1. Tell us about yourself. How did you get to where you are today?
👉 Manuela: I’ve always been fascinated with combining engineering with art because my dad is an engineer and my mom is an artist. My dad had encouraged me to start coding at a young age, and once I got to college, I naturally went into studying computer science. It wasn’t until my junior year that I took my first design course and thought, “Wow! This is an entire aspect of building that I had been missing” — and I absolutely loved it.
Within engineering, I started gearing more towards iOS. I really liked building apps because I was able to physically show someone what I had built. So, I thought, “Ok great, iOS engineering it is!” That was, until I completely bombed an engineering interview for an iOS internship, and the VP of engineering who was interviewing me said: “You’d be a great product manager.” And I’ve been a product manager ever since, and I now have the privilege of managing product managers and supporting them as they grow.
👉 Griselda: I’m a Product Manager at Robinhood. I had no idea growing up what a product manager was or that it was a career option.
I grew up in a low-income neighborhood where it was typical for parents to have two jobs to cover expenses. My parents had a huge focus on education because they worked at higher education institutions and made sure I grew up knowing that education was important. My dad is a cook at a private school and my mom is on the cleaning staff at Stanford.
One day my parents sat me down and put in front of me an application for the private all girls’ school that my dad worked at, and that’s pretty much when things changed. I got accepted and from there was fortunate to attend Stanford.
At Robinhood I spent time in a few different roles before becoming a PM. One of my work advocates pulled me aside and suggested that I consider moving into the Product team after telling me that I sounded more passionate about solving user problems from a Product seat.
2. What does a product manager do? What does a typical day look like?
👉 Manuela: Product management is a great combination of art and engineering. I am not an engineer who is building the product nor am I a User Researcher, who’s talking to customers full-time. I’m the person in-between, who is gathering all the pieces of the puzzle to take an idea to a product in people’s hands.
👉 Griselda: Product Managers act as the voice of the customer. I work with a cross-functional team to execute on projects that help improve our customers’ financial wellbeing. On a daily basis, I’m working with a number of different teams discussing what we can do to bring these visions to life.
My team works on products that help our customers move money in and out of the Robinhood App.
3. What inspired you to pursue a career in the tech industry? In fintech?
👉 Manuela: Finance as an institution had seemed so complicated and inaccessible, but I realized that it wasn’t when I joined Robinhood first as a customer.
I personally witnessed the barrier of entry problem that women investors face. I was compelled by this opportunity to bridge that barrier. Being a woman on the product team and having that voice internally to make the difference the last 3 years have been exactly that.
👉 Griselda: In college I did research for a professor in the political science department, specifically focusing on the challenges facing developing democracies in the 80s and 90s. One pattern we noticed almost immediately was that trade and market policies had a significant impact on the success of these young democracies. I would say this was my first run-in with the concept that access to the markets had the ability to transform lives.
This sparked an interest in the markets, and led me to a Sales & Trading internship before ultimately landing a full time role at a traditional financial services firm. Pretty quickly I knew that I wanted to be on the other side of the conversation – going from large investment banks and asset managers to having a hand in breaking down the access barrier for every-day people like me, my siblings, or my friends. When I came across Robinhood, I was excited to take my experiences at these larger firms and bridge them with a platform that had the potential to reach millions of people.
I’ve been at Robinhood for 5 years now and have had the privilege of witnessing the power technology has had in transforming financial services.
4. Shifting gears a little bit – How has your culture shaped you as a leader and a manager?
👉 Manuela: Robinhood is a people-first company that understands we all have different strengths and areas for improvement, which helps us navigate folks to where they fit best within the company. For me, despite being young, leaders have trusted me and guided me into a leadership role based on my performance and aptitude. It’s given me the opportunity to create more impact.
Robinhood understands their employees deeply and knows every single employee at the company is moving us closer to our mission to democratize finance for all.
👉 Griselda: One thing I love about Robinhood is that we’re constantly thinking about our users, and what they’re telling us about their financial needs.
Growing up I watched my parents work multiple jobs and struggle to feel financially secure. And this was the norm in my community. One of things that I’m really proud of is that I get to bring this experience and context into my daily conversations as we think about building products. I’m able to bring these voices and these struggles into our meetings rooms.
5. What is one piece of advice you would give someone trying to enter the tech field?
👉 Manuela: Reach out. If I think back to myself as a college student, there was no way I would message someone on Linkedin. But now being on the other side, I really encourage people to do it. Worst case scenario, someone doesn’t answer. But the upside is huge, which is: You put your name out there. You get advice from people who are in the industry. You can potentially get a job.
One of the most helpful things for me is when the person reaching out has done their research and sends a thoughtful note. The more specific the request is, the more the person on the receiving side knows that you put time into it and therefore, the time together will be valuable.
👉 Griselda: Trust yourself. When I first graduated college and started working in traditional financial services I was one of very few women, and people of color, in the room. I started second guessing everything: every idea, every question, every instinct. And looking back, I can still recall those moments where I knew I was holding back. When I joined Robinhood, it took me a really long time to unlearn these behaviors. I’ve been able to be a part of building so many amazing products at Robinhood, and I think in part because I learned to be comfortable bringing my full self to every interaction.
Robinhood Financial LLC (member SIPC), is a registered broker dealer. Robinhood Securities, LLC (member SIPC), provides brokerage clearing services. Robinhood Crypto, LLC provides crypto currency trading. All are subsidiaries of Robinhood Markets, Inc. (‘Robinhood’).
© 2021 Robinhood Markets, Inc.