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April 18, 2023 · 27 min read

Season 3, Ep. 23 – Scaling a white label product, with Jody Soldo, Director of Business Operations at Highnote

When Jody Soldo joined the product team at Highnote, she was employee #13. Fast forward a couple of years, and company has grown to over 100 employees, while Jody has become the Director of Business Operations. This week, Faith talks to her about her career journey, the growth of the company, and how white label financial products can do more than just provide a credit card number.

https://highnote.com/

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(FRONTIER THEME PLAYS AND FADES OUT)

Faith (00:05):

Hi, Jody. How’s it going?

Jody (00:07):

Pretty good. How are you?

Faith (00:08):

It’s going well. Usual. Knocking off the cobwebs after a weekend. <Laugh>.

Jody (00:14):

I know. <Laugh>. I know. I had to wake up really early this morning, and I was like, “Oh gosh. Like, it’s a Monday, and it’s early.” Like, I hope my brain is like, working. All the nerve endings were not connecting, but I’m getting there, so…

Faith (00:29):

No guarantees. Usually, it takes me a couple days, but this weekend, my boyfriend was traveling, and every time I have the house to myself, I’m like, “What major projects can I undertake this weekend?” <Laugh>.

Jody (00:42):

Yeah, me too! My husband was traveling, and so I was doing the same thing. I was like…and also because I can just make all the decisions <laugh>.

Faith (00:50):

One hundred percent. I like, just bulldozed through things, and then when it’s done, I’m like, “That doesn’t look great, but it’s done,” you know? (Jody: Yes. Yes.) And he’s the opposite. So I (Jody: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) dug up like, a huge part of our lawn, and laid a brick path, and planted like, five dozen plants, and I feel like my soul left my body. Like, my body is just screaming right now. I really, I don’t know what I need to do, but it is…

Jody (01:16):

Yeah, but you stand out there, and you look at ’em, and you’re like, “Oh, this is just beautiful. This is just…job well done.”

Faith (01:21):

It’s so worth it.

Jody (01:21):

Yeah.

Faith (01:23):

Well, with plants, you know, like, at first it’s kind of ugly. (Jody: Yeah.) It’s like, there’s like, a little sprout just like popping out, but I’m like, “Just stick with it. Give it a few months. It’ll be beautiful.”

Jody (01:32):

It’ll get there. Yeah.

Faith (01:35):

So you’re based in Chicago, is that right?

Jody (01:36):

Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. (Faith: Awesome.) Yeah. Where are you?

Faith (01:38):

I’m in Nashville.

Jody (01:40):

Oh, okay. Okay.

Faith (01:42):

A little bit south. But are you guys having warm weather yet?

Jody (01:45):

Ish. It like, goes up and down. So there, I think Friday it was like, 67 and humid, (Faith: <Laugh>.) and then the next day it was like, in the thirties. So…

Faith (01:57):

Oh my gosh.

Jody (01:58):

Yeah, it looks like 57 now, so it’s pretty nice.

Faith (02:02):

Not bad. (Jody: Yeah.) It’s about where we are, too. I grew up in Buffalo, so I’m very used to those like, major swings <laugh>.

Jody (02:07):

Yes.

Faith (02:08):

That lake effect.

Jody (02:09):

That’s exactly right. Yeah.

Faith (02:11):

Jody, I’m so excited to have you on the Frontier. One of my just like, big passions in life is like, talking to people about career arcs and kind of how they found themselves in their current position. And I think, especially internally at a company, it’s really interesting to dig into that journey. A lot of folks who are listeners of this podcast, or they read our newsletter, bop around and wear different hats just within the general, like, “I work in tech” umbrella. (Jody: Yeah. Yeah.) You know? So I think this’ll be really fun. We’ve got Jody, is it Soldo? (Jody: Yeah!) Oh my god, I got it right on the first time!

Jody (02:50):

You did! You did.

Faith (02:52):

Jody Soldo, she’s the director of business operations at Highnote, and I’m super excited to hear more about Highnote, but essentially what I have in my notes is it offers products and services for white label credit cards, and then a slew of other embedded finance services, which I’m excited to talk to you about. So, Jody’s in Chicago, true Midwesterner, I see you went to the <emphasis> Ohio State University.

Jody (03:19):

I did.

