“Lacing Up”: My path to and first month at ASICS Digital

Erica Zendell
May 1, 2019 · 10 min read

Who I am and how I ended up here

A little about me and my role at ASICS Digital

My name is Erica. I’m from New Jersey (unabashedly) but have lived in Boston for the last 7 years. When I’m not in the office, I’m usually training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or working on pieces for a book I’m writing. As far as my 9 to 5 goes, at ASICS Digital I’m a senior program manager on the eCommerce team, and I work on strategic tech projects involving the Asia-Pacific (APAC) piece of the business. This year, what that means is migrating the top revenue-driving websites in APAC to a single software platform so we can better manage and improve the web experiences for ASICS worldwide.

The Beatles did it better, but this is a band I’m quite happy to be a part of — even if my facial expression doesn’t quite indicate it.

Migrations are rarely small projects. They take months for a reason — you have to make sure all the products are carried over, marketing pages carried over, and, most importantly, customer and order data carried over (and with the utmost security) from one platform to another. Every migration is a snowflake of a project, because when you throw in the localized standards and expectations for eCommerce sites, no two are alike. In APAC, for example, Japanese businesses allow customers to pay for a product upon delivery and South Korean retail sites require customers to prove their identity using a social security number before placing a transaction online.

So when I got thrown into my first migration project with the ASICS Japan team barely one week into my tenure at ASICS Digital, I was more than a little nervous. I was new to the company, to my team, and to my stakeholders. It was clear from Day 1 that there was a lot of ground I needed to cover when it came to understanding the technical intricacies of the project and all the regional considerations at play. Not to mention, I was about to move into a new apartment at the time, which added another workstream of project management to my life outside the work I was doing in the office.

Whatever could go wrong should have been going wrong then given that I was barely two months away from launching my first project at ADI. And yet, for the first time in my young-ish career in tech, I felt happy, fulfilled, and set up for success, but I attribute that in part to how I got here.

The 3-year ‘marathon’ to ADI

Aside from my mom running around in Kayanos while I was still in the womb, my journey to ASICS Digital began about three years ago at a local e-commerce furniture company. I was fresh out of business school, and by the grace of God and on-campus recruiting, I somehow had convinced a collection of interviewers that I, despite having no formal experience in technology, could do the job of product manager on their Storefront team.

Back in 2016, I had not worked in retail or product management for more than a summer, had not worked in a corporate environment beyond the length of an internship, and had only minimal meaningful experience in tech beyond spending two years at a school that has “technology” in the name. In short, I was in a little over my head.

I was still learning how to groom a backlog and kick off a sprint when the first big project came to me, but because I didn’t have enough people on my team to execute it, I had to do the thing they always tell you that you have to do as a product manager but I had yet to do for real: negotiate for time and resources from other people. This led me over to ask for help from another pod, which, at the time, was led by none other than the woman who would eventually bring me to ASICS Digital: Antonella Stellacci.

I set up a meeting, which Antonella begins with a smile before she proceeds to grill me with all the right (but far from easy) questions about the business case and metrics for the proposed project. Then, most importantly, she raises the question of the cost tradeoffs of developers building something for my team instead of hers. She ended up helping me out, and while I can’t remember how close we were to the initially-proposed deadline, I do remember we wrapped up the project on Veterans’ Day 2016, with me pouring Patrón for the QA lead and tech lead who stayed late on a Friday to release the project.

About a month after the project launches, Antonella sends out an “Arrivederci” note. Six months later, I do the same (though mine is a “Farewell from Zendell”) and I abandon furniture-land for an enterprise software kingdom.

I landed my next job by way of a cold LinkedIn message from my future manager. I wasn’t sold on the company, a titan in enterprise software space that was quickly becoming a dinosaur given the advancements in the industry. He sold me on the prospect of the product (a slick cloud-based one, not a clunky, on-premise 1980s piece of tech) and of the team (ambitious ex-startuppers, not elaborately-suited, phlegmatic corporate bureaucrats). So I spend the next year and seven months leading the front-end development teams (both client- and customer-facing) for a cloud-based commerce platform at an enormous enterprise software company, which, as is the last place I would have expected to find myself only a year since grad school.

