My Name Is Deb Gay — This Is Why I Joined Aha!
My dad introduced me to fly fishing when I was 12 years old. We spent a lot of weekends tying flies and casting into nearby rivers and streams. You have to do three things well to catch anything. You need to determine where the fish are in the water, learn how to position the imitation fly in a realistic way, and then have the skills needed to reel in a fish. Understanding, learning, and skill — I have applied this same methodology to my life, including my career.
I seek to understand the environment I am in, learn what I have to do to be successful, and then develop the skills needed to achieve.
I followed in my father’s footsteps by studying applied mathematics and computer science at Colorado State University. After graduating, I worked as a programmer at a large aerospace company. I saw that it would be easy to coast and get lost amongst the other 50,000 employees. But I have always set aggressive goals for myself, and I knew that punching in for a paycheck was not for me.
I have always said, “If it does not matter whether I come into work each day, then it is not the job for me.” So, I set a few career goals — I wanted to lead projects and manage teams. I wanted to eventually lead a company. And I wanted my work to make a positive impact on people’s lives along the way.
After earning a masters degree in engineering management, I joined an early-stage telecom company. Our team tackled pioneering projects in cellular technology. I enjoyed advancing to project manager and eventually program manager. Many years (and various leadership positions) later, I was ready to pursue that goal of leading a company.
I founded a small telecom consultancy with four of my former co-workers. I spent two years as the CEO and managing executive. We developed the first billing and management system for VOIP for one of our consulting customers, the technology that makes voice calls over a computer possible.
Since I had achieved a meaningful professional goal of running a business, I felt like it was time to focus on my personal life. My partner and I were ready for a change and contemplated opening a bed and breakfast. We fell in love with the beauty of Bozeman, Montana. (Yes, the fly fishing is fantastic.) Although the bed and breakfast ultimately did not happen, I found my place in the area’s tech scene.
For the next several years, I managed teams at a few tech companies in Bozeman. I then led the product management team at a small company that built software which prevented terrorists and money launderers from using our country’s financial networks. When the September 11 attacks happened, everyone suddenly needed our software. I was proud to have been part of bringing to fruition a product that I believe has made our lives better.
I realized that I could have an even bigger impact though — using my knowledge and experience to help other product managers be successful.
I have always relied on mentors, colleagues, and friends to help me find my path forward. As I was expressing an interest in sharing my knowledge with others, a good friend asked me if I had heard of Aha! — I had not. When I did a little research, I was at first intrigued and then excited.
The software itself drew me in. It solved so many of the challenges you face when managing a portfolio of products. Reading about the company culture of excellence, transparency, and responsiveness got me even more excited.
When I learned about an open role on the Customer Success team, I knew this was the perfect opportunity for me. I could learn a new product, a new method to sharing product management best practices, and new ways to make customers happy. It really kindled a fire in me.
Now I get to use my knowledge to help our customers solve tough problems — applying that same approach of understanding, learning, and skill.
The speed at which our team works is also extraordinary. Fixing a bug in hours (as opposed to months or even years) never ceases to amaze me. I know that at Aha! it matters if I show up for our more than 5,000 customers and for my teammates. Each day is exhilarating and important. I love working at a company where I can be my best and work with people who want to do the same.
That is why I joined Aha! — and why you should too.