Women in Tech - Spotlight: Larissa Licha
6 minute read
March is Women’s History Month and in honor of this occasion, NextRoll is launching a month-long Women in Tech Spotlight – where we highlight a few of the women here at NextRoll. This will be a limited three-part series of interviews, showcasing three of our extraordinary women in technology. This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Larissa Licha!
Title: Director of Product, Platform Services
Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?
I am the Director of Product Management for Platform Services, our newest business unit. My focus is heavily tied to strategy and the overarching vision for the business unit and ensuring that product and development execute towards that vision. I also work closely across departments such as Business Development, Finance, Legal and end customers. On a typical day, I have to context switch a lot between working with engineers to make sure we get key tickets done while prioritizing the right tasks (our priorities change a lot), to delegating across cross-functional teams or impacted engineering teams, to talking to the end customer ensuring we meet their needs, keep them in the loop on progress or key updates, to engaging with new prospects, to monitoring revenue numbers and help forecasting, and staying on top of what’s going on in the industry.
As the Director of Product Management, I need to make sure I can unblock where I can to set others up for success while driving our revenue forward. At the same time, I try to stay sane while having 100 TODOs every day. Meetings are definitely a big portion of my day, but it is a very exciting role because it involves greenfield technical architecture, pricing and packaging, machine learning to general product management and more. To be exposed to a lot of different areas across the business makes this a very exciting role and business unit.
What influences you to pursue a career in technology?
This is a really weird one on my end. I grew up in a village with 300 people in the middle of nowhere in Germany. Our paths in the village are very set on going to school, apprenticeships in banks or insurance companies, then you stay at the bank or insurance company, you get married, have kids and that’s it, you never really look to go outside of these set boundaries. Even going to university was never really something I was being made aware of. I never knew I could be a Data Scientist or an Engineer. I knew I didn’t want to follow the path I was told to follow, but I wasn’t aware of what other options I had.
Being a teenager was an interesting time (especially for my mom) since I was trying to find my path which resulted in some ‘rebellious’ behavior (based on village standards). I ended up becoming a tattoo artist for a big chunk of time, traveling a lot all over the world, living in different countries and cities but at 19 I had a life event and was sick for a year, and I realized I didn’t want to be the ‘rebel’ that people expected me to be. I stopped following my ‘self-fulfilled prophecy’ after reading a book about a woman that got stuck in a rut and then ‘life visited her’, she ended up moving to Dublin, Ireland to start over. I thought ‘I can move to Dublin, Ireland’. I started applying to random jobs and ended up getting a contracting job for a vendor that works for Google to do Customer Service for Google Ads. My first job in tech.
When I moved to Ireland, I didn’t know anyone, lived in a hostel, but just having this job seemed enough for me to go on. Starting at the company in customer services, only 6 months in I became a team lead and moved into operations. A year later, I had the opportunity to join NextRoll and something told me that I had to take that leap. NextRoll has been a defining part of my career and sometimes I still wonder how I got here. I barely made it through math in school, and now I’m reading machine learning papers about causal inference which just shows how life is never a straight line or predictable. But I really found my place here – in this weird non-linear way.
What is it like to be a woman working in Tech for you?
Being a woman in tech during a time where there’s a focus on having more women in tech has been encouraging. Concepts like advocates and allies becoming the norm, alongside technological changes in how we hire, or coding boot camps for women (and girls) all strive to help other women to go into technology, which is exciting. As a hiring manager, it’s my job to focus on growing a diverse team and make sure that my team – man or woman – have an equal voice. We value everyone’s opinion and ensure everyone is heard no matter the gender or how you identify.
Besides hiring more diverse teams and ensuring belonging, it’s important to have someone you can look up to that you can see yourself in. I have always had people I looked up to, but oftentimes those people have been men. This shows that there’s still a lot of work to be done to grow the representation of women in tech and leadership.
I am happy to see that in NextRoll Platform Service we built a more diverse team. There’s still a lot of progress to be made but in product management, we’re solely women, and on the business development side our lead is a woman as well. Meanwhile, on the engineering side, we still got ways to go.
It’s been encouraging to be right at the point of change and to be able and empowered to influence that change so we can all pave a path for women in tech.
Is there one piece of advice you wish somebody gave you at the beginning of your career?
It’s very important to just go for it! This is my 7th job at the company in 5 ½ years. I started in sales development and ultimately ended up in product leadership but I never proactively pursued any of the roles I’ve held. I was fortunate enough to have had people that told me to go for it and believed in me when I didn’t. I still get moments of imposter syndrome where I think ‘I shouldn’t be here’. Without the people that invested in me and trusted me to do bigger things than what I have trusted myself to do, I don’t think I’d be where I am today. So, don’t be like me, you gotta be braver and just grab opportunities when they arise since having people nudge you or waiting for them to do so may never come around.
Who has been your biggest advocate/mentor in the workplace and why?
I’ve had many but if I had to pick one that made the biggest impact on my career, it’s Valentino (our CTO). I don’t know if Valentino actually knows this but back when I was an account manager one year into the company, he set up a meeting with me. I was terrified wondering why he’d want to talk to me of all people. During our meeting, he walked me through a dashboard with cool performance stats giving me insight into our underlying infrastructure. He helped me realize I really liked looking at data and understanding the underlying technical pieces. He really pushed me, maybe even unintentionally, to care about the technology and infrastructure and brought me closer to product and engineering. He’s always been someone I could go to and ask questions and then come back with a really deep understanding of the answer. He’s also been a sounding board and great mentor during challenging times, or times where I was unsure of myself or skills. Lastly, he’s been a huge advocate for me throughout my career believing I can do more and trusting me to take bigger leaps. He took down the barriers I’ve built allowing me to be where I am today and I couldn’t be more grateful.
Who are your role models in women in Tech?
I nerd out about Susan Athey. She did a lot of interesting research in economics and especially causal inference. I have a strange obsession with causal inference so I can geek out about her content for hours. Once I reached out to her asking whether she’d be willing to hop on a call and when she said yes, I nearly lost it.
I also look to people I work with or observe in my day to day, how they bring themselves to work, and the impact they’re having. I look to people like Jessica Grist who is someone that paves the path for other women in tech every day and I admire her drive and passion, she’s also just so smart! Another person is Prathibha, who no longer works here but left her mark to this day. Prathibha is a total badass. She always fought for things to be better than they were and held people accountable. She never accepted mediocrity and pushed everyone to do their best work while taking a no-nonsense approach. There are a lot more people I could mention since my immediate environment influences who I am as a person, co-worker, peer and leader every day.
Any advice for women in tech/allies you would give?
Now is the time where things are finally shifting. It’s time for everyone to do their part to contribute whether it’s contribution time to areas like ‘Girls who code’ or talking to kids about technology/computer science and showing them that this is something they can pursue. It’s time to make it normal for girls and women to know what they have a place here in technology.
Among women, we are honestly the hardest on one another. We are raised to be competitive and often bitter about other women’s achievements rather than celebrating them. I ask other women to celebrate women that take on leadership roles, support and help other people grow where they can instead of getting into a competitive mindset. Maybe the competitiveness among women in tech is even higher since there’s so few but only by uplifting each other, we can change that going forward.
For allies, it’s the same thing – elevate people and enable them. If you need to kick someone in the butt for them to take a leap and you’re in a position to do so, do it. Don’t doubt yourself or think you’re not the right person to help them find their way, take the leap to lift someone up. Without the allies along my journey, I don’t know where I’d be today. I needed someone to push me out of my comfort zone, be that person to someone.