WordStream Employee Spotlight: Taylor Chan
WordStream has some impressive employees in its ranks: from industry influencers to marathon runners, from analysts to authors. The Employee Spotlight series aims to highlight the talented individuals who work here. Each month, we’ll be featuring an interview here on the blog and on our social accounts.
For this month’s Employee Spotlight, we spoke with Taylor Chan. As a product manager here at WordStream, Taylor works closely with our engineering and design teams to design and build new product features. Specifically, she oversees basic connections between our flagship software, WordStream Advisor, and ad platforms like Google Ads and Bing Ads. She also works on the 20-Minute Work Week (helping you make all your weekly optimizations in 20 minutes!) and a new, exciting feature called Strategies, which we’ll dive into imminently.
Originally from the Philadelphia area, Taylor graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Biological Engineering. She joined WordStream about a year ago, bringing with her no shortage of product development expertise, a passion for shrimp-filled spheres, and an irrefutable mastery of board games.
How long have you worked at WordStream?
I've worked here for just over a year— I started December 2017. I came from a company that was much bigger, and everyone was super specialized in their roles. There were four or five flavors of product managers and you had to pick just one. I was really looking to join a smaller team—something that would help me learn a wider range of skills and continue to become more well-rounded. It’s been really great. I'm a lot closer to the strategy aspect of the business than I was previously, which is huge.
How did you hear about WordStream? Why did you want to work here?
I worked in consulting for a little bit—manufacturing consulting. I have done a lot of strange things actually! At that time I was working in a water bottle factory and an almond factory on the ground floor trying to make their lines more efficient. I can’t say I joined WordStream for the marketing aspect, per se, but it’s been very cool learning it. I really didn't know anything about it beforehand; it’s been crazy to learn what an integral part of our lives it is. But as far as what attracted me to the company, it was more about the people I’d get to work with and the size.
I found WordStream via a random job posting, but once I came in I really gelled with the people on the product team that I interviewed with. They seemed really thoughtful about their choices and what they were doing, which was something I wanted. The conversations felt natural with them.
Can you talk specifics about what your role involves?
I was originally hired specifically for the 20-Minute Work Week. The whole idea of that instantly appealed to me. I’m a person who loves to-do lists, and I'm huge on optimization and efficiency. So the job is really about bringing all those things to our customers at scale. It was really exciting for me. The 20-Minute Work Week is essentially where our customers want to go for quick hits; quick optimizations they can execute on in just a couple of minutes. And then you have the strategy piece where you’re looking for that next big, meaty thing to take your advertising to the next level. That’s the new project I’m spearheading.
Can you talk a little more about that Strategies feature?
Sure. When we say “Strategies” we’re talking about some of the more advanced things our customers can do—things that our customer success team consults them on now. They tend to be pretty complex, and often need to be done over the course of many different sittings. These are things like getting remarketing fired up or creating competitor campaigns or optimizing for mobile. At the moment, these kinds of strategies aren’t really accessible to people who aren’t super familiar with the native platforms. So what we're trying to do is bring the things our customer success reps are preaching into the software.
That’s really cool. What kind of work goes into that? Is there a timeline for completion?
So it's not out yet. But the way it works is we have a huge amount of data about all of our different customers, and we’re going to use all that data to identify the top strategies that are right for each customer. So we might find that a particular strategy like RLSAs works well for SaaS (Software as a Service) customers. The software would then automatically recommend that strategy for the customer and prompt them through a nice multi-step flow, a flow that would be both understandable and also faster than manual implementation.
As far as a timeline goes, we're hoping to come out with the first iteration of the feature in February 2019. There's a lot of basic work that needs to be done to get the first strategy out the door, but then they should come more rapidly. Ultimately, we’re hoping to have 10+ strategies that span Google, Facebook, and Bing. It’s incredibly challenging, because it involves taking the art that’s in our reps’ heads and getting it down on paper. For instance, how do you actually correctly set up a competitor campaign? And how can we bring that into the software? There are a lot of people here that are bigger marketing experts than I am, so it's going to require a complete cross-functional effort to actually hash the whole thing out.
