My Name Is Reilly O'Connor — This Is Why I Joined Aha!
"The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution." This is a quote from one of my favorite philosophers, Bertrand Russell. I studied philosophy in college and I was drawn to the value of reframing a challenge towards success. This is a lesson I have carried with me throughout my career. Everyone's problems are unique.
I have always enjoyed contemplating hard questions and I get real joy out of helping people work through issues in an optimal way.
Philosophy was an outlet for that. It gave me an opportunity to think deeply about how human beings relate to the world and how we should best move through it given our circumstances. Different perspectives on what is right and wrong fascinated me. And I particularly enjoyed pondering how a society could be built to support basic needs for the most people.
What career paths are there for full-time philosophers though? I knew academia was not for me. But I liked helping others and was interested in technology. So I took a job in customer support at an e-commerce startup called Bonanza. The software was a marketplace for small businesses.
I found I was able to apply the logic I learned from my philosophy studies to solve real issues. What do we know now? What are the logical conclusions we can draw from that? And how can those considerations help us choose the best from a range of available options?
While at Bonanza, I often supported the product management team with QA efforts. I liked testing changes to make sure everything we deployed not only worked, but also solved a customer need. But I was eager to dig even deeper and help make decisions about what we built next. I eventually moved into a product role and went on to lead a small product team.
After nearly six years at Bonanza, I knew I needed to expand my experience by joining another company. I also wanted to grow my product management knowledge. When I saw an open role at Aha! on the Customer Success team, I was intrigued. Of course I knew Aha! as the leader in the product management software market — I had even proposed adopting the roadmapping software at Bonanza. But I was not familiar with what Aha! was like as a company.
So I did my my research. I read Lovability and related to many of the concepts outlined in the book, such as the importance of really understanding your customers' pain and the concept of building a company based on real values. After reading blog posts, I could see that this was a unique organization.
Not only was Aha! building well-respected products, but it was also a company that actually cared about its employees.
I really enjoyed the job application and interview process. Everyone I interviewed with was friendly and transparent. Since joining the Customer Success team, I now have the opportunity to work with product managers from companies of all sizes and industries.
The work empowers me to solve customer problems with curiosity. Every customer is unique when it comes to setting strategy, building roadmaps, and reporting on their progress. And there are often many different ways our software can help them achieve their goals. By really digging into the "why," I am able to identify the best possible options for them to explore.
I absolutely love getting to tell product teams that, yes — it is possible to solve the problem you are experiencing!
There are many other reasons why Aha! is the perfect place for me. As someone who cares deeply about social justice, I am really proud of the Aha! fellowship program. It is an honor to be a part of an organization that is taking concrete steps to create more opportunity in software. My teammates are wonderful too. Everyone I work with is smart, kind, and incredibly talented.
Philosophy ended up playing a bigger role in my career than I ever thought it would. I may not spend my days studying the works of Russell and other great thinkers. But I do apply the biggest lesson I learned every day — that effective problem solving requires real empathy for those most impacted by the outcome.
That is why I joined Aha! — and why you should too.