Faith (03:20):

And you have a master’s in special education, which we need to talk about, ‘cause I have a master’s in education. (Jody: Wow. Yeah.) Not special education, but funny how…yeah. I feel like we always find each other, us educators in tech.

Jody (03:34):

I know. I know.

Faith (03:35):

And you and your husband foster dogs, and I hear you have a litter of puppies right now and their mom.

Jody (03:41):

We do, yeah. I woke up this morning at 5:30 to crying puppies that needed to be fed, so…

Faith (03:48):

Oh my god.

Jody (03:49):

Yeah. It’s been an early morning. But it was really easy in the beginning when the mom was doing all the work, and we were just taking care of her, and now it’s, we’re seven weeks in, so…

Faith (03:59):

Oh my gosh. So how old were the puppies when you first got them?

Jody (04:03):

Two days. (Faith: <Gasp>.) Yep. We went and picked up the mom and the puppies from an owner who wanted to surrender them, just couldn’t take care of them. (Faith: Oh my gosh.) We had never fostered puppies before. We fostered like, more adult dogs, and I don’t think that we knew what we were getting ourselves into, but we covered a room in our house with a bunch of plastic. It looks like we were gonna kill somebody. (Faith: <Laugh> Oh my god.) And we put up a pen, and they’ve been there ever since. So it’s been really fun to watch them grow up, too.

Faith (04:35):

Oh my…yeah. Putting that mechanical engineering degree to work.

Jody (04:40):

Mm-hmm <affirmative>. Mm-hmm <affirmative>.

Faith (04:40):

It has always been my dream to foster puppies. I think it’s just like, you know, when you’re a kid, if you’re an animal-loving kid, there’s like, no bigger dream (Jody: Yeah.) than having a litter of puppies in your house. But I’m glad I’m talking to you today, so you can talk me out of it <laugh>.

Jody (04:57):

It’s a lot of work, but I will say that a lot of friends like to come over and I’m like, “Come over! Play with the puppies! It’s wonderful!” (Faith: Yeah.) “I’ll sit and work, and you can just be playing with the puppies, because it wears them out, ‘cause they have a lot of energy.”

Faith (05:14):

I imagine. I’m thankful I have an Australian Shepherd, and he’s the laziest Aussie that’s ever existed.

Jody (05:23):

Perfect.

Faith (05:24):

Everybody else who has Aussies is like, “They’re crazy. Like, I have to run ’em six miles every day,” and my dog is just, he runs in circles around the chicken pen like, every three or four hours, and other than that, he is like, “I’ll just nap. Thanks.”

Jody (05:40):

Yeah. That sounds like the perfect dog.

Faith (05:42):

Yeah, he is pretty perfect. He killed a mole yesterday, so he is getting a raise, I think. So you started at Highnote, you started on the product team, (Jody: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) and you’ve since moved into business ops. (Jody: Yeah.) So let’s talk, and it sounds like you were also in education at one point.

Jody (06:03):

I was.

Faith (06:04):

So maybe like, take us through the beginning. What is your career journey?

Jody (06:08):

I graduated with an engineering degree. I went and became an engineer for a year and I was like, “This is not the life for me.” It was really boring, and people would just like, clock in and clock out, and I was used to being really involved at Ohio State. And so I actually left and joined Teach for America for two years, which is…

Faith (06:29):

Oh, I did TFA too.

Jody (06:31):

Oh, there we go. (Faith: Yeah!) So that’s where I got my education degree. (Faith: Got it.) I taught in D.C., and I loved it. It was just, it was really hard for me to be the person that I wanted to be and like, show up. I’m a big introvert, and so coming every day and being in front of a classroom of students was very draining. So I taught for a couple years, but then I went back into tech started like, through customer service and then made my journey to product management, mostly ‘cause most of my customers were like, the really tough ones. (Faith: Yeah.) And I learned about the product, and so I knew more than the product team about the product, ‘cause I had stress-tested it alongside the customers. So it was really cool to become a product manager, because I was able to take education, and all the things about breaking things down, (Faith: Yeah.) and user experience, and really apply that to the tech stuff. So it felt like it was all supposed to be that way when it happened, but it was definitely a hard transition to go back to tech from like, my whole education world of people and colleagues.

