We the People - Katherine Degnen
Happy Friday, everyone! Dev's message of gratitude, encouragement and solidarity from last week has sparked a retrospective spell for me, personally. And while I could see the signs of being affected by these challenging times, I also wanted to do something that would help me, and anyone else, get through this together. I've been with Fidel for a little over four months now, and I realised I haven't actually met any of my coworkers in person, yet. In any other time, I would have bought coffee for a bunch of them by now, trying to get to know them better.
I've come up with a way to get to know the people at Fidel remotely though, and I thought everyone could join me on this discovery journey. I'm going to ask one of my coworkers a set of seven questions each week, and you'll get to read what they've had to say. I'm starting this interview series with Katherine, our VP of Product because she's probably the person I interact with the most. There’s the extra added bonus that we both started at Fidel around the same time.
Without further ado, let's kick off this series, which I'm cheekily titling "We the People of Fidel".
A: Tell me a bit about yourself.
Hi! My name is Katherine Degnen, and I’m VP of Product at Fidel. I really like working with people from various backgrounds to solve tough problems, but that’s just my day job. At night and on the weekends, I spend my time either exploring the outdoors or honing whichever hobby I’ve recently decided to pursue. I joined the bread baking revolution of Lockdown 2020 along with the rest of the world - currently exploring knitting. As for my career, I started in finance, moved into strategy at a startup, and eventually found my way into product development, where I’ve been ever since. I find that product combines many of my interests - bringing teams together, thinking about user problems, and using data to help frame decisions. |
A: Why did you join Fidel?
Katherine: The business’s future is strong, and it was a great career move for me, but that actually isn’t what truly tipped the scales when I was deciding if I should join Fidel. When I was interviewing with Fidel, they had me do a set of group interviews with the tech team. While normally I would hear “group interviews” and see an interview invite with ten people on it and run the other way, I actually really appreciated that the team cared enough to spend the time making sure they got the hire right. During those interviews, I saw a team that laughed together, worked together, and cared about each other and knew it was where I wanted to be.
A: How does a typical day look like for you?
Katherine: The thing I enjoy most about being in Product is the variability of the day-to-day. To be honest, I spend a lot of my time in meetings, but that comes with the role. However, each day brings a slightly different schedule. I start Mondays with a few 1:1s to frame the week and its priorities. I try to outline what I would personally like to accomplish that week. Tuesdays are filled with thinking time, where I can take a step back and plan / brainstorm / look more broadly at the challenges facing me, the company and the team. All thanks to our No-Meeting-Tuesdays rule!. Wednesdays and Thursdays are a balance of 1:1s with the team and sprint events. Fridays are spent with community meetings. Sprinkle in some client calls / user interviews, brainstorming time with the sales and customer teams, and also some breaks for coffee with colleagues, and you’ve got a good recap of my week.
A: What are some of the most interesting challenges you’re solving?
Katherine: Right now, we’re trying to build and scale a product that will help our clients get access to a library of offer content that they can use for their programs. The usual model for this is a publisher goes and forms a relationship with a brand, and then are able to give an offer to their user base. It takes a lot of time and relationship-building, which can be hard for some of our clients to handle right off the bat. To solve this, we’re trying to build something seamless and scalable to remove how labour intensive this can be for them. We want to make this really easy for our clients while staying true to what we do best - helping them build applications on top of payment data.
A: What is your favourite thing about working at Fidel?
Katherine: I know the term “every day is a school day” is a bit cliche, but I’m going to use it anyway. From adjusting to working in a B2B setting (my product background is in consumer) to learning the payments ecosystem (I last worked at a wedding startup) to understanding how to win at our virtual games every Thursday (they get competitive!), I really am learning something each day I spend at Fidel. Each one of my colleagues brings a unique perspective and experience to the table, and they all are happy to take the time to explain things and share their knowledge. Curiosity is a theme amongst the Fidel team, and we’ve been able to create an environment that nurtures this common value.
A: How do you keep up with current trends and advances in software development?
Katherine: Lots and lots of email newsletters. I read Fintech industry news like the newsletters from Fintech Collective and A16Z to help me deepen my knowledge of the industry and its trends. For general strategic thinking, I find Scott Galloway’s No Mercy / No Malice and Ben Thompson’s Stratechery help me think about different strategic frameworks for solving problems. Lastly, I look to First Round’s and Tim Herbig’s newsletters for thought pieces on Product, management, and a variety of other topics. Newsletter formats help me use my inbox to quickly triage what I have time to ingest in the moment and also make sure I have visibility into the things I want to tackle at a later time.
A: Any tips for people that want to join you at Fidel?
Katherine: If you don’t come from the payments industry, don’t be deterred from applying. While the industry itself is pretty complex, we have a lot of resources to help you learn. Instead, focus on what you can bring to Fidel that we might need. What from your past experience could help us fill a gap that we might have or complete a project that we’ve been struggling with? That being said, definitely try to learn some of the basics so you can understand what we do and what we’re trying to accomplish. We look for people who are excited about what we’re trying to build, and it will be hard to show us that you’re excited if you’re unsure of what Fidel does!