Sidebench Talent Spotlight: Erin Gooch
Where did you grow up and what was it like?
My childhood was mostly in New England, in Connecticut and Massachusetts with my parents and two sisters. It was very slow paced, small town life where you knew everyone from school, church, or your soccer team. We went to the beach in the summer, played in the snow in the winter and knew every family in the neighborhood. I played basketball, soccer, and softball, but mostly focused on dance classes.
I moved to Thousand Oaks, CA in middle school. I was on the swim team for a year but was at my dance studio almost every day of the week all through high school. My friends and I went to the beach as much as possible and I’m sure we did serious damage to our eardrums from how loudly we played music every time we got in the car.
Outside of work, what are you irrationally passionate about?
I have two daughters — one human and one puppy! My human daughter Charlie is 8 months old and the happiest baby around, I love to take her everywhere I go and watch her experience life for the first time. My puppy daughter is named Honey, she’s a sweet mutt that looks like a Dingo, and she’s always down for a good time. Her and Charlie are obsessed with each other, just like I am with each of them! I love to be outside, most specifically at the beach or on my electric beach cruiser, extra points if those two are combined. I recently got a bike seat for Charlie and it’s been the highlight of my year getting to ride my bike and bring her along. If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life it would be bagels and if I could only watch one category of TV it would be Bravo, so any combination of Charlie, Honey, beach, bike, bagels, and Bravo (and my husband Graham too!) are my irrational passions.
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.
RIght out of college, I started teaching and was a high school math and science teacher in Catholic Schools in Los Angeles for eight years but knew I wasn’t in it for the long haul. The pieces I did love about teaching were problem solving, using data to make decisions, and building relationships with my students. I spent a few years looking into what else was out there that would involve those aspects, and kept coming back to product management. I took a class through the Product School and took a big leap by leaving my teaching job before I had next steps lined up. Luckily, I landed my first gig at Cornerstone OnDemand working on corporate education software and the rest is history!
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?
I love to think about a future where the lifestyle norm is to live in a sustainable way, where society’s decisions are based on making sure our children and their children have a beautiful planet to call home. I learned a lot about sustainability while teaching Environmental Science for a few years, and since having my daughter I have a new passion about it for her sake. I think that small changes by a lot of people can make this vision a reality and I’d love to be a part of that, however possible.
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? (No need to mention real names if it’s an issue)
My very first project as a PM was working on an audit trail for changes to training content for our customers in compliance based industries. It was very technically complex and what we finally released was not complete nor intuitive, definitely not what I would look back on and call a success. I spent the next two years periodically trying to patch together fixes and answer questions about what we actually built I learned the importance of getting engineering buy-in and alignment on technical decisions, the importance of keeping documentation once development has begun in order to have an accurate record of what was built, and of regular alignment between multiple teams working on a project.
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 am a firm believer in the power of a growth mindset, and try to look at everything through that lens. I don’t know if I have a favorite failure, but I learned heavily in my teaching career that most things won’t be a success the first time and that after every attempt, it’s important to reflect and try again with a new perspective. I’ve carried this with me through my product career, now reflecting on every meeting, design, and deployment and making tweaks to be better at the next one, as well into how I view my relationships and approach parenting as well.
What’s been the most exciting part about joining Sidebench so far?
I am so excited to work on meaningful projects and deliver value quickly, but I’m most excited to work with the team. Every single person has been welcoming, has demonstrated their passions and intelligence, and seems to genuinely like each other!
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?
I think having worked in education rather than corporate for a while allows me to bring a unique perspective to problem solving. I start with a people and relationship first approach, considering the audience’s history and personality at every step along the way.
Describe your super power or describe what unique skill/perspective you bring to the team here.
My super power is probably optimism, I tend to see situations with a glass half full perspective and work to resolve issues and look toward how things can be better next time. I also can do very fast mental math and have a deep knowledge of useless facts, not sure that either of those are enormous value adds, but nice to have in very niche situations.
What skill, practice, behavior, hobby or habits are you currently working on?
I’m currently practicing my Spanish! Once upon a time I was close to fluent but without regular practice I’ve gotten really rusty. I’m hoping to be able to raise my daughter bilingual so gotta step up my game!
I’m also working on finding balance and routines. This is news to no one, but being a working mom is hard. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day for work, exercise, seeing my daughter, and being myself so I’m actively working through trial and error to find the best balance of all of those things.
Bonus Question: What book, publication, or podcast have you most recommended lately and why?
My favorite podcast recommendation is This Podcast Will Kill You. The hosts are two disease ecologists and epidemiologists who choose a different infectious disease each week and talk through the mechanism of infection, the history, and the current status of the disease. They’ve covered everything from the flu and chickenpox to very rare diseases such as brain-eating amoebas and a dancing plague, and occasionally branch out from infectious diseases to other health concerns such as lightning strikes and the effects of alcohol. Both hosts (both coincidentally named Erin) are genuinely excited, passionate, and at times disgusted by the weekly topics, and their conversation could suck anyone right in. I happen to be an enormous science nerd, but even if you’re not, they do a great job at breaking down the intricate science details to be completely understandable. If you’re looking for something light hearted and science-y and sometimes a little gross, I highly recommend This Podcast Will Kill You!!