Samantha Miller has been working at Brightspot since August 2020
Samantha Miller discusses her first year at Brightspot, how her University of Virginia (UVA) education shaped her product-management approach, and the advice she has for the class of 2022.
You started at Brightspot after graduating from UVA last year. What brought you here?
I found Brightspot when I was at the UVA career fair, and I believe I talked to both a product manager and a software engineer. I really loved the energy that the people I spoke to had when speaking about the company and that really inspired me to apply. Once I applied, I did a couple rounds of interviews, and I visited the office. I just really loved the size of the company and the work that we do here.
What do you enjoy most about your role as a product manager? What do you find most challenging?
I enjoy being the middleman between the client and the internal engineering team. One of my passions growing up and in college was psychology. I like to bring that method of thinking to the role whenever I can so that I can be an interpreter of sorts between the different teams. I think one of the biggest challenges on any project is trying to translate requirements in order to interpret what's best for the clients.
How do you think your education at UVA and previous internships helped prepare you for your work at Brightspot?
My major at UVA was systems engineering. As part of systems engineering, we did a lot of analytical thinking and had some courses on user experience. We also had classes geared towards people who were interested in becoming consultants outside of college. The method of thinking that I was taught in that program really helped me to keep focused on the big picture in my projects. It also taught me to always take a step back to see if I'm focusing on the right things, capturing things adequately, and figuring out what else I can do to try and create the best product possible.
How have your grown professionally since starting at Brightspot?
I think I have become a lot more independent in my role these last six months. That has challenged me to try and think things through on my own before seeking help, although everyone here is always so willing to offer their own expertise and experience. I also think I have become more organized and adopted more professional methods of organization than those I would have used in college.
I heard that you recently oversaw the launch of Abe Books. Congratulations! Can you share more about that project and what you learned from the experience?
Abe Books was an awesome project. It was very challenging but also extremely rewarding. What made the project so cool is that we were trying to integrate some of the eCommerce modules from the client into our CMS. We had to find creative ways of testing because not all the data was in the CMS. We also had to find creative ways of publishing modules that were not on our side. Additionally, we had to adjust some promos and image orientations to accommodate for book images. It is something that is very simple, but we had to be able to support portrait as opposed to landscape images. We also had to be able support publishing an author's field for a book with a promo when we usually have authors connected to articles. Overall, it just challenged me to think differently about the publishing experience.
With career fairs starting later this month, what advice would you share with those who are beginning their job search?
My biggest piece of advice is just to be yourself and bring your personality to the table. Ultimately, you want to work for a company that sees you for who you are and allows you to be yourself. I think keeping that in mind really helped me during the interview process. It enabled me to stay calm and really focus on the questions they were asking me as opposed to trying to play a certain role or create a persona.
Besides the people, what is your favorite part about working at Brightspot?
Obviously, the people are a big one but I would say I really do love the Brightspot CMS. I love that I get to go into it and publish every day. I find publishing quite enjoyable!
What are your favorite activities or hobbies to do outside of the office?
I really enjoy working out in my free time. I also enjoy doing arts and crafts when I have the time. I am by no means an artist, and I did not take any art classes in school, but I do enjoy an occasional paint session. Also, I love to travel but obviously that's been more difficult during the pandemic. I'd like to be able to go back to Europe and travel around as soon as possible.
Where would you go in a time machine?
I would go back to the '80s because I really love the energy, the music and the fashion.
What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it?
The last book I read was The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn. In fact, I think Netflix or Hulu just released a movie with Amy Adams based on the book and I still have to watch that.