Has any other project here been particularly challenging?
Last year, I was working on improving the Add Negatives algorithm. That's the most used 20-Minute Work Week alert. We are always trying to improve our algorithms so that the suggestions customers get are as relevant as possible. This one was really challenging for a few reasons. First, it’s extremely difficult to nail down a one-size-fits-all algorithm. For example, locations might be really good negatives for one customer, but they might not be great for another. And because a lot of our customers are small business owners, there’s not always an abundance of data to go off of.
So that project was very difficult. Right now, our engineering team is working on totally redoing the UI of that alert so that it uses the new algorithm, then also incorporates knowledge that only the customer knows. We’ll walk them through a process that helps them decide: do we really want a negative, or do we actually want a new keyword? Or do we actually want a new ad group? Whereas before you could only accept or reject what was suggested, now you can really analyze your search queries to select the best option—even if it's not what our algorithm came up with.
Very cool. Switching gears a bit—has any one thing you’ve learned here particularly stuck with you?
I think I’ve learned to have more empathy for other departments here. For example, I learned Python here when one of the engineers taught a class about it. So, now I can read some of the code the engineers write, and I see just how much effort goes into my “easy” feature idea. I also have gotten the opportunity to shadow a bunch of Sales and Customer Success consulting calls, which helped me build empathy for all the work they do.
What’s your workspace aesthetic like? Minimalist? Homey? Neat?
It's very neat. Like usually if the cleaning people move something just a little bit I can tell. Especially if they have the monitors out of the line…Everything has a place [laughs]! But yeah, I like to have some plants or some homey touches. I had this little eco ball, like a water sphere that had little shrimp in it. I killed them, though, so I don't have anything right now. But in the future I hope to get them again.
You killed them accidentally or on purpose??
Accidentally! They were in the wrong sunshine when they died. It's called an ecosphere, and it's this entirely closed system that has like plants and shrimp. You can't open it so it’s supposed to be self-sustaining...but obviously it was not.
You need to put your head down and get some work done asap. Do you have a go-to song?
When I’m at work and I want to focus, I like quieter acoustic music. But it has to have words; I can't do classical music that would make me even more tired. I listen to this one playlist on Spotify over and over. It's called “Calm Down.” I don't even know what you would call the genre, but it definitely helps me decompress.
If WordStream announced a last-minute day off for tomorrow, what would you do with your suddenly free day?
OK—so I play Pokemon Go. You remember that? From like 2017? Well, I still play it. I have played it every day since it came out. I'm really into that. My husband plays it, too. It’s a game that involves a lot of walking around to different places so if I had the whole day off, it would be great to just walk around and do that.
What are the best spots to catch Pokemon around the city?
Probably the best spot is Castle Island, but Castle Island and Boston Common are both really great. The first week the game came out there were just like hundreds of people at Castle Island, and there was a Blastoise. I took a video on my phone—I was running in a crowd of a thousand people trying to get this thing.
If you didn't work in marketing, what would you do?
I'm very into board games so I think I would do that. Maybe I could be like a board game designer or a board game tester. Or I have this idea where I would open a board game café. I also have this idea where I could go into schools and teach board games. Because it really develops a lot of different skills—problem solving, cooperation, etc. Two of my favorite games are Eldritch Horror and 7 Wonders. I've joined various meetup groups over the years. I also play board games with a group of WordStream people that meets every other week.
Anything else you do in your spare time?
I play volleyball, pretty poorly, in the Social Boston Sports leagues.
I also volunteer for the Crisis Text Line, which is basically a suicide crisis line but over text. I used to do it over the phone when I was in college, but I like it over text better. A lot of people in that kind of crisis feel more comfortable over text. It’s a lot of younger teenagers who don't really know what other resources they have available.
How long have you been doing that?
For two years. It can be pretty intense. Sometimes I’ll take a break for a month or so. Especially over text, it can sometimes feel like you’re talking to the same person over and over again and they’re not getting better. But it definitely feels good when you can help someone. Like sometimes the texter will tell me it’s the first time they’ve told anyone about this. It’s rewarding to know you are helping in that way.