Ask people what you can do to help them. Too often, we ask how people can help us — advance our careers, deliver an important project, make an important introduction, etc. As I’ve grown in my own career, I always make it a point now to ask how I can help someone else, whether it is to be a mentor, make an introduction, provide a testimonial or something else. The rewards are huge, and it comes back around in ways you wouldn’t expect.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Samantha Miller. Samantha is a senior product management executive and general manager specializing in transforming digital product lines. She has successfully led teams in small high-growth ventures, as well as large global organizations to deliver award-winning B2B solutions. Ms. Miller recently joined Visible Alpha in the newly created role of Chief Product Officer, where she oversees product strategy and management. Ms. Miller joins during a high-growth year for the investment research technology company, which helps investment managers discover ideas through its flagship deep consensus platform and track and value research for MiFID II compliance. Previously, Ms. Miller was Vice President of Global Product Portfolio Strategy and Management for Dun & Bradstreet, a $1.7B data and analytics company. In that role, she drove strategy for over 200 products spanning financial, compliance, and sales and marketing verticals in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America. Prior to Dun & Bradstreet, she led a division at LexisNexis as a General Manager and Vice President of Product, where she launched several new product lines garnering numerous awards and acclaim. Ms. Miller has deep knowledge in software-as-a-service, data and analytics, APIs and mobile technologies. She earned her J.D. and B.A. degrees from Villanova University and a certification in artificial intelligence from MIT Sloan School of Management. On a personal note, Samantha has lived in seven different states in the U.S. and loves to travel. She lives in New Jersey, where you will find her hiking with her family and their dogs.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Samantha! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Ibegan my career as an attorney, representing corporations in intellectual property and contract disputes. I used technology extensively in my legal practice to find the “smoking gun” evidence in terabytes of data. A tech firm in San Francisco recruited me for my expertise, launching me onto a new career path in technology, and I have never looked back. I love how the use of technology can simplify otherwise historically pain-staking, lengthy tasks.
Since transitioning careers, I’ve worked as a business and product leader launching and transforming digital product lines at several global software and data companies with a focus on digital product innovation.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
While evaluating next steps for my career, Visible Alpha was hands-down the best place to be — the product, the people and the possibilities truly stood out.
First, the product lines are already incredibly impressive and revolutionary in the fintech space. I’m a bit of a tech geek, and I wanted to be part of something I believe in and can see solving real problems. The products create workflows and efficiencies at scale for investment professionals, and even more exciting is the data provided — in uniqueness, depth and breadth — for making meaningful decisions.
Second, the people are smart and passionate. Much of the team is comprised of seasoned professionals with prior careers in institutional investment who understand the impact that Visible Alpha can make on the financial service industry. The CEO, Scott Rosen, is a visionary and has a finger on the pulse of where the market is going. Everyone is excited to be part of something bigger, including me.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m obsessed with artificial intelligence, in particular with machine learning, and where it will lead us in the near future. I recently completed a fascinating executive course with MIT Sloan on AI and related business implications.
In a time where people are faced with an avalanche of data, we have an opportunity to make it more meaningful and easier to grasp. At Visible Alpha, we are continuing to evaluate the latest AI trends and technologies for making connections with data.
For example, think about how oil prices affect margins and valuation in certain industries, such as transportation. What other external factors may be affecting transportation in ways no one has considered? There is a world of opportunity to discover with machine learning and analytics.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Find and create balance in your life, even if it means asking for help or hiring for your team. When I think of the word “thrive,” it isn’t just at work or home — it’s every aspect of life. I know many women who are juggling so much at home and work. Many of my colleagues are managing a spreadsheet of kids’ activities and schedules, while simultaneously running multi-million business lines. It’s not to say that men don’t do this, too, I just see many women do so with the expectation that they have to do it all themselves.
I loved Arianna Huffington’s book on this topic, aptly titled Thrive, where the author makes a compelling case for the need to redefine what it means to be successful in today’s world. If you aren’t taking care of you and your health, it will be hard to thrive personally or professionally. For me, my pillar is sleep. If I don’t get enough sleep, I won’t thrive in any environment.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
To manage a large or small team, strive to become a good leader. Even take gender out of the equation, as everyone needs to find their management style. That means setting a clear vision and goals, communicating and providing transparency, understanding what motivates people on your team (which often varies), holding people accountable and generously rewarding when your team delivers.
That being said, I also recognize that gender comes into play in some industries more so than others, making it more challenging for women in their company to be seen as a leader. In those instances, confidence and verbal and non-verbal communication is key. I attended a fantastic Women’s Executive Edge workshop by id360 that demonstrated real examples of how womens’ body language and feelings of imposter syndrome can sabotage us unconsciously. Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In was also exceptional on these points.
If nothing else, be aware of your body language. Fill your space and confidently take your place at the table — not the second row.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Jon Sigerman, the CEO and President of the tech company in San Francisco who took a chance on me, helped me transition careers from law to technology and encouraged me to believe that I can always do more. With Jon, it was all about potential. He constantly threw new things my way — product management, marketing, business development — even when I had no experience in them. But I thrived with the challenge, and he saw that. Early on, I learned to stretch my comfort zone, and I have Jon to thank for that.
I’ve also had other fantastic managers and mentors and keep in touch with most of them. John Sateja, former COO at LexisNexis; Michael Sabin, former GM of Global Business Solutions at Dun & Bradstreet; Derek Miller (no relation!), former President at inData Corporation — all were fantastic supporters of my career and helped me along the way. Thank you!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Being a subject matter expert will only take you so far in your career. At some point, successfully leading a group, whether indirectly or directly, and navigating group dynamics for a better outcome is essential. This is a lesson similar to “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
- Network and do so authentically. I am an introvert by nature and formal networking can feel draining. However, my network has supported me throughout my career in ways I can’t even begin to enumerate. I’ve learned that networking can be as simple as having coffee with someone while talking about a common interest, but it is absolutely important to continue growing and sustaining your network.
- Treat everyone with kindness and respect. It’s not that I didn’t do this in the beginning of my career, but I understand even more now that it’s truly a small world and every interaction counts.
- Ask people what you can do to help them. Too often, we ask how people can help us — advance our careers, deliver an important project, make an important introduction, etc. As I’ve grown in my own career, I always make it a point now to ask how I can help someone else, whether it is to be a mentor, make an introduction, provide a testimonial or something else. The rewards are huge, and it comes back around in ways you wouldn’t expect.
- Change can be a good thing. Embrace it. I admit that I stole this one from my father, but I’ve referred to it many times in my career through acquisitions, management changes and other times of change. While working at a small tech firm, the company was acquired by a large multi-billion dollar company, and I stressed endlessly over what the change would mean for my career. I ended up getting promoted and was exposed to new disciplines that I never would have learned otherwise.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There is a quote, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” that is often attributed to Confucius. I have a slight variation: “Do what you love and all else will follow.”
I believe you should love what you do, as we spend many of our waking hours at work. Life is too short to be doing something that doesn’t fulfill you. Moreover, success — however defined by the individual — often arises when doing something about which you are passionate.
I’ve followed an unconventional career path myself, but it has led me to the right place. I love what I do.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I’d have to say Arianna Huffington or Sheryl Sandberg for aforementioned reasons. I appreciate how they have brought to light some essential truths that are so helpful for professionals.