Learn How Haley Hamer Uses Authenticity, Networking, and Mentorship to be a Successful Product Owner and Tech Influencer
Haley Hamer is a Product Owner working in the FinTech space in California. Since childhood, she has been enamored by the idea of using numbers to represent the world around us. But, she first discovered her passion for technology when she took an intro level Computer Science course as an elective in college — and after that, she chose her major and never looked back. She has held a couple different technical roles during her professional career, and each one has given her experience and understanding about how a software product, and ultimately a SAAS company, ticks. She is a self proclaimed “techie” but she also has many other passions including writing/creating educational content, practicing yoga, hiking, and cooking.
You have successfully transitioned from a Developer to a Data Analyst, to now a Product Owner role at your current company. Can you tell us more about this journey?
I majored in Computer Science in college. Learning how you could take a set of pre-defined instructions and turn them into a fully functioning piece of software that could help someone, blew my mind. Naturally, when I graduated, I wanted to get into the trenches and start coding. After spending a little over a year as a developer at the start-up I was working at, and watching all of the data that flowed in and out of our system daily, I had an epiphany. I was actually more interested in our data than I was our actual software product. I truly believed we could benefit as a company if we were more data driven, and I wanted to get us there. I went to my boss at the time, and told him that I wanted to go for the first analyst position that had recently opened up within our company. Since I had been heavily immersed in SQL my whole time there, and I had even built some highly useful reports for our executives in crunch time, they gave me the opportunity to be the first data analyst at the company. Skip forward another year and a half later — my boss called me on a random afternoon. He informed me that we were making company changes as we were growing, and that our executive team wanted me to make the move to product. I was blindsided. I loved data analysis so much, and I felt that my data-driven mindset was making a difference in the company. He assured me that my analytical skills would not be put on a shelf; they would assist me in my new role as a Product Owner. I did some research (and a lot of introspection) and decided I would make the jump and take the role. I’ve been a PO since October, and there’s been some growing pains. I’ve read a lot, and leaned on my coworkers even more. But, I finally feel like I’m getting comfortable and can settle down and enjoy this new chapter.
What are some skills and resources that helped with this transition and what advice would you give to someone who is looking to transition into Product?
I think the number one skill that has helped me as a Product Owner so far is the ability to connect with all of my coworkers, no matter their department, specialty, or personality.
As a PO, it is your job to support everyone around you to do the best work possible to bring value to the company. This means you are constantly collaborating and communicating with others.
I truly believe that I have a good, friendly relationship with everyone at work. This makes people more patient with me, more understanding when I come to them with a difficult request, and more willing to put in the work when the time comes, since they know I come with good, honest intent. I also believe that having a strong technical background has made me a force to be reckoned with in the Product space so far.
Some of the resources that have helped me the most are my coworkers, blogs, and Instagram (believe it or not!). I work with so many talented, intelligent people, who have inspiring resumes and a handful of valuable certifications. I am never afraid to ask them questions, even the dumb ones. I learn from them every day. Also, I am constantly reading Product related blogs on Medium, as well as consuming content from my fellow Product influencers on Instagram. Instagram isn’t just for selfies and aesthetic latte photos.
As a woman in tech, you have built a powerful professional network for yourself. Can you share any tips on how to build and maintain a professional network?
I’d say, just be authentic. I started my technical Instagram over a year ago, back when I was just breaking into the data analysis world. I never pretended like I knew everything. I shared my journey online every step of the way: the things I learned, the things I excelled at, and even the things I failed at. I asked for help from those that had more experience than me, and was willing to help those that wanted to get to the point where I was currently at. People appreciate authenticity and gravitate to it. Realness is so much more commendable than faking like you know it all. No one knows it all.
Why is mentorship important and how has it helped you in your career development?
Ohhh boy. I do not know where I would be without the many mentors who have touched my life and influenced it for the better.
I have an amazing group of female friends at my work, and we are constantly supporting each other. These ladies encourage me to go after the recognition/salary that I deserve. They remind me that imposter syndrome plagues everyone’s lives, even the strongest men and women at the top. They cheer for my successes and pick me back up after my failures. I’ve heard the phrase “It takes a village” when it comes to raising children. I also believe this applies to having a successful and fruitful career. You can maybe do it on your own, sure. But it will be so much easier with a mentorship/support system behind you.
What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?
Oooh, I am extremely proud of myself for this one. A couple months ago, our VPs put in a request that was a shot in the dark. They wanted to introduce, test, and implement a brand new payment processor into our system by the end of 2020. There was a huge business case for this, and we truly believed it would bring substantial gains. This project fell in my domain. I am not one to back down from a challenge, so I dove in head first. I worked with software engineers, database administrators, network administrators, and the finance team to roll out this new payment processor and we made the deadline!!! I didn’t do it alone. I couldn’t have done it without all those talented people I mentioned across departments. But it was a monumental accomplishment, especially for a newbie Product Owner. Wanna know the best part? I found out after the fact that the VPs only believed there was a 20% chance we would even execute this project on time. But we did it.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
This is a tough one.. because 6 months ago, I wouldn’t have ever thought in a million years that I would be where I’m at now. I used to always try to micromanage my future and plan every step, but the future is so uncertain. All I really hope for is that I am using my unique skill set (technical knowledge/communication skills/leadership abilities) to continue to work on projects that I’m passionate about and truly invested in — whether that is as a seasoned Product Owner, or something different and new.
Products by Women is a global professional network for women in innovation, tech, and beyond. The network offers women the opportunity to connect and learn from peers from around the world, find jobs beyond borders, and get matched with recruiters and mentors to accelerate their careers.
Products by Women was founded in 2019 and was formerly called New York Women in Product Management (NYWPM). The network has now expanded virtually across the US, India, Canada, Singapore, Amsterdam, UK, and more… and is now a diverse community where women can connect, innovate, exchange ideas and make some deep friendships along the way.
In less than a year Products by Women has partnered with organizations and speakers from Glossier, Forbes, Etsy, Amazon, Audible, Squarespace, Columbia University, OXO, Compass, and many more small to medium-sized companies and start-ups from all over the world.
To have your story featured, fill out this form!