.. dogs! I previously volunteered for animal shelters and adopted my own Shih Tzu five years ago. My hobbies outside of work include cooking, baking, spending time in nature, and spending time with my loved ones.
It’s rather common that PMs have uncommon paths into the discipline. Walk us through the process that you went through to get into Product.
I started working in tech as a software engineering intern at a startup in San Francisco. I then took on a product management internship position for a startup in LA. From there, I knew I wanted to continue creating and launching products. I then worked in the Health Tech industry for 3 years with an awesome product team as an product engineering manager and then joined Sidebench!
We talk a lot about our jobs being the opportunity to imagine the future and then make it real. What vision do you have for the future and want to make real?
When I think of the future, I envision green revolution and sky gardens. Sustainability is a lifestyle norm and advanced AI/ML technologies are utilized to improve the health of people and the planet. I get super excited about AgTech AI startups like Beewise and SeeTree and believe the opportunities are vast with advancing technology. Not everything we do works and that’s okay. We learn from those things.
What is the least successful product or project you’ve contributed to and what did you learn?
For one of my earlier projects, I worked closely with executives at a high priority client organization to design, develop, and beta test a new clinical platform feature. When we launched the feature after months of development, we realized that users were unhappy with the overall functionality and it was lacking in various ways. The feature was difficult to use and caused frustration, rather than saving users time as intended. We then spent time going back and testing with the end users and redesigning features of the platform after the initial launch. From this experience, I learned that it is important to iteratively validate with the actual end users, bring them into the design process early, and ask the right questions to make sure I am getting correct validation with the right people.
How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?” (Borrowed from Tim Ferris’ “Tribe of Mentors”)
I was taught that it’s not about how many failures or mistakes you make, but how many times you make the same mistake. It’s all about failing fast and learning quickly! A few failures that I have experienced over the course of my career: Trying to do other people’s jobs (tech/design) — I learned that it is important to let the developers make the tech decisions. I had made a mistake previously on a project where we did not have a tech lead. From the UI, everything worked fine, but we failed to verify the code base integrity and delayed the project by going back and rewriting the code properly. Bad customer research — I have made a mistake where I asked incorrect questions to the users during an interview and had to redo validation since my ideas were not validated properly. It is important to move forward with development only after the feature is fully validated, not with the false idea that we have validation. Not pivoting fast enough — Falling in love with a feature idea can cause failure to a project. I worked on a project where we spent too much time and energy on a feature only to realize that we should pivot ideas later down the road. It is important to test, iterate, and fail quickly.
What’s been the most exciting part about joining Sidebench so far?
The people! Everyone is super supportive, intelligent, and genuinely likes each other. I’m impressed by the company’s culture of openness and transparency. The various projects we take on are also exciting and meaningful.
We love to find people that ADD to our culture vs fit into our existing culture. What are some cultural aspects that you’ve experienced that you hope to bring with you?
When working with data analysis in the past, I always started with a list of what questions or problems I was looking to answer. I am proactive in researching and finding data for the questions that I have, and I am great at talking to people to dig for answers as well! My background in data analysis and programming enables me to empathize and work closely with developers, and my strength in design allows me to visualize and diagram ideas clearly. My past mentor taught me that the success of projects depends on clear communication, and great communication is something that I always strive to improve.
Describe your super power or describe what unique skill/perspective you bring to the team here.
My superpower is super-empathy and being able to put myself into other people’s shoes.
What skill, practice, behavior, hobby or habits are you currently working on?
A workplace habit that I am currently working on is releasing the need for “perfect” and getting stumped on small details. I’m also working on improving my fitness and cooking healthy, balanced meals.
What book, publication, or podcast have you most recommended lately and why?
A podcast that I recommend is Robinhood Snacks — I listen to it every morning while making my coffee!