Written By: Narek Hakobyan
In this employee spotlight, we focus on Ben, our Senior Product Manager. Ben's remarkable journey began in the classroom as a middle school teacher in Boston, where he cultivated a deep appreciation for designing impactful learning experiences. Transitioning from education to the fast-paced and exciting field of product management, Ben's story unfolds with a passion for human-centered design, data-driven decision-making, and team enablement. Join us as we learn more about Ben.
My path to product management actually started in the classroom. I began my career as a middle school teacher in Boston. I loved the work of designing learning experiences, reviewing data to determine impact, and building relationships with students and families — skills that still inform my approach to product management today.
During this time, I started writing educational songs about history and geography, both to bring joy to the classroom and to support my students who were English Learners. I put the songs on YouTube so my students could practice them at home, but found that teachers and students around the world were using the videos to further their own learning, to the tune of 2.5 million views to date.
The success of these videos led me to the Master of Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where I explored the intersections of learning and technology. After graduating, I worked at EdTech startups, with an initial focus on curriculum development. However, I increasingly spent my time connecting with customers, collaborating with designers and engineers, and leading company-wide initiatives, and I transitioned into my first Product Manager role at BetterLesson in 2018.
Since then, I’ve had the privilege to work with several amazing teams to deliver exceptional B2B and B2C products.
No two days are alike as a product manager! That said, I might do a mix of the following activities on a given day:
The variety of responsibilities keeps each day interesting, and I love getting to use different skills to support our team and our clients.
Client obsession is one of our core values at Mercury, and it’s also the foundation of our product strategy. We’re constantly gathering and reviewing feedback from our clients to understand their current and emerging needs, and our product decisions are geared towards taking the stress out of shipping. In practice, this means we spend a lot of time talking with current and prospective clients, gathering feedback on work in progress, and sharing frequent updates with clients about product updates.
As an example, we learned from our clients how important it is to them to see all their shipments in one place, as well as their need to quickly see critical shipment information at a glance while still having the option to dive deeper on individual shipments. This feedback informed our design for the Tracking page in NavigentSM portal, where clients can track, search, and filter all their NavigentSM shipment requests from one location. Clients can see clear, color-coded statuses for each shipment at a glance, while also having the option to dive deeper into a shipment to review shipment details and tracking history.
One of main challenges for any product manager is making prioritization decisions - that is, which opportunities and needs should we be focused on right now, and why? Answering this question requires staying attuned to data, communicating frequently with designers and developers to understand the time and effort needed for different projects, and connecting with internal stakeholders to make sure our decisions are aligned with our company and client needs.
In terms of opportunities, there are so many exciting things happening in the field of logistics right now! I particularly love exploring integrations with other platforms to unlock new value for our clients. I also love when clients share ideas big and small for the NavigentSM portal. It’s gratifying getting to act on those ideas and see the impact for our clients.
Curiosity and life-long learning are defining values for me. From a personal standpoint, this comes through in my love of etymology (i.e. understanding the origins of words and phrases), Wikipedia deep dives, and historical non-fiction books.
Professionally, this comes through when I see something unexpected in our product data, which prompts more questions around the cause, and ultimately could result in uncovering a new opportunity or unmet need we hadn’t noticed before. I also love learning from colleagues and clients about the nuances of our industry, from cryogenic temperature control to the ins and outs of a clinical trial.
I play mandolin, guitar, and banjo in a local bluegrass band called The New Grown-Ups. It’s great to perform around Greater Boston, and I love learning and writing new songs. I also love baking bread, and I’m forever working on creating the perfect pizza crust.