Inside aytm: Meet Janel Hagaman, Product Manager

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Posted Jun 28, 2023
Trevor Brown

Janel is our Product Manager here at aytm, and has been with the company since the early days!  We were so happy to get a chance to learn more about her and talk about the beauty of curiosity. We hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did!

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

I’ve been at aytm for about nine years now—we were a small team of less than two dozen people when I started. I began working in customer support, handling a mix of technical and research questions from clients. My curiosity about our platform and how it could meet clients' needs fueled my interest in being part of bigger client projects and account management. Eventually, I expanded my customer support role, started helping configure and field surveys, and began working on proposals and solutions to meet clients' needs.

I’ve always enjoyed the different types of work I’m able to do at aytm. I have a curious mind. I love learning new things, so in the early days I did a little bit of everything—working with the platform, supporting clients, account management. Now as part of the product team, I still get to explore new areas of the platform and learn about clients, so there’s always something new to satisfy my curiosity.

Any favorite memories from the early days of aytm?

I remember reviewing a survey testing a handful of videos, a typical day at aytm. Some weeks later, I was watching tv with a friend, and I realized one of those videos was now a national commercial! Every research project we manage helps companies make decisions, and you know it's important,  but sometimes, you see a direct result of their research—it's a kick! 

How did you decide to get into your field?

After graduating with a degree in business and marketing in 2008, I worked a few different jobs to gain experience, though none were quite the right fit. I learned about business networking and proposal writing during my first post-college job for a government contractor and program management as an analyst within a government contract. While I appreciated the opportunities and worked on many exciting projects—even an early Lotus Notes application (how much am I aging myself), I was curious about what else was there for me. 

It’s funny. College made it seem like there was going to be this clear career path—but that wasn’t really the case. In addition to my government contracting work, I worked for a small mom-and-pop pharmacy in my hometown. This was a really rewarding experience, but still none of the pathways I had explored entirely interested me—until I heard about aytm.

How do you balance your career and personal life at aytm?

To balance my career and personal life, I make sure to prioritize family and travel. I live in California, on the other side of the country from where I grew up, so family takes up a lot of my travel time—especially since I have such a large extended family in New Jersey that I want to spend time with.  Still, travel remains a big passion of mine, and I take opportunities to go on bigger trips when I can.

Tell us more about your passions outside of work

I like to stay on the steep end of the learning curve, and one way to do that is to immerse myself in the unfamiliar. This incessant curiosity has led me to pursue many passions outside of work—especially travel—and once skydiving! My first big trip was to London as part of a student ambassador trip, and it really opened my eyes. After that I traveled to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. I also joined a study abroad program in Rome during college. I see international travel as a way for me to gain new perspectives and get out of my usual routines. There’s nothing quite like visiting new landscapes and experiencing other cultures and ways of life.

Tell us about a memorable trip!

I took a trip to Iceland during one of the warmer Christmases Iceland had experienced (though for me it was still quite cold). At that time of year, the sun would rise around 11am and set around 3pm. One day  we didn’t have a specific plan, so we decided to go snorkeling at sunset into the waters between the tectonic plates. They had us bundled up in drysuits to stay warm in the frigid waters. I had never been in a drysuit (or a wetsuit for that matter) and was shocked that as soon as I got in, the water was warmer than the outside air! It was an incredible experience, though they did warn us not to touch our hair—telling us that it had frozen and by touching it, we risked breaking it off!

Janel in her drysuit snorkeling between the tectonic plates in Iceland
Janel in her drysuit, snorkeling between the tectonic plates in Iceland
Janel's point of view snorkeling the Silfra Fissure in Iceland
Janel's point of view snorkeling the Silfra Fissure in Iceland

Tell us about a place you’re most curious about and why

My international travel wish list is long and varied, but I'm currently working on a cross-country road trip from CA to NJ, linking some exciting cities and sites I've wanted to explore. 

Hard decision in travel routes, as illustrated by Friends

Which aytm Core Value is your favorite and why?

My favorite aytm core value is curiosity. I’ve always been an avid learner and explorer. I believe that in order to do good market research and build great products, you have to remain inquisitive—fostering and honing an interest in new technology, evolving clients’ needs, and the changing world around you. Curiosity is crucial.

Tell us how you feed your curiosity

I have rituals to feed my curiosity outside of work, like reading books at the beach or listening to podcasts on walks. I enjoy immersing myself in the outdoors while taking in new information to feed my curiosity. I'll download hours of podcasts to keep me engaged for long drives. Historical, political, health/wellness, and comedy are my go-to genres; I prefer interview-style podcasts—my book wish list has grown exceptionally as a result. Curiosity is a huge part of who I am, both personally and professionally. Without it, I don't think I could do my job nearly as well.

Janel and a friend visiting Devil's Bridge outside of Sedona, Arizona
Janel and a friend visiting Devil's Bridge outside of Sedona, Arizona

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

You guessed it: Be curious. Don't be afraid to ask questions! We are truly a team of people interested in helping each other. Get to know people outside your team, it's easy to get siloed in a remote setting. I have to keep reminding myself to do that as the company keeps growing!

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