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Anna-Mi Widman

With the demand for tech professionals at an all-time high and the recent pandemic creating a demand in remote or hybrid work opportunities, Product Director at Chicago-based Built In and BSc in Business & Economics and MSc in Economics alum Anna-Mi Widman knows her company is well-positioned. She helps millions of tech professionals learn, grow, and discover companies so they can advance their careers.

Describe your role and what it is that you do overall and on a day-to-day basis.

I’m a Product Director at Built In, a Chicago based tech startup with 200 employees. I lead product strategy, roadmap development and product delivery for the B2C side of our platform, which is directed towards tech professionals. My day-to-day consists of working with cross-functional teams of designers, software engineers, data scientists and QA to deliver value to our business and our users through new product features on web and mobile. I engage in both long-term strategic planning with our C-suite as well as medium to short-term tactical work and execution against annual KRs. We follow agile and scrum frameworks and state of the art product development processes with continuous discovery and data driven prioritization.    


What interested you about the field/company/role you are currently in? What does Built In do?

Built In helps millions of tech professionals learn, grow, and discover companies so they can advance their careers. We offer employer branding focused content and jobs from thousands of tech companies across the U.S. with unique insight into company culture, benefits, and DEI. When I moved to Chicago from Stockholm, I used Built In to find my first Chicago-based job. I love working on a product that I’ve used myself, because it’s easier to relate to the user personas I’m building for. I started at Built In as a Product Manager 3 years ago and I recently got promoted to Product Director. I’ve had the opportunity to lead several key initiatives such as launching remote jobs on our platform at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, taking our U.S. nationwide platform to market last year and most recently a beta rollout of a new Edtech product.


What is most exciting about your work at the moment? Where do you think your role/field is going in the next 5-10 years?

First, the demand for tech professionals is at an all-time high and the talent shortage is going to continue to grow. Even companies that are not tech companies need to invest in technology, whether through websites, apps, algorithms, or data infrastructure, either through an in-house team or outsourced. Second, Covid-19 brought a dramatic shift in remote work preferences so companies now have to adapt to talent being fully remote or wanting a hybrid model. These two macro trends leave employers in a position where it’s harder than ever to fill technical roles, and it really is a candidate’s market. It’s exciting to see these macro trends evolve in real time in our user data and think about what opportunities may arise in terms of new product features to solve problems for our users.    

Product Management is a growing field that requires a multi facetted skillset, because you work across multiple disciplines and need to be both creative, analytical, structured, flexible, and be able to lead through influence. In the coming years, knowledge within data and analytics is going to become even more essential, as Machine Learning applications within products become more mainstream.    


What has it been like to work in Chicago/the US? What are the differences of working abroad versus in Sweden, if any?

Tech companies in Sweden and the U.S. work in a very similar way. The same software programs and processes are used, even the culture is similar. Although the scale of startups in the U.S. tend to be larger in terms of company size, funding, and growth rate. The Product Management experience I had from Stockholm was completely transferrable to my job in Chicago.

When job searching, I found that in the U.S. you have to pitch yourself to employers in a much more confident way. You have to know what is unique about you and why you are the best fit for the job you’re applying to. For me, every interview became a learning opportunity to practice my pitch and to understand what made me stand out from other candidates.


As a woman working in tech, what would you say to young girls to encourage them to pursue a career in technology? What would more women in the field bring to the tech sector?

My advice is to find a network of women in tech that you can socialize with and learn from. When I moved to Chicago, I joined the Women in Product community here and went to events to learn and network. I met women there who held product leadership positions at companies like Venmo, Glassdoor, Google and many successful Chicago startups. It was very inspiring. I found many interesting role models there, and they all had unique backgrounds and experiences. This made me more confident in my career choice and helped me find the right path. Now I’m fortunate to work at a company where more than 50% of leadership is female, including our CEO. If women had a higher representation in tech, it would lead to less bias in the product development process which could impact the way products are designed and ultimately how we use them.


How did your time/education at SSE help guide you to the career journey you have embarked on?

My degree from SSE has been a solid foundation for a career in product management. Especially, an understanding of statistics and data modelling as well as broader business strategy and marketing knowledge. Before my time at SSE, I embarked on a career as a professional ballerina with The English National Ballet in London. In my mid-20s I decided to do a career pivot, and that’s when I applied to SSE. I had no idea what career I wanted to pursue next, but SSE gave me a lot of opportunities to explore different paths. Aside from the regular curriculum, I was engaged in the Student Association as a founder of the Art Division to bring my passion for the arts into the educational environment. I also participated in a partnership program with Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship where I drove an interdisciplinary art research project. I did my MSc in Economics and a dual degree with Sciences Po where I got to spend a year in Paris. During my last semester at SSE, I worked as a research assistant at IFN where I wrote my master thesis. There, they did a lot of research about technology-driven economic growth and startups. I became interested in the tech sector and I felt that I wanted to be a part of the evolution, not just study it. So, I networked and got an interview with a startup in Stockholm where I worked with some amazing people and started learning about Product Management.


Following your time studying, do you have any words of wisdom or advice you would like to share with our current/prospective students?

Follow your passion and do what is interesting to you. A career is not linear, you start in one place and you may end up somewhere completely different. Don’t be afraid to go against the mainstream in the search for what truly motivates you and brings you energy in your professional life. A degree from SSE is a foundation for the rest of your career - for me it gave me the confidence to explore a career within tech and to excell in a leadership role in the U.S. market just a few years after my graduation.


What are three words that sum up your time at SSE?

Curiosity, Data, Confidence.