Stephanie Guzmán is a recent Product Manager addition to Team Rheaply. Prior to Rheaply, she had a role with Bluecadet and was a 2018 Venture for America Fellow. Here, she touches on her first month at Rheaply and her thoughts on the circular economy.
Stephanie Guzmán’s First Month Reflections
Hey, readers! I’m Stephanie Guzmán, Rheaply’s current Product Manager on the Product & Engineering team. I’m based in Philadelphia, where I’ve lived since 2018 thanks to finding my first job with the Venture for America (VFA) fellowship.
The short story of how I found my way to Rheaply involves a job posting on a newsletter called Funded & Hiring. The long story involves stumbling into entrepreneurship with my own startup, soul-searching at various jobs after that to find meaningful work, and a dash of serendipitous timing.
As I was reflecting on my first month at Rheaply, a few operative words bubbled up to define my experience:
(Alliteration is purely coincidental).
Values are one of the first things that stand out about Rheaply. In particular, what it means to align them to your work. The section in the Product Manager job posting on company values was even more specific than some of the role’s responsibilities, and I loved that. I firmly believe my work is a reflection of my values – all credit to VFA for the phrasing of that credo. Some of my earliest meetings during the onboarding process, even going all the way back to my interview a.k.a. audition process, were dedicated time to meet with team members on values and mission. Moments like those set the tone for work in a very genuine way. I’ve noticed over the course of the past month that when values and skills align, the energy is different. I could tell that my coworkers, like me, were there not only because they’d found the job they wanted, but also a cause that they loved.
Advocating for web accessibility was the first way I found an area for leadership. What started as a question I posed in a weekly Engineering meeting turned into Rheaply’s first committee, which I now help lead. The committee’s purpose is to learn about and improve accessibility on the Rheaply platform. Currently a small, inter-disciplinary squad of four, we’re formalizing a plan for testing and making improvements across the product and marketing site. While our product was designed with WCAG best practices in mind, we’re reaching an inflection point of accessibility going from nice-to-have to need-to-have as we garner more interest from clients in the public sector. Also, I have to give props to the design agency where I previously worked, Bluecadet, for starting my education in web accessibility and showing me best practices in action.
There’s a metaphor in here somewhere about how accessible it is to bring your ideas up with people at all levels on team Rheaply and have them acted upon. However, approachability is how I’d characterize the team overall. In case it wasn’t evident, I think this team is fantastic to work with, and a huge part of that is how open folks are to questions and discussions – both live in meetings and asynchronously on Slack. In my first two weeks, I spoke to nearly 24 different people in 1:1 meetings. The meetings (all virtual) were a mix of introductions to different teams’ norms and roles, as well as unstructured getting-to-know-you chats. I’m someone who loves to chit-chat, so it was all the more striking how easy it was to talk to everyone even amidst a deluge of onboarding information. My manager, Sabira, the Director of Product, and I have 1:1s that almost always run long because there’s so much to talk about. My team buddy, Nick, a Front End Developer, has been a great resource for candid advice, too.
I joined Rheaply at a time of rapid expansion, which brings its fair share of growing pains. Some of the challenges I’ve faced so far are knowing when and how best to contribute, rethinking frequency and structure of meetings, and even getting our elevator pitch right when others ask what I do. I’ve also experienced disagreement. For example, differences in opinion have come up on the applications of an idea or how to prioritize feedback. In those moments, I’ve been able to talk through my own and other’s thought processes, understand assumptions and conclusions, and then move forward with action items (often, that more investigation or testing is needed). This hasn’t been a deterrent to building great rapport and understanding with the team.
Oddly enough, these issues are right on target. Rheaply is setting its course and I’m structuring my journey alongside. Now in my second month, I’m segueing from learning to vision-setting. Inspired by this 30-60-90 day template, I’ve been setting goals and measuring my progress between learning, performance, and personal components. I’ve felt encouraged to dream big along all three and will continue learning, exploring, and working alongside a really driven team tackling fascinating challenges in the circular economy!