At the end of 2018, I was ready for a change. I liked working in the tech space, but cared about the company endgame being oriented around physical products I genuinely liked and used. I’ll never forget when interviewing for the furniture company how I asked my future manager, “Do I need to like furniture to work here and be a good PM? Because I really don’t like furniture.” (He said that it would help but that it wasn’t necessary.) Similarly, when I got into commerce software, I liked the solutions we were able to provide to brands and retailers by way of our product, but often found myself more interested in working for the brands and retailers to whom we were selling our product than in building our product.

That’s when I head to LinkedIn and Antonella’s name pops up for a 2-year anniversary at ASICS Digital. A longtime lover of shoes (my mom worked in the industry), and of ASICS, in particular, and having not seen Antonella in two years, I’m excited when I reach out to her to catch up over cappuccinos and ask her about her time at ADI and about the open roles I’m looking into there.

Two cups of coffee that morning in December, one holiday season spent reevaluating my professional life, and about one month later, on Jan. 18, I’m in the ASICS Digital offices for onsite interviews with my future teammates. On Feb. 15, I’m having a farewell party with my colleagues. The following Wednesday, Feb. 20, I walk in for my first day at ADI as a Senior Program Manager on the eCommerce team, focusing on Asia-Pacific.

A Month in the Life

Week 1

It’s off to the races, so to speak. I’m welcomed to my desk with shoelaces, nuun tablets, Kind bars, and most importantly, my welcome pair of shoes: Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66’s, the midrise version of the classic shoe in cream leather with crimson and navy Tiger stripes. They’re so beautiful I could cry. In the coming weeks, I keep them in their box, because I’m afraid to sully them with laps around the office or quick walks for coffee outside.

In between onboarding sessions with my manager and other introductory meetings, I learn about the 2019 roadmap and where my team’s projects lie in the grander strategic vision for ADI. I’m impressed by how in three different meetings about the roadmap, hosted by three different people, the discussion remains consistent. I’m not used to seeing that kind of organizational alignment.

After working with lots of fresh college graduates, the vibe I’m getting is very different at ADI. Everyone is still fun and hardworking, but the level of personal responsibility and accountability is significantly higher than anywhere I’ve worked previously. In other words, I feel like I’m working with adults (who are young at heart) and not kids anymore.

At the end of my first week, I dial into my first stakeholder call and try to take the names I’ve learned about in the last week and match them to the people speaking on the call. Luckily, I’ve had the last four days to pick up all the acronyms (SFCC, SFSC, SFMC, FMS) so by the time the jargon is thrown around on the call, I’ve reached ‘basic proficiency.’

One highlight from week one:

  1. The Tuesday team lunch. I’ve never had food from Redbones, but that was one satisfying, satisfying meal that beats the Au Bon Pain voucher lunches on which I subsisted while at previous companies.

Week 2

The day that I’ve been more than a little anxious about is about to arrive: Friday March 1, my boss Mary’s last day in the office until she’s back from maternity leave in July.

If my first week was spent attempting to absorb every bit of Mary’s institutional knowledge, the second week was spent preparing to apply that knowledge to my first project kickoff with stakeholders. Ramping up, I’m grateful that Mary has scoped my work to just Asia-Pacific to start rather than taking on a full pod’s worth of work. For now, there’s more than enough to understand in that one region of the world without thinking about the full global picture.

It turns out, I’ve learned more than I thought already. With the help of my teammate, Katie, and other folks with whom I’ve previewed my kickoff deck, all goes quite smoothly. Aside from adjusting a few timelines, expectations are aligned and the project is set in motion.

To celebrate, I order my first pair of shoes as a salaried employee of the brand: a pair of ASICS Tiger Gel-Lyte IIIs and another pair of Onitsuka Tigers from the Liberty London collaboration (with a lavender and light yellow Monet kind of aesthetic). I’m now up to three pairs of ASICS shoes. I hold off on obtaining the newly-released MetaRide until the employee discount kicks in.

