ResourcesBlogTrailblazing Women in Product Management: Amber Brown, SVP of Product Management and Marketing at Clario   

Trailblazing Women in Product Management: Amber Brown, SVP of Product Management and Marketing at Clario   

Women in product management with Amber Brown

For our next installment of our Women in Product Management Series, I interviewed Amber Brown, SVP of Product Management and Marketing at Clario

Nicole: Thank you for joining me, Amber. I’m excited to hear your advice and insights into Product Management

Amber: Thank you for having me, Nicole. I’m excited to be here.  

Let’s get to know your background a little bit. What brought you into Product Management? 

I always like to say what brought me to Product Management was the customer. I started my career in the finance industry in a private wealth division for a large financial institution. My job was to work with all the private wealth clients and make sure they were happy. There was nothing too big, too extraneous that needed to happen to keep customers happy. I learned a lot about our customers and what was important to them. I spent a lot of time working with the product teams to find new ways to better meet customer needs. Through that process, I became very interested in Product Management because I was always scrambling to try and make things happen. I really saw the value in leading a proactive approach in an organization focused on how we collectively make the customer experience better, not just for one customer, but for all. That started my transition into Product Management.  

Everyone has a different path to Product Management. Some folks have a technical or data background. I love how your customer-centric focus, that heart for the customer, led you to pursue Product Management as a way to solve their problems.  

At the end of the day, the goal of any organization is to serve their customers in the best way possible. We need to understand what they truly need, how we can make their lives better, and how we can improve our products and solutions to serve them better. That was always the excitement behind being in Product. I get to sit in front of customers and find out what upsets them, what makes them happy, what they look for when they’re evaluating products and organizations, and what’s really important to them. When you focus on that, not only do you make better products, you create great connections with your customers. We’re all in the people business. That is what develops long-term business longevity.  

I love how the voice of the customer is what really drives you. Is there something that’s really inspiring you about Product Management lately?  

You can’t go anywhere without hearing about AI. It’s easy to geek out but what I really like about it is understanding how AI can actually improve the customer experience. How does AI help organizations better serve their customers? How does it create a better overall customer experience? On the marketing side, it allows us to find a broader base of customers, get more inclusive feedback, and understand the pain points of customers so we can talk to them in a meaningful way, which is very important in today’s world. AI really helps us deliver a nice experience for the customer, but you need to find the meaning behind what you’re implementing to ensure it’s important and moving the needle for your customers and the organization.  

You’re relatively new in this position at Clario. Tell me what have you been learning at Clario these past few months?  

I was really excited for the opportunity, especially because of Clario’s mission, clients, and the patients we ultimately serve. One of the biggest goals of this role was bringing multiple cultures together. Clario fondly calls themselves the business of businesses. We have a lot of M&A work, which brings multiple cultures together. My career has been focused on defining the cultures and communication strategies that help organizations propel forward in action and achievement and build great places to work. I love creating a culture of kindness versus niceness. Be intentional about having conversations, make it a great place to work where people truly care about each other. It’s about having the hard conversations in a way that’s intentional and productive and allows the organization to move forward with their people aligned. I’m bringing in my own experience and exploring new perspectives, new channels, and new ways of doing things, in a way that brings people together. I call it meaningful collaboration. The team knows that we’re here for them. Everyone can come together and feel great about what we’re doing, even in those hard moments.  

That’s beautiful. You use the word culture, as in company culture, but I’m mindful your title is “Global Product Management and Marketing”. Are there world cultures that you need to be mindful of in your position? 

My team is all over the globe, with different styles of communication. I need to understand what motivates people, how people work, and how they prefer to communicate. Finding ways to bring that together and being clear on how to connect with people is really important. We all have our special gifts. I have a leader with the incredible gift of making people feel like they are the only one in the room. This makes our team feel heard and valued. I joke around a lot and use humor to connect with people. When you find your way of connecting with people, it translates everywhere you go. Couple that with intentionality, and you bring people together and have a fun place to work.  

On the flip side, I imagine such a global company with stakeholders from all over the world can make Product Management challenging. 

If you’re in Product Management, you’re the CEO of the product line. You need foundational skills for credibility to be a great Product Manager. You’re bringing people together, working with people to drive change. In Product Management, you are truly in the people business, you have to really love people with an innate curiosity about how they work. Find ways to connect, orchestrate everyone, and align everyone to the broader vision. These are the core two elements of successful Product Management. You have to have a vision that you can articulate that everyone can understand and align behind. And you have to connect people in a way that makes them want to work with you, support the organization, and move the ball forward.  

You need to love working with people through challenging times as well. The Product Manager is a ringleader in all of that. 

I tell my teams you’re the role model. Product Managers set the stage and culture for your product line, for your team, and for your business. You model the culture you want everyone around you to emulate. If you want a great place to work, it starts with you, even in large organizations. When you deliver a culture that people want to be a part of, that exponentially sends waves throughout the broader organization.  

Let’s talk about women in Product Management. From your position and experience, what advice would you have for women considering a move into Product Management?  

You have to know how to position yourself because most organizations say they have a great Product Management org, and they do, but a lot of people at the leadership level don’t really understand Product Management. They have a general sense, but they don’t understand the value to the organization. So you have to get really good at pitching yourself and your ideas to an organization. If someone doesn’t get it, that’s not a personal rejection. That just means you need to work on your pitch. There’s an art of selling your vision that goes along with Product Management. Don’t shy away from selling yourself. It can feel uncomfortable. When I first started pitching myself, it was terrifying. A “no” felt like a big rejection. It took me a while to get over it, but I just needed to fix my pitch.  

This is an area I think a lot of women need to practice. I have a group of three women who practice our pitches together. One person in the group gives me extremely hard feedback so I know she’s going to be my hardest critique. But I get to practice in that safe space. Then in the larger conversations, it doesn’t feel as scary. Find a network, a safe place to get feedback, and to put in the work to practice self-promotion. 

Great advice, Amber. Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience?  

I want to share an impactful leadership lesson by Henry Cloud who wrote a book called Integrity. We inherently understand what caring for our people means as leaders, but actually feeling it is something different. He uses the analogy of a wake, like the waves in the water as a boat goes by. How smooth or how torrential our wake is depends on our ability to care for tasks and people. Typically, at the start of our careers, it’s a very rough wake that swallows people up. Maybe we didn’t have the tools or the skillset, but we still left that wake for others, who then impacted others. That can either feel haunting or energizing. Our goal as leaders is to continue to streamline that wake and make it smoother. I’ve been in this industry 20 plus years, and I often think about what sort of wake I have left in certain scenarios. What sort of legacy do I want to leave? Do the people I work with want to work with me again? Do they feel listened to, valued, and cared for? That analogy of the wake really hit that concept home for me.  

What great questions to ask ourselves, especially as our impact is exponential. We may not always be mindful of it, but it’s true. Thank you, Amber, for sharing your experience with us and for challenging us. 

Want to hear more from Amber? Listen to the full podcast.
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Nicole Tieche
April 18, 2024