Inside aytm: Meet Julia Maier, Xpert Solutions Product Manager

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Posted Feb 15, 2023
Trevor Brown

Julia Maier is the Xpert Solutions Product Manager here at aytm, and has been with the company for over two years. Since she joined the team, she’s brought a keen aptitude and academic perspective to everything she’s touched. We caught up with her to talk a little more about what she does both inside and outside aytm. Check it out!

Can you tell us a little bit about what you do here at aytm?

I design and develop Xpert Solutions. By this I mean I look at common business objectives for which market researchers collect data and design a study, based on best practices, which can automatically produce a report that will offer recommendations about that objective. I also serve as a research and statistics subject matter expert for the product strategy team, helping to review new features.

How did you decide to get into your field?

I started my career as a psychology professor in academia, teaching a variety of undergraduate psychology courses. Prior to getting tenure, I made the decision to switch careers as I was realizing I was already getting burned out. Looking at the set of skills and knowledge I had acquired thus far, the new career track that made the most sense was moving into consumer research, where I could apply my research training to help understand attitudes and behaviors of consumers.

How do you balance your work and personal life?

One of the primary reasons I needed to leave academia was the complete imbalance between work and life. The work "hours" in academia are when you are teaching, mentoring students, and attending meetings. Outside of "work" is when you actually have to spend the time preparing lectures, grading assignments, and doing research that needs to get published.

At aytm, despite working from home, I have been able to clearly divide my work life from my personal life. My work happens in my office, and once 5:00 hits I shut down my PC and leave this room. I have my personal computer set up in a different room, which is where I spend my evenings gaming and hanging out with my friends on voice chat.

Are you passionate about gaming?

Right now, my biggest passion is gaming. I've always played video games since childhood, but I purchased my first ever PlayStation in 2020 at the start of the COVID lockdowns and with the release of Final Fantasy VII Remake. This ignited in me a strong drive to explore all sorts of series and genres that I had never dabbled in before, and has even evolved into wanting to learn more about the industry as a whole. For instance, I just finished reading Console Wars, a book about the early 90s when SEGA rose to take on Nintendo during the 16-bit generation of systems. It was fascinating.

Julia says, "I made that mug with Shutterfly and it shows my team and I at the bottom of a 200-floor dungeon (and my tablet is playing FFXIV music)."

Last I heard you were making your way through the Witcher series? How’s that going?

I did indeed finish up the first Witcher game, but Witcher 2 and 3 are still on my enormous backlog.  However, I did restart Cyberpunk 2077 after getting my hands on the PlayStation 5 and recently got the Platinum trophy.  Most recently I finished Middle Earth: Shadow of War and am currently playing Okami for the first time.  After that I am debating going back to Witcher or hopping into Horizon Forbidden West.  So many great games and just not enough time!

What’s a fun fact about you that might surprise people?

I'm a big introvert. Work colleagues are often surprised by this fact because I am comfortable with speaking up and engaging with colleagues during work, which seems counterintuitive to the stereotypical shy introvert. However, if we regularly went out to social events, it would become apparent that in those situations, I turn into a wallflower.

Some say there’s always another side to that coin. What do you feel is the advantage of being an introvert?

One of the biggest advantages to being an introvert is we rarely get bored because we don't require outside stimulation. The most active part of our personality is our mind, and it is nearly always on—engaging us, driving us, and even annoying us.

As the extroverts of the world developed severe cabin fever during shutdown, introverts were thriving.  We could focus on work and we could put more effort into whatever we were doing because the external stimuli that normally deplete our energy were fewer and farther between.  That’s why to this day I am happy to be working for a remote company.

Julia and her brother wearing masks at PAX Unplugged
Julia and her brother at PAX Unplugged

How has aytm helped you in your career development?

In the past year, I have taken on more core development responsibilities. Rather than simply designing the automated analysis and reporting, I am now writing the code myself for this step. This has led to me developing skills related to web development, such as expanding my knowledge of HTML and beginning to learn about Javascript syntax. This has also sparked my interest in learning more about all the facets of data science and gaining skills in these areas.

Which aytm Core Value is your favorite and why?

Organic Growth. In psychology, we have the terms accommodation and assimilation. These refer to different ways people will take in new information that may be contrary to existing assumptions and beliefs. Assimilation is the easier process—it means keeping your current assumptions relatively the same and changing the new information to fit into the pre-existing schema. Accommodation, however, is the much harder, but also more valuable one. It means changing your existing schemas to integrate this new information. It means updating, iterating, and evolving. The value of Organic Growth is akin to accommodation in its emphasis on iteration, progressing, and bettering ourselves.

What advice would you give someone just starting out at aytm?

Don't be afraid to ask questions. There is a lot going on at once, and asking questions will not only benefit you in understanding your role but may also contribute to the aforementioned organic growth value if it throws a new perspective on an existing feature, element, or process in a way that could promote improvement.

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