VP of Product Management Jamie Zajac’s rise at Carbonite™ has been meteoric. As she’s ascended through the ranks of the company, she’s learned lessons about how to manage people effectively, the importance of being heard and how to never stop learning.
Here, Zajac discusses her career arc, what brought her to tech and advice for those looking to break into the field technology or cybersecurity field.
Tell us a little bit about your career background. How did you get to where you are today?
I’m actually a meteorologist by degree. I like to say that, when I started at Carbonite, I was just confused about what type of “cloud” company it really was.
I come from a technical background in software engineering and QA and, when I started at Carbonite, I was attracted to the fast pace nature of the business. Serving consumers directly, e-commerce, I really wanted to learn that space while working in high tech where we were releasing new software every couple of weeks.
How did you make the jump from meteorology to software engineering?
A lot of meteorology courses involve numerical weather prediction and modeling. There’s a lot of data science, software engineering and programming involved in building those models. When I was taking those core classes during school, I realized that I loved them. Then I realized software engineering was far more interesting to me in terms of the diversity of what you can build and do with it. So, I decided to pursue that as a career.
Then I started gravitating toward the overall business side of tech, which is why I went into product management, specifically. I wanted to not only be building products, but also understanding why we were building products, how we would monetize them, and just generally understand the business case for a product. That drove me to get my MBA and move into product management.
You mentioned liking the pace of the tech industry. What else do you enjoy about working in this space?
I like that you can really see what you’ve worked on. You get to see results. Whether that’s adding a new feature and seeing sales grow or translating a product and being able to enter a new market in a new country or fixing a bug and having customers say, ‘thanks, this has made my life easier.’ All those little things can have a massive impact on your company and on your customers. In the cloud-driven technology world it’s really great to see things like that come to fruition in weeks and months verses years or decades.
What would you say have been some of the most significant challenges of your career?
I would say learning to be a manager has been a challenge. It requires a different skillset, a different way of thinking. I’ve learned to do it relatively quickly at Carbonite. We grew very fast over five or six years, and I went from being an individual contributor to a VP in about five years. So, there were a lot of things I had to learn very quickly. I realized you have to make mistakes and dig yourself out of those holes and move on. Ask for help. Build strong relationships on trust. It’s been really challenging, but also a lot of fun.
Would you say your MBA or the first-hand experience has been more useful in learning to manage people and lead teams?
I would say experience and a really good team of people. My MBA gave me a lot of great foundational skills, but it’s really been great mentors, great managers, fantastic teammates and peers who have helped me out along the way. We always get it done as a team.
Carbonite purchased Webroot in 2019 and was shortly after itself bought by OpenText. What have those transitional periods meant for your career?
It’s taught me that there’s always something new to learn. Carbonite has evolved as a company, and continues to evolve, in a really fast-paced way. That constantly gives employees the opportunity to learn something new. Since joining OpenText, I’ve gotten to learn how very large teams work—how they structure their sales teams, how they go to market, how they manage having workforces in countries around the world.
I look at everything as a learning opportunity. How can I learn best practices or learn from mistakes? I then try to use those lessons to further my personal career and to make my team more effective.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own career in tech?
Speak up and speak your mind. There are a lot of situations where people think that just because they are junior, or new to a company, or new to a role that their opinion doesn’t matter and they should just follow along. But everyone brings their own perspective.
So, if you have a different idea or a different way of looking at a problem, speak up. A lot of times it’ll get you further. Either you’ll learn more about the problem or you’ll inspire a different way of thinking about it. I think that’s one of the fastest ways to learn.
To see what positions are available for you at OpenText, visit our careers page.