Morgan Beschle has been working as VP of Product at Cureatr for nine weeks after working in product management for 14 years. She explains how she landed her most recent job in product and talks about her journey in starting a new senior product leadership role during a global pandemic.
I lead our Product Management and Product Design teams, reporting to our CEO and serving on our senior leadership team. We are in the early stages of a pivot as an organization. I am a people-first leader and invest my time first on my team. I invest time in both project-focused 1:1s to ensure product managers and product designers have a thought partner in their work.
I also invest time to meet with team members separately to understand their long-term goals and assess how we can ensure we’re supporting them in achieving them at our organization. I’m a strong believer in product management and product design having equal footing. So both organizations report to me at the same level.
I’ve enjoyed spending my early days at Cureatr diagnosing how to get us to drive towards more patient-centred outcomes, faster, and then leaning out to empower the teams to take the reins, which has been rewarding. My goal is to establish an organizational engine that runs itself. I aim to productize Product :). I enjoy my role most at organizations that view Product as a change agent and want to be product-led, which I’ve found here at Cureatr.
My career experience
I’ve spent my entire career in health care, building SaaS for payers, providers, and patients mainly focused on improving quality, safety, and reducing costs for the system at large. I’ve had the privilege of working at several early-stage and ultimately high growth organizations early in my career that allowed me to wear a lot of hats.
I fell in love with the intersection of learning about customer problems and partnering with engineers and data scientists to solve them, and ultimately gravitated towards the more formal practice of product management. It was this early work of finding a knack for empathetic listening and finding the root cause of a customer issue and the strong relationships I built with technologists that shaped the direction of my career. As an extroverted people lover, I gravitated towards people management roles. As I’ve moved through my career, I’ve become more interested in unlocking people to do their best work than the work itself. Before my current role as VP of Product at Cureatr, I held Director and Senior Director roles leading product and design teams at several organizations that realized great success — whether that be through doubling in revenue or achieving an exit.
I was an applied biology major at Cornell for my undergraduate education, and then later went on to pursue a masters in public policy at the University of Southern Maine at night, while I worked during the day. Both experiences had an impact on my career in different ways.
My experience as a freshman biology major at Cornell led me to question whether a career in medicine or science was too narrow for my interests. I wanted to focus on broader, macro problems, and finally found that during a public policy course my junior year. It was during that class that I discovered an applied biology major where I could combine the science and math courses with humanities, and pursue careers in health care like policy, consulting or business.
Landing the role
Our Chief Medical Officer at Cureatr who I had worked with before at a previous company called me up and asked me if I’d be interested. At first, happy with my current gig, I turned him down. A few months later I checked in to find out how the search had gone and if he had found “his person.” I had been swayed a bit after meeting their CEO who seemed very interested in running a product-led organization and who was eager to focus the team where we’d get the most return on investment for Cureatr, and for them in their careers and as people. When assessing a role in product leadership, it was important to me to find a team that was willing to take risks and fail, that wanted to take a product-led approach, and that wanted to focus and not boil the ocean. The rest is history!
I spent a bunch of time with our executive leadership team, and with the product and design teams. Our CEO asked to speak to one person I had reported to, one person who had worked for me, and one person who depended on me. He spent quality time with my references, which also showed me he was serious about making a choice that aligned with his organization’s values.
Since my interviews were during the Covid-19 pandemic, they were all conducted over video. I’ve never met my boss in person :). We talked over a few months about how I approached coaching members of the team who might not have all the skills for the role. It was also discussed how I approached balancing the needs of Sales to hit near-term revenue targets with the long-term focused goals of our product vision. With a smaller org like Cureatr, some of the conversations also shaped the role and evolved what they were ultimately looking for.
My top tips
Know when you’re ready to make the jump into heading up Product and joining a senior leadership team. Don’t let anyone else tell you what you are and are not capable of, who you are, or who you’re meant to be. Sometimes you have to leave a job you love if your current leadership team can’t see that growth in you that you know you’re ready for.
I think there is also a real recognition that the product manager role can easily become too broad for one person. You have to think about the context of your product, your team, and your organization when hiring to think about what kind of skill set will be most appropriate and impactful. With a strong engineering team operating with a partnership model, product managers don’t need deep technical expertise and can be much more commercially- and market-focused.
As a female in tech, I’ve also found it helpful to do some executive coaching on my own. There’s a lot to unwind from decades of “learning how to be a woman” in America and developing my leadership style in a corporate world that was built by and for men. Having a coach who is solely yours and yours alone, who is also not biased as a spouse or friend might be. It’s easier to be your vulnerable, authentic self and express your dreams, hopes, and goals. This isn’t necessarily a cheap choice, but if you think about how much a graduate degree costs, executive coaching over six months can make a big difference and be an important investment in yourself.
Know that there’s never a good time for a change or for taking a big risk. You’re always going to have a life thing going on. Just go for it and then figure out how best to integrate it into your life. There’s nothing an Excel spreadsheet plan can’t solve in my book (ok maybe a few things).
Some of the best advice I ever received was to only take advice from people who are world-class in the domain of what they’re giving you advice on and in coaching other people in that area. If they aren’t, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider their feedback, but be very careful about absorbing advice or feedback from someone who doesn’t have the right intentions. As you rise, there are going to be doubters, haters, and people who may feel threatened by your success or uncomfortable with a different style. Thank them, approach them with empathy, and move on. No comment thread is free of the haters.
- Connect with her on LinkedIn
- Follow her on Twitter @MorganBeschle