From Product Manager to Co-founder: Reflections from a Graduate of the First Quantic MBA Class

The following post is by Lindsey Allard (MBA 2016), Co-founder of PlaybookUX, a video-based user feedback solution for B2B companies. 

It was 2015, and I had recently graduated from Dartmouth College with a liberal arts degree. I was looking for a way to gain general business knowledge while working as a product manager, and I came across the Quantic School of Business and Technology MBA. During my time in the program, I loved the courses because I was able to learn useful concepts in a short, quiz-like format that fit with my full-time work schedule. I didn’t have to stare at endless textbook passages. Everything was on my smartphone, and I could constantly test myself to ensure the content was committed to memory.

After my Quantic graduation in 2016, I worked as a product manager at a new company. I was leading a team of developers building SaaS products and mobile apps. Product managers are like “mini CEOs”. You need to know a little about a lot of things, and Quantic helped expand my areas of expertise during this point in my career.

After a few years of working at different start-ups, I decided to take the leap and co-found my user research company PlaybookUX with another Quantic alum, Kristen. User research is the process of getting feedback on things like product usability, pricing model, marketing copy, and concepts. By getting direct feedback from your target demographic, you are able to make better product and business decisions. However, as I know from my time as a product manager, the process of conducting user research has big challenges, like being extremely time-consuming and requiring a lot of manual work. And I didn’t see solutions out there that successfully addressed all the problems.

When developing PlaybookUX we sought to solve three main pain points:

      • It’s time-consuming
      • It’s expensive
      • Finding the right participants is challenging for B2B companies

Here’s how we solve these pain points with PlaybookUX:

      • Our product solicits video-based feedback, so that product owners can remotely conduct research, and then easily store and reference video records, ultimately saving them lots of time.
      • Again on the saving-time front, we do everything from recruiting the right participants, to incentivizing them, transcribing the sessions, and analyzing the videos with A.I. to extract actionable insights.
      • We have an affordable, pay-for-what-you-use pricing model so that customers don’t need to commit to large subscription fees up-front. This expands access to UX research to start-ups, founders, and small business owners. Previously, they were priced out.
      • Our testing participants are verified through LinkedIn so businesses know exactly who they’re speaking to.

During the process of launching my company, I leaned on Quantic lessons. Financial topics were always difficult to wrap my head around, and I was able to successfully price our product and build our business model with that in mind.

On top of the valuable knowledge gained from Quantic, I’ve been able to leverage the student network to get in touch with like-minded product managers. The network is a strong supplement to my undergraduate network.

At PlaybookUX our goal is to make user testing accessible to everyone. At the time of this post, we’ve been launching for a few months. It’s been a great few months—with hundreds of clients using our platform. We’ve had success with UX Researchers and Designers, but our goal is to make research easy for Product Managers. In the future, I plan to lean on the Quantic network for advice on growth hacking to take PlaybookUX to the next level.

Quantic Student Spotlight: Amy Dalton

Quantic students are often initially attracted to the program for its flexibility and affordability, but there’s something deeper at play that draws people in — particularly those of a certain mindset. To truly be successful in the program one must be highly self-motivated, disciplined, and passionate about learning new skills. Amy Dalton, a Quantic Executive MBA student and Senior UX Designer at GE Aviation, has these traits in spades. Like many Quantic students and alumni, Amy’s resume credentials are impressive, yet they don’t convey the full scope of the accomplishments she’s had outside of her “standard” job description.

As a UX designer, Dalton has built her career in a male-dominated field and has placed an emphasis on attracting and empowering other women and girls to enter this line of work. Though she’s been met with obstacles in her own career, she has never stopped advocating for herself and others. From public speaking engagements, mentorship, charity work, and founding an award-winning program for GE Women, Dalton’s drive to improve her career prospects and those of others is something worth acknowledging. 

Dalton is from Toledo, Ohio and studied journalism at Ohio University. However, she was more interested in graphic design and after graduating, decided to pursue user experience (UX), eventually leading to her current position with GE. While her inevitable trajectory doesn’t directly apply to the degree she earned, Dalton said that her background in journalism has been incredibly valuable in her career because “communication and the ability to write well is such an important part of any job you have,” and it allows you to come up with ideas and communicate them clearly and succinctly.

