August 2022 | Q&A Spotlight

Ready for a product career with real impact?

Members of West Monroe's product team could work at any tech company. Here's why their heads aren't turning to look at new opportunities.

Ready for a product career with real impact?

If you could increase your impact on the world with the skill set you have today, how would you do it? 

It’s an easy question for many employees on the product team at West Monroe to answer — getting to work on big projects in industries that touch the everyday lives of a lot of people.  

Their job at West Monroe allows them to do that. The digital services firm helps companies — like major players in health care, financial services, utilities and more — upgrade their technology in modern and innovative ways, yielding better business outcomes and smoother customer end-user experiences. According to Mark Hines, a partner and product leader at the company, that makes West Monroe an especially compelling place to grow a career in product. 

“People come to West Monroe because of the impact we can make,” he said. “If you got a similar job at a bigger company, you’re going to be pretty relegated to a small part of their tech team. We work on some of the most important initiatives that our clients have and can have more influence than a lot of their employees.”

That’s a big statement, but it’s not one that’s unfounded. The scale of the projects West Monroe takes on is enough to give talent significant opportunities to stretch their skills and make tangible change for not just their clients but the important industries that they serve. 

Take Diana Flotten, Director in the Product Experience and Engineering Lab, who is currently working with a large regional healthcare company. Her team is building an online scheduling system that helps patients better understand their care options and receive personalized recommendations. Or Director of Product Kevin Dunning, who’s working with an $80 billion commercial bank to modernize how its customers procure and manage banking services in a more self-serve, human-centered way. 

"It’s exciting work, but these projects aren’t tantalizing one-off opportunities in a sea of dull product releases," Hines said.

A real focus of ours is working with companies that matter to humans. When we do our jobs well, people get better faster or stay well longer. People have more money, security and flexibility in their lives. ”

And while the drive to do good work might begin in a brainstorm, the team said the influence they feel at West Monroe goes beyond the proverbial office walls. Companywide gatherings, frequent recognition, and impactful employee initiatives and resource groups keep talent in touch with the technical and human impact they’re capable of. 

“Here, you come to do the work you love, but you stay for the culture,” Hines said. “We believe in the idea that this company will help you become exactly who you want to be.” Built In connected with Hines, Flotten and Dunning, who walked us through exactly why they’ve chosen to build their product careers at West Monroe — and why they’re in it for the long haul.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

Director, Product Experience and Engineering Lab, Diana Flotten: It’s really rewarding to see my work out in the world and watching the uptick in usage lets me know that patients and our end users are actually using what we’ve built and finding it valuable. There’s also the value your work brings to clients’ businesses because digitization saves the healthcare system money. For example, the more we can improve online scheduling, the less our clients have to invest in call centers. The margins in health care are razor thin, and Covid-19 has created huge issues. It’s rewarding to know that our work has a real business value, along with improving the consumer’s experience.

Tell us a bit about the tech your team uses

Director of Product Kevin Dunning: At the end of the day, we all want to make an impact. There are so many new technologies available right now that we can use to solve problems and bring great experiences to our customers. That also means we’re constantly able to learn new things. In the last year and a half alone, I’ve interacted with artificial intelligence, machine learning and other new capabilities that, five or 10 years ago, weren’t even up for discussion on most teams. Being a product person at West Monroe is really fun and allows you to understand what’s going on in the world. At West Monroe, you get to see so much technology in a short period of time.

Partner, Product Experience and Engineering Lab, Mark Hines: We work with literally everything from a tech and tool perspective. We have a team of more than 300 engineers, so if you ask if West Monroe works with a particular language or tool, the answer will probably be yes. Ultimately, our job is to make sure we know the relevant technologies in our clients’ space but to also know what’s coming next and translate why it matters to our clients. We are always thinking about how to deliver value to our end users, and we’ll continue to find ways that are scalable and secure. We leave no stone unturned in that pursuit.

If you specialize in a technology and only focus on that tech, your career in product is going to be about a year-and-a-half long. That’s how fast things change. The defining characteristic of our team is their adaptability, and the speed in which they learn. If you’re not able to adapt, what you’re great at doing today will be obsolete tomorrow. 

What role does recognition play at West Monroe? How does this help employees understand their impact?

Hines: The research is pretty clear that psychological safety is one of the key attributes of a high-performing team. Creating that psychological safety is not all about recognition, but it’s an important component of understanding each other’s strengths, and what each person brings to the table. When a team supports each other and publicly addresses the value of each member, everyone performs better. And it’s more fun to work in that kind of environment. 

Flotten: We have a lot of different forums for recognition. One is, during our quarterly meetings, anyone can nominate another employee for recognition. They get to present at the meeting who they want to highlight, and it can be for a variety of reasons — anything that aligns with our values. 

We also have a fun recognition platform we use called Shout Out, where people can recognize others and earn points. You can actually redeem your points for merchandise, but I think it’s more fun to read what people write about each other. There’s no hierarchy to it, and it calls attention to the things people do on a daily basis that others might not see. Even though Shout Out is peer to peer, others can go in and comment. People really appreciate when a leader adds comments to a recognition because that top-down piece also matters.

Dunning: We certainly have top-down recognition that’s sponsored by leadership, but our grassroots recognition is a part of our culture. That fosters more of a team approach in everything that we do. We often get mixed around on different teams and having that culture of recognition really fosters that team-first mentality that we have.  

Our employees are so talented they can work almost anywhere, so they’re not going to work somewhere where they don’t think their work is valuable and meaningful. We need to make sure that our teams understand the impact of their work — and they demand to work on impactful projects that fulfill their personal and career objectives. 

What kind of impact does West Monroe allow you to have outside of your work?

Hines: Every year, a handful of people at West Monroe are selected to participate in our Fisher Fellowship program, named after one of our founder’s Dean Fisher. They’re fully funded to take off work to go do something good in the world and travel across the globe for three to six months in a service trip. For example, someone might choose to go somewhere in South America to help stand up a micro economy in a village, or travel to Greece to support the refugee crisis. For those who take part in the fellowship, they’re also responsible to come back and tell their story about the work they’ve done and what the impact was. Everyone I’ve talked to that has been involved in the fellowship says it’s been the experience of a lifetime. 

Flotten: We also have many employee resource groups (ERGs) that we can get involved in, either as a volunteer or in a leadership role. I’m a leader in our Women’s Leadership Network ERG, but we also have groups like the Black Employee Network, and groups for LGBTQ+, Asian and veteran employees. 

We also have what we call the Chiefs Program, which is a grassroots program created to help foster a culture specific to the interests of West Monroe employees. We have a Chief Hot Sauce Officer, Chiefs that organize for charities, Coffee Chiefs offering cold brew tastings, Chief Dog Officers planning events for our pets, and more. Basically, if you have a passion, you can start a group and share that passion with colleagues. For example, I was a Charity Chief last year, which means I helped organize community events like an HIV walk and a virtual human-centered design training with an organization that teaches teens job skills. Today, we have more than 130 Chiefs programs and West Monroe budgets more than $1 million a year for this program to happen.

We also hold a Day of Service, where everyone gets the same day to participate in volunteer activities within our local communities. We offer so many choices, so you can pick something you’re interested in, from food services to construction to helping the environment to consulting pro bono projects. 

Read the article as it appeared on Built In.

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