Inside Ople – Sonya Panich
To continue product innovation, a company needs to listen to its customers, discover what the market needs, and deliver on time. At Ople, we have Sonya Panich as our product manager. Sonya sits between our engineering team and customers to shape a world-class AI product.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
After graduating with a Psychology degree, I was curious about the tech industry so I started my career as a growth marketer in tech. It was interesting because I was utilizing my psych background to communicate with and understand customers and their preferences. However, I felt that I wasn’t truly delivering what the users wanted. Oftentimes, a customer would have great feedback regarding our product, but it was difficult to translate the message to the engineering team and have them consider a new feature or an update. I didn’t know how to code and wasn’t technical enough to make a strong case. Around this time, I learned about product management, which sounded exactly like what I was looking for - mediating between various teams to truly drive a product forward. However, I felt that in order to work with an engineering team, I needed to learn to code.
So, I began to learn. First on my own, then with the help of a boot camp intensive program. Prior to joining Ople, I worked as a front-end engineer for a startup and a software engineer for a larger company to learn more about the product development cycle and strengthen my skills.
What led you to Ople?
To be honest, I wasn’t really sure about Ople when I applied. The company looked interesting, and the job was attractive. After the initial phone interview, I started to think differently. When I came in for the onsite interview, I was completely convinced that this is the right company for me. I was surprised to meet so many people who share a similar thought process to mine. I could see the potential of the company and myself fitting right in.
What are some challenges that you face?
I am still learning about the product and the roadmap for the next year, and there is a lot to cover. But they are fun challenges if you ask me. I enjoy trying the product in different ways and meeting customers every week. In fact, I was speaking with customers at the AI Expo on my 7th day at Ople!
How was that experience?
It was fun and scary. I still wasn’t 100% familiar with our product, and although I spent some time practicing my elevator pitch, I was nervous because I didn’t want to accidentally misinform a potential customer. But I had Todd, Julian, and Pedro to help me answer questions and I became more comfortable as I spoke with more customers. I learned two huge lessons throughout the course of the expo. One, it’s okay to not know everything. Two, let’s work on public speaking!
How familiar are you with Data Science?
In college, I worked at a psychology lab research and the curriculum was very heavy in statistics. I am familiar with the scientific research methods and am taking Andrew Ng’s course to learn more about machine learning in general.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love to dance and have done numerous genres. I used to do Russian Folk dancing when young, then later Hip Hop and Lyrical Jazz. In college, I started to take dancing more seriously, so I did Ballet because it provides a good foundation for dancing. Now, I do Salsa mostly.
I am still very passionate about psychology and have been volunteering for various organizations. Previously, I was mentoring women in recovery from eating disorders and now I am volunteering as a suicide hotline responder.
Do you have a favorite quote?
"You can’t fail if you don’t give up."
Can you elaborate what the quote means to you?
As long as you don’t say “This is it, I give up,” you are not failing. You may pivot to try different things, but as long as you have a clear objective and continue to go toward it, you are not failing. Even if you haven’t yet achieved the goal, you did not fail because you have learned what to do and what not to do along the way and are armed with more information to get to where you want to go.