This knack for communication is evident in her multiple public speaking engagements. Dalton was a guest speaker at the 2019 GE Women In Science & Engineering Symposium, the keynote speaker at Early Career Women Collective’s Co-Create Live 2019, and a guest speaker at New Orleans’ FrontEndParty. These experiences not only reaffirm Dalton’s ability to command the attention of a room, they are a testament to the value that her words and actions bring to others. In short — her words of wisdom are in high demand. 

Further proving her leadership abilities, Dalton was the recipient of the 2018 GE Women’s Network Empower and Inspire Award, which recognizes women across the 280,000 person company for outstanding work and engagement that supports the Women’s Network (WN). As a Co-Lead for the WN, Dalton is committed to supporting women in STEM fields. 

“I have a passion for bringing more women and girls into technology because it’s always been a struggle to achieve gender parity in the field,” said Dalton. “I’ve been in it my entire career and there are relatively few women in the field — and for those who are in it, there are a unique set of challenges we face everyday.”

Dalton said that getting more women into STEM fields starts early, “it’s about exposure at a young age to spark their interest in it.” This is why she helped start GE Girls Camp, a week-long free STEM camp for 12-14 year-old girls. During the camp, girls learn to code, are introduced to robotics, and can even learn about cybersecurity and other in-demand sectors of the industry. The importance of early involvement serves as a pathway for young women to envision a career that they may not have otherwise pursued. 

Dalton isn’t just working on opening doors for young minds, she also started a program aimed at empowering women in the GE Women’s Network called Bragging Rights. Dalton initially had the idea to start the program after meeting a few of the GE interns. Even though they were just out of high school, they had accomplished amazing things and few people in the company knew much about them. This experience mirrored another observation Dalton had had — too few women spoke up about their accomplishments in the workplace. This had implications for career progression too, as she learned that women are often less likely to seek acknowledgement for their work than men. In fact, men are four times more likely to ask for a raise than women. Bragging Rights became a forum to enable and encourage women to openly and proudly share their accomplishments and challenges in life and in their career. These stories have become powerful sources of validation for those sharing them and inspiration for others involved in the program. Bragging Rights, which started at Dalton’s hub in New Orleans, took off and is now available at nine locations and still expanding. Dalton describes the program as “inexpensive but so effective” in its ability to provide women with the opportunity to grow their confidence and learn about each other.

“I think a lot of times women feel isolated and don’t have the natural tendency to put themselves out there as much,” said Dalton. “If we as women band together and understand each other’s skill sets, then we can help each other get promoted and put each other out there. We’re more likely to give kudos and talk about the person sitting next to us, than talk about ourselves. We’re more likely to lift that person up than lift ourselves up.”

Dalton is a natural leader. Prior to working at GE, she spent six years working at Ochsner Health System, where she held a management position for three years. While in this role, Dalton received the highest “employee engagement” score, a figure determined by how her direct reports rated her as a manager. Dalton received a score 20 points higher than the next highest score.

The key to Dalton’s successful management style? A more personal approach. She wanted to learn about the people she managed as much as possible, identifying their strengths and weaknesses. “If you spend enough time getting to know people and listening, really listening, you’re going to understand them enough to guide them,” said Dalton. “I focus so much attention on helping them be better at their jobs.”

This ability to listen, empathize, and understand others is perhaps one reason why Dalton is such a talented UX designer.  “When you understand things from the user perspective and you put importance on that, that’s when your product is going to be successful,” said Dalton. “When I’ve had an awesome product owner, it’s because they put the person first and understood the value of UX.”

In her senior leadership role, Dalton emphasized the need for executives to have, at a minimum, a basic understanding of UX and design. In our digitally-driven world, having the ability to view and build online experiences from the perspective of the customer is essential. Being well-versed across disciplines is one reason Dalton decided to pursue an Executive MBA with Quantic School of Business and Technology. By adding business acumen to her technical expertise, Dalton is positioning herself to take on bigger roles and broaden her invaluable influence on her organization — and if past experiences are any indication, she’s more than ready to take on whatever is next.

A flexible course schedule is something that initially attracted Dalton to Quantic as it allows her to spend more time with her two children.