Michal has over 11 years of experience in building, launching and elevating products in B2C and B2B2C internet companies. She is currently the Director of Product Management & Head of Wix Exposure, by leading a group of developers, product managers, UX/I, designers, analysts and product marketing that are responsible for building solutions for millions of Wix users. Michal’s career journey is incredibly impressive and interesting. We had the opportunity to interview her and find out how she got where she is and her advice on getting there.
Tell us about you! What’s your education and career background?
I have a BSc in Computer Science and Mathematics from Ben Gurion University and an MBA from the IDC institute. After my first degree, I hadn’t yet found my passion and what excited me in work, so I took the first job offered – a security consultant at IBM. Part of my role was consulting for the IDF and major banks, but most of the time I was alone in a room surrounded by servers. I quickly realized that working alone doesn’t make me happy. I knew I wanted to work with people but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do.
While searching for something that interested me, I decided to study an MBA to gain some soft skills (on top of the technical skills that my first degree gave me).
I started working part-time in a friend’s small company, still as a security consultant. One day a client came with a project that required characterizing an insurance product. He asked for my help and this was actually the first product I ever worked on. I created mockups for the system without knowing it was called mockups or realizing that what I was doing had a job title – Product Manager.
What would you say is one of the most defining moments in your career to date?
After my MBA, I looked for a job as a product manager and was very enthusiastic about a certain internet company. I had a friend who worked there and I had heard great things about this specific company. I decided I was going to work there and applied for every possible position in product. Since my CV was all about computer science with no product background, their HR referred me to R&D positions but I continued to apply for product management positions.
After what seemed like forever, I was accepted as a product manager there. I was really happy.
3 months into the role, I came one morning to the office and the CEO announced that the company decided to do reorganization and they were firing 20% of the headcount.
I wanted to help out so I called a friend of mine from Wix, Nir Zohar, since I knew that Wix was looking for people from internet companies. Back then there weren’t many in Israel. I told him he should contact the HR of my company to get a reference about the people they were letting go.
At noon, I was called to my manager and he told me they were closing my team and I was among the people being fired. I was shocked. Seeing a lot of people being laid off in 1 day is very emotional and to understand that I was one of them was deeply disturbing.
The 2nd time that day I called Nir Zohar and told him the news. Nir suggested I come to chat so I took the bus to Wix’s offices. In the afternoon I met Avishai and we talked for 4 hours. He asked me lots of questions about product and marketing. It was such an emotional day that I didn’t even consider that he was actually interviewing me. Three days later I started working at Wix.
From this experience I learned 2 important things:
- Be careful what you wish for. I really wanted to work at that specific company and spent so much energy getting accepted just to be fired 3 months after my arrival.
- Good things sometimes come by surprise! 🙂
What is one of the most important pieces of advice you would give to students/practitioners starting out as data scientists/developers?
You are part of a team that is building a product so you must understand what it is that you’re building. Many developers tend to focus only on completing the task in front of them. But when you realize the big picture, you can actually do your work better and suggest ideas that other people in the team didn’t think about. You need to do your homework and understand a bit about the market, who is going to use this product etc.
What are 3 trends in your field you’re most excited about for the next 10 years?
I think that personalization is going to change the entire way we’re using and interacting with online products and I’m very curious to see where it will lead us as consumers and people. Also, VR is a huge emerging field I’m interested in.
These 2 areas can have a huge positive impact on our day-to-day lives as human beings, it can also have the opposite result. I’m interested and curious to see where it will take us.
What publications, websites, blogs, conferences and/or books do you read/attend that you recommend?
Rework – This book was written in 2010 so it has its mileage but I think most of what’s written there applicable today. Nowadays, new buzzwords and trends appear by the hour, people want to build startups and become millionaires and this book keeps you grounded. It focuses on the real essence of building a business vs a startup and how you can do it with modesty, focus on your goals and filter the “blink blink” of social media.
Lean In – As a woman working in a tech company this helped me a lot in understanding workplace differences and feeling ok with it. In high-tech, the balance is still in favor of men and, sure, there are many times that I wish I was naturally more aggressive or behaved more like the men around me. Reading this book made me realize that I’m bringing a new approach in my work that is simply different and is my way of doing things and as long as I’m authentic to myself, I’m doing the best work I can. I’ve found this actually makes the work environment better for everyone – each person feels and knows they can bring their own unique approach, that there isn’t one single style that works for every person or team.
You’ve already accomplished a lot, what is something you aspire to? What is on your bucket list?
My passion is all about people and products. I wish to create valuable products that affect people’s lives for the good.
How large is the technical team at Wix? How is it structured? What kinds of roles are there?
We have 1000 engineers across front-end, back-end, mobile, data engineers, DBAs, networking, system, and security. Our structure is based on companies & guild teams. A company is responsible for building high-quality products fast. The company is comprised of developers, product managers, UX designers, analysts, content writers and more. The guild is where employees get professional education and guidance. We have guilds for product management, front-end, back-end, BI and more.
So to give an example, each front-end developer will be a part of a specific company where she’ll help build the products that the company is leading, and will also be a part of the front-end guild where she’ll get professional training and guidance.
What are 3 tips you’d give a graduate looking to join Wix?
-Show us your work (develop your own projects, contribute to open source)
-Show passion to learn (attend meetups, read technology blogs)
-Experiment and innovate (show us a problem you wanted to solve and how you went about it)