Two highlights from week two, aside from the project kickoff

  1. I’ve finally figured out where all the meeting rooms are around the office (and learned that most — if not all meetings at ADI — start right on time!)
  2. The ‘Funkeeper’ team led the “First Friday” drinking festivities inspired by the Fyre Festival. It’s as good an occasion as any to kick back with coworkers at 4 p.m. on a Friday and it’s certainly better-organized and more fun than the actual Fyre Festival was for its attendees.

Week 3

Just as I feel like I’m understanding up from down, like I’ve got a decent grip on who needs to be on which emails, and like I’ve got my role well enough in hand, my teammates go to meet with our team in Tokyo.

Without Katie, my lifeline, Danielle, my go-to for technical questions, or Antonella, my now-manager until Mary returns, I’m flying solo for a week in Boston. Even though everyone at the office is friendly and helpful, it’s a little lonely without the three of them, in particular — not to mention, any question I have for them has to wait until their waking/working hours instead of being one instantaneous slack response or desk visit away.

Even with the team in Tokyo, there’s plenty for me to do on the home front: coffee chats upon coffee chats, exploring the realms of slack and all its channels, and generally trying to get to know better the people who aren’t baked into my day-to-day meeting blocks.

The three highlights of week three are:

  1. I survive my first truly late-night call with our team in Japan (midnight on a Sunday because daylight savings skewed the scheduling from 11 p.m. to midnight)
  2. I start learning Japanese with a combination of Duolingo, Drops, and two textbooks that came highly recommended on Amazon. It’s not easy, but it is fun.
  3. I buy three pairs of shoes off of the proper ASICS site: GT-2000 7s (Lite-Show edition), the red, black, and gold Gel-Kayanos 25s that were specially designed for the Tokyo marathon, and a pair of knit Gel Quantum 360s, because they seemed springy and comfortable with all that gel in the heel. I am now up to six pairs of shoes.

Week 4

Things are starting to hit a proper stride for me at ADI on the work front, which makes me feel comfortable enough to start actually scheduling fun and joining in for more social activities. I go on my first coffee walk per the #coffee-walk Slack channel. I attend the inaugural Bagels with the Boss, a roundtable breakfast with ADI President, Dan Smith and 10 folks from around ASICS Digital to share knowledge, ask questions, and create an environment of openness, transparency, and community. I survive my first run with the Run Club on Wednesday at lunchtime and feel the ache in my legs for the rest of the week. Over the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day, I break in the GT-2000 7s I ordered and use Runkeeper for the first time to run the 10K for Good. The 10K is as memorable for those reasons as it is for having to dodge green-clad Southie residents and tourists who have come to the neighborhood for its notorious St. Patrick’s Day parade (I ran a loop from my apartment in Dorchester around Carson Beach to Castle Island). I obtain three more pairs of shoes from the ASICS Tiger spring sale.

Four highlights of week four, aside from everything above:

  1. Everyone who was overseas comes back from Japan in one piece
  2. I buy another bottle of wine from the #wine-club slack channel, adding to the growing collection of wine bottles and other positive clutter on my desk
  3. My boyfriend doesn’t break up with me over now having more ASICS shoes than he has shoes in general
  4. I draft my first blog post for the ADI blog, which is how you’re reading this flotsam on Medium

Like that, I’ve made it through my first month at ASICS Digital (and a little more than that by the time this article hits the Medium page). It feels like I’ve been here forever, but it also feels like I started just yesterday. Even as the novelty of being here wears off, I’m still beyond excited and happy to be working at a brand I love with an exceptionally lovely team in a positive, uplifting go-getting culture. Until next time, さよなら!

Do you think ASICS Digital could be the right fit for you? Check out our open roles: https://runkeeper.com/careers/openings

ASICS Digital

Fitness, technology, and how we see the world.

Erica Zendell

Written by

Writes about tech, business, jiu-jitsu, and personal stories worth sharing. MIT MBA+Princeton alumna. Former baker and podcaster working in product management

ASICS Digital

Fitness, technology, and how we see the world.

Erica Zendell

Written by

Writes about tech, business, jiu-jitsu, and personal stories worth sharing. MIT MBA+Princeton alumna. Former baker and podcaster working in product management

ASICS Digital

Fitness, technology, and how we see the world.

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