Laura Kassapakis is a Product Manager – Workflows at Front and co-founder of Women of Customer Success is a global community helping women to break into, and succeed in tech.
To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
After graduating uni with a Communications degree, I worked a short stint in magazines before taking the plunge and moving from Sydney to London. As a grad with minimal work experience and a tempwork visa, you can imagine I wasn’t the most appealing candidate!
I landed a Sales & Marketing Associate job at an app development agency which is where I learnt about the industry and how digital products are built. It was here that I fell into tech as Part of my role was managing & re-building our website with our engineers and designers. That was my first real taste of Product Management and I loved it. I quickly decided to pivot my career and haven’t looked back since.
Since then I’ve worked on a number of mobile & web products across B2B and B2C, at larger enterprises as well as smaller startups. I highly recommend this varied exposure to any PM, firstly so that you’re not pigeon-holed, and secondly because you can sharpen your ability to ramp up quickly on a new industry/topic/customer problem which is a crucial skill to have in the job.
I’m currently a PM at Front: a customer communication platform helping teams to resolve high stake, high volume inbound conversations. My team is responsible for our Workflows product which helps customers to automate repetitive tasks by setting up business rules.
I’m also co-founder of Women of Customer Success: a global community helping women to break into and succeed in tech through Customer Success roles. I’m really passionate about helping to create pathways for more women to break into the industry, particularly those who didn’t start off with a technical background, like me.
What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
My core team is based in Paris who are an hour ahead and I visit them once a month. I also work with teams in San Fransisco which means that I wake up to Slacks, emails, requests etc. I like prep the night before by checking my diary and noting 3 non-negotiables that I need to get done for the following day. The below is a typical day working remote in London.
6/6:30am: I wake up and before checking my phone I try to think about 1 thing I am grateful for (it sounds cheesy but it puts me in the right headspace!). I then start my day with a workout or a morning walk before breakfast.
9:00am: Daily stand up with my eng & design team to review their work in flight, flag any blockers or note any new findings that might impact our current or future work.
9:30am: Check slack & work emails in Front (we dog-food our own product). Respond to “quick win” items & snooze tasks that aren’t immediate.
10:30am-11:30am: Drafting a new product spec for a set of features that we’re planning to build. Thinking through how we will test these in Beta.
11:30am-12 noon: Check Slacks and emails again. I really try to stay present in meetings and have dedicated time for this.
12 noon – 1pm: Lunch. I’m thankful to my French colleagues who have taught me to honour a true break at lunch. When I’m in Paris, we all eat lunch in the kitchen together. When I’m at home, I cook for myself and take a walk. It’s the best reset. I’m not productive when I eat at my desk.
1:30pm-2:30pm: Join a sales demo, onboarding call, or speak to a customer. As a PM, it’s important to spend a good portion of time speaking to customers and understanding their needs which helps to inform your roadmap.
2:30pm-4:30pm: Focus time before the West Coast teams are online. This could mean research, reviewing some designs async or thinking through new product ideas.
4:30pm-5:30pm: Company All Hands helps me to stay in sync with others
5:30pm-6pm: Product team weekly keeps me up to date with what other PMs are working on
6:30/7pm: Depending on the day, I may wrap up early or have calls with the US. I finish my day by noting non-negotiables & quick wins for tomorrow. Lately I’ve also been working a lot of Women of Customer Success as we’re launching a new website and events calendar very soon! Stay tuned!
I don’t meditate but instead practice mindful cooking to wind down after all of that. It’s my way to switch off from screen time.
What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
To me, having a work-life balance comes down to understanding your preferred working style and your personal needs, and then setting boundaries around the two so that neither are compromised.
I work best knowing that I have flexibility in anything I do. For example I make a point of starting later if I know I’ll be on evening calls or take longer breaks in the day so that my exercise, healthy eating and social life aren’t impacted. If I can’t see friends because I need to work late, I’ll catch them for a morning workout class instead – that type of thing. I also never set meetings on Fridays if I can help it.
As an expat, I need the flexibility to work from Aus so that I can see family and friends often without taking all of my holiday to go home.
I also love to travel and take regular holidays with friends and family throughout the year for my physical and mental health. But I also need “alone time” to decompress which I’ve learnt to not negotiate on.
In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Writing down my to-do list the night before has really helped me start my day with a clear head. I’ve also learnt the art of saying “no” to work that is low impact. That took some re-wiring and it wasn’t easy! I’ve also blocked out more time for exercise and to be creative.
Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
- Mindset by Carol Dweck
- Radical Candor by Kim Scott
- Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products by Nir Eyal
- For PMs: Lenny’s Podcast, How I Built This by Guy Raz, TechCrunch Daily Crunch, UI Breakfast
- For everyone: Sliding Doors (about people’s sliding doors moments in their lives – such a treat!), WorkLife with Adam Grant, Doing It Right with Pandora Sykes, Armchair Expert with Dax Sheperd (the Erin Meyer episode is particularly great for anyone needing to navigate cultural differences within teams)
- YouTube: it’s a gold mine for so many topics! If you’re interested in becoming a PM, check out the mock interview videos from Exponent.
If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I’d read any interview by a multi-hyphenate (a person who runs multiple projects and businesses at the same time). I’ve always loved to work on multiple things at the one time so am always really interested in how these people find success and juggle work/life.
Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
One big learning for me in the last year has been to think deeply about what/who gives me energy and serves me, and what/who doesn’t, and learning to part ways with the latter, and being OK with that.
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