Q&A: Shaleila Louis, Product Management fellow @ The Atlantic
Each year, Atlantic Media hires around 40 recent graduates for its fellowship program. Fellows are placed in editorial or business positions across Atlantic Media’s four brands: The Atlantic, National Journal, Government Executive, and Quartz.
Tell us about what you do.
I am a product management fellow with The Atlantic. That means that I manage all of our digital products — which includes being involved in the early stages of conceptualizing a product, evaluating how a product that’s already been built is going, interfacing with the design and development teams, building some projects out, and collecting data on existing products — essentially touching everything digital that represents The Atlantic.
What were you working on right before you answered these questions?
I was planning with some of our other product managers for something we’re about to build out, which is our second AMP story. This is something I very recently learned about — it’s essentially like a Snapchat or Instagram story, but for Google AMP, so that just means you can see it in a browser or link to it in any form without it being in an app of any kind. It’s still a story though — you just tap through it, everyone knows how those work.
So I was about to code one that’s about Google’s self-driving cars.
How do you access or find AMP stories?
It’s hard, unless somebody links you to it.
We recently made one on Amazon drop-shipping and we had to put it on our home page so people could click on it on their browser or phone and find it. But the disadvantage of it being outside of an app is that you can’t go to it and find it, someone usually has to send it to you.
Tell us about your background — how did it lead you to product?
It didn’t, is the short answer. I studied learning and organizational change in college and didn’t really know what product management was. I was always interested in tech and creative strategy and building things — products, essentially. I just didn’t know the word for it.
I was also interested in the media business and the tech industries, and I was interested in The Atlantic as a brand. The fellowship folks told me that my background might be a good fit for product management, and they were very right because I really like it.
But I didn’t know what it was until I started doing it, so I feel very lucky.
What’s the thing you’re most proud of having worked on so far?
I’m very proud of our crossword. That was my product baby. So I got to product manage and launch that entire thing — right from our initial talks of what the interface might look like and how we can promote it to planning to building out the entire page, talking with the vendors, and getting our crossword creator on board, who is the coolest person on earth. Essentially bringing The Atlantic’s crossword to life.
So every time I hear a little story about somebody whose grandparent really likes it, it’s the coolest thing in the world because I helped make it happen.
What did you do before working at The Atlantic?
The last job that I had was for the Born Group, which is this creative brand solutions company in New York. I was working for some of the very, very cool, creative folks there and got to help them pitch two brands, and also got to build email templates for them and understand creative strategy. It was great.
What’s the best advice someone’s ever given you?
My boss at that job actually, her name’s Sharon and she’s the most incredible woman on earth, when I was ending my time with them told me you should always prove your worth, no matter what.
I think that’s very good advice because there’s a solid amount of time in your career where you should just put your head down and show that you can work hard and do something — make yourself valuable to the people you work for.
It gave me a lot of humility.
What’s your dream job?
A job I would love to do is definitely in the world of product management, but would be to strategize about the products that are currently around in the music streaming world right now. I think they’ve created some of the most unique positions. The job that some people have where they get to curate playlists is the coolest thing in the whole world, because they get to influence how a generation of people consume music.
Spotify had this feature where you could turn a dial and see how a ghost Diplo would dj your party. I’m fascinated by some of the products that they’re able to pull up and I’d love to be a part of that and see what more can be done in that sphere, particularly with regard to accessibility in music.
Do you have any advice for undergrads / recent grads / people looking for jobs in media?
I would tell anyone looking for an entry level job at all, especially in media, is to shoot your shot no matter what. I feel like enthusiasm is learned, and no matter where you end up, even if it wasn’t what you were going for, you will probably find something you love, or take something from it to find something you love.