Sidebench Talent Spotlight: Katie Bolz
Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I grew up in the college town of Davis in Northern California. It’s a small town halfway between San Franciso and Lake Tahoe. It was a great place to grow up, we’d ride bikes everywhere, and summers involved many hours spent swimming and camping in the mountains.
Outside of work, what are you irrationally passionate about?
I’d have to say it’s being a dog owner. Why are dogs so cute and perfect? Dogs are the best little creatures to have in your life. I currently have two poorly-trained rescues with a combined weight of 24 lbs. My Mom calls them “life enhancers,” and she’s right.
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 my career as a graphic and web designer. After many years, I wanted to explore different sides of businesses. I learned that product management was a discipline where I could work on projects from zero to one vs. the visual elements. Thinking I could start applying to PM roles and get a job, I started there. Unfortunately, no one was interested in hiring me since my background was in design and not in Product. So I started researching local start-ups since they were more likely to mentor and create career pathing in various roles. I found a small tech start-up in Santa Monica that had an opening for an executive assistant to the CEO. I interviewed for the position and asked the CEO if there was an opportunity to learn and potentially take on new roles. The answer was yes, and the VP of Product took me under her wing. Within a few months, I worked for her, first as a QA manager and then as a PM. I’d made it!
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’d like to see access to opportunities be equitable in tech. We have all of these fantastic thinkers and creators out there, but not everyone can get roles in tech. For example, the chance to start a company is primarily accessible to those with existing wealth. What would things look like if access via wealth wasn’t a blocker?
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)
I inherited a fully redesigned but yet to be redeveloped Product once. The design was beautiful, but it was missing many things needed to make it successful and, in some areas — function. For the time I was on the project, I continually struggled to untangle it. My takeaway was that there are times when it’s best to start from zero as opposed to forcing it. As Regina George famously said, “stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen, it’s NOT going to happen!”
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’d have to say my “favorite failure” was thinking I knew everything when I was young. I’m sure those that worked with me were charmed by it (high level of sarcasm here). It’s not unique to think you know everything but the real power moment is when you realize you don’t. That is not just okay but great because now you’re open to learning more wholeheartedly and becoming a better listener.
What’s been the most exciting part about joining Sidebench so far?
The people are fantastic. The effort to find great humans is apparent as each person I meet is my new favorite person.
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 bring warmth and levity with me wherever I go. I genuinely care about people and encourage them to use their voices and not take themselves too seriously.
Describe your super power or describe what unique skill/perspective you bring to the team here.
Starting my career as a creative has given me a unique perspective and fond appreciation of creativity’s place in business. I don’t find it hard to become equally as excited as a founder or client is about something they cooked up.
What skill, practice, behavior, hobby or habits are you currently working on?
I’ve been learning about and acknowledging triggers (in life and at work). We all have things that activate triggers within us, and the more we can recognize them, the less they have a hold over us. It’s ongoing work.
Bonus Question: What book, publication, or podcast have you most recommended lately and why?
For people trying to move up in their careers and those wanting people leadership roles, I recommend the book What Got you Here Won’t Get You There. It has a chapter on twenty habits that hold people back from their success. For years, it stuck with me as something to review and offer as a guide to others that feel stuck.