Jon Rojas has been working for Brightspot since April 2018
To kick off 2021, Rose went on the record with Senior Product Manager, Jon Rojas. In addition to talking about his role at the company and his work guiding products for customers like Walmart and Sotheby's, they also discussed what led Jon to launch his own podcast 10 years ago and the episodes that have stuck with him.
How long have you worked at Brightspot? What brought you here?
I started at Brightspot in April 2018, so it's been almost three years. When I decided to leave my role at General Assembly, a previous co-worker who had interviewed at Brightspot reached out to me and told me about the company and thought that I would really like it. She passed on my resume, I spoke with Ping Pan (SVP of Client Product Management at Brightspot), went through the interview process—and here I am!
Can you tell me more about your role as a product manager at Brightspot? What does a typical day look like?
Oh gosh, typical days are few and far between, which is one of the reasons why I think being a product manager at Brightspot is so cool. I support several projects that fall under the Walmart umbrella including the corporate U.S. website, Walmart Careers and Walton Family Foundation. I am also currently managing our work with Sotheby's.
A typical day starts with me connecting with our internal teams to see how the work is going on these projects. Later, I will meet with clients to give them a progress update on existing projects or to plan for future work. I spend a lot of time translating those client conversations into requirements and tickets for my project teams. I also talk with my colleagues who have worked on other projects to learn new things and get help from those who have solved similar issues.
You have worked on several products for customers like AARP, Sotheby's and Ad Council. Through those experiences, how have you seen Brightspot used by our customers?
My role at AARP was really interesting because I was the product manager for their mobile apps, helping the AARP mobile team build its iOS and Android apps. Although that team was not using Brightspot CMS, Brightspot's Kate Condon was leading a different group at AARP who migrated several sites to Brightspot. AARP uses both Brightspot and AEM, so I could see them side-by-side and I found it much easier to produce good-looking content on Brightspot.
Across my other projects and clients, I've seen Brightspot used by Walmart for cooperate communications and by Sotheby's to educate and sell artwork and other pieces to its users. Brightspot helps customers accomplish their strategic goals whatever they may be.
What traits are most important to making you successful at your job?
I think being organized is critical. Having a handful of clients and projects, I need to know where each project stands. Being able to communicate well is also an important trait to keep both the clients and our internal teams aligned. Empathy and a thorough understanding of each team member's role and how much work goes into delivering a project is helpful as well.
How do you think you've grown professionally during your time at Brightspot?
A ton of ways! From the technical side, I've learned so much by working with our developers to understand the technical solutions that we offer. That has been the most fun for me because I have always been interested in web development and technology solutions.
I've also developed stronger communication skills, particularly with clients, both in setting expectations and listening to and translating their needs. Lastly, I've been challenged as a leader to take responsibility for the outcome of a team and learning how to get the most out of people.
Besides the people, what is your favorite part about working at Brightspot?
If I can't say the people, then I'd have to say the projects are really interesting. I get to support a lot of really cool clients and figure out how to solve interesting problems. The solutions that the Walmart corporate team is trying to build are different than what the Sotheby's team is trying to develop. Problem solving on a regular basis across a range of projects and clients is awesome.
I read that you are a co-founder, producer and co-host for the Smart People Podcast. Can you tell me more about your podcast and how it got started?
I can talk to you about the Smart People Podcast for hours! Back in 2010, my best friend and I were at points in our careers where we were trying to figure out what we really wanted to do. At the time, I was consulting at Deloitte and he was in financial services at Prudential. He quit his job and came up with the idea to move to Arizona to stay at his parent's vacation home for a few months and convinced me to take a leave of absence to join him. We drove the across the country and within the first week decided we wanted to do something creative. Since we were unsure of our career paths ourselves, we wanted to talk to people who had figured it out. So, we started a podcast to talk with smart and successful people to learn how they figured out their career path and the steps they took. We've been doing it for ten years and 364 episodes!
Of the 100s of episodes that you have done, do one or two stand out as favorites?
I always point to three. We interviewed Brené Brown back in 2011. She had written a few books by then and was talking about vulnerability and human nature. After we interviewed her, she blew up! She appeared on Oprah and then got her own show on the Oprah Winfrey Network. I also talked to Alexis Ohanian, who is the co-founder of Reddit. He was very influential in pushing me to dive deeper into my interest in web development. Lastly, Tony Hsieh, who founded Zappo's and recently passed away, gave us lots of great advice that has stuck with me since our conversation.
What has been a silver lining of the COVID-`19 pandemic for you?
Perspective. I think it has given a lot of people the opportunity to understand what is important. Remote work is another silver lining. I get to hang out with my dog every day which is awesome, and Tucker is super happy about the set up!
If you could have any superpower, which would you like to have?
I think flight would be pretty cool. That or super-human strength.