Faith (07:41):

I always tell people it’s very similar, in a way, because, in education and particularly in the environments that we’re placed in as TFA core members, it’s like, generally you’re just placed in like, chaos (Jody: Yup.) and told like, “Make sense of it. I don’t know; somehow make sure that all your kids go home safely at the end of the day.” And, for some, teachers are lucky, where the goal is like, “No, send your kids home knowing something that they didn’t know when they came in the door,” (Jody: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) and then, for some of us, it’s like, “No, really, just like, make sure they go home safe.” (Jody: Yeah.) But the kind of mandate is the same where it’s like, “Here’s your goal, and we don’t really know how to do it, but you can figure it out.” You know? And it’s (Jody: Yeah.) very similar, I think, in tech and in the startup world, so…

Jody (08:30):

Yeah. I’ve never drawn that parallel before, because it’s been so long since I’ve been teaching, but that’s exactly what happened when I came to Highnote. I was the first product manager, you know, I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t know my way around such an early-stage startup, (Faith: Mm <affirmative>.) and so I was trying things every time. I remember when I was a teacher, they used to say, “Ms. Clark,” that’s my maiden name, “Ms. Clark, after every weekend, you come back, and you have like, a new thing that you’re trying and a new idea.” And I was like, “Yep,” and I think that’s actually how I approach some of the startup world. (Faith: Yeah.) I come back and, “Okay. This week we’re gonna try something new.”

Faith (09:12):

<Laugh>. New direction!

Jody (09:14):

New direction. Here we go.

Faith (09:15):

Oh my gosh. Okay, so product management. I feel like you made that seem like it was just like, an easy, like, “Let’s move from CS to product.” It’s actually really hard, and so I imagine we’ve got folks listening who are interested in getting into product, and I’m curious if you’ve got some advice for folks, especially if they’re maybe looking to make an internal transfer from one team onto the product team. What are some first steps they can take that you had success with?

Jody (09:46):

Yeah, I think one of the things I did is I learned the product really deeply and then partnered across with product managers and became a resource for them at some point, that they would come and ask me, “Hey, what do you think we should do here <emphasis>? What’s, you know, what’s your advice here <emphasis>?” And I think the other thing, too, is that like, I just had this deep curiosity. When I was at Braintree, one of the core principles was “ask why”, (Faith Mmm <affirmative>.) and I think that curiosity like, when you have that, and when you’re trying to understand why people are making a decision, why the, you know, why we are implementing some product feature, I think you can represent the customer a lot better. And so I feel like that like, that’s pretty core to what I’ve tried to do throughout my journey in product management, and I think that probably served me pretty well in that transition too.

Faith (10:42):

I’ve heard from other folks that like, being the expert on customers or being the expert on the product can take you really far, (Jody: Yeah.) because everything else is a learned skill. Like, learning how to do project management stuff is like, you know, you can pick it up in a week.

Jody (11:03):

Yeah. There’s a framework for that.

Faith (11:05):

There’s <laugh> a framework for that. We should put that on a t-shirt. Yeah, but, you know, the hard one knowledge of the customer and the product is something that’s not quite as easy to crack. Okay, so you got into product, and then you came over to Highnote as a product manager, and now you are in business operations. So talk to me about that. What did that transition look like?

Jody (11:32):

The transition, I have to say, personally, was pretty hard for me, actually. Mostly because I think that what Highnote as a business was looking for was a product leader at the, you know, we had grown over time, we started to get customers, we were launching customers, and really what we needed was a product leader who could start to do this 5, 10-year roadmap, really high level stuff, and that’s just not me. Like, that is not what I’m good at. I’m a very tactical person. Like, I’m like, okay, what do we need to do now? What should we get done? And so I didn’t have that skill set, but I also like, wasn’t excited about learning that myself. (Faith: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) And so as this came up, my boss had said, “You know, we’re looking for a head of product, and here’s the person that we’re looking for,” in terms of like, what the makeup of it was.

Jody (12:30):

And when I started to look at it, I was like, “Yeah, that’s not me. Like, I don’t actually wanna do that.” And so I did like, more of my own soul searching of like, “Okay, let me make a list of the stuff that I really like to do here, ‘cause I know I’m valued as an employee, but I need to figure out what that means.” (Faith: Mm-hmm <affirmative>). And in doing that, I really got an opportunity to sort of test out business operations, ‘cause business operations is really like, you work on the most important projects that the company needs at any point in time. And I was like, “Yeah, this sounds exactly like what I like to do.” Like, run to trouble, you know, try to find how we can fix it, and then leave it to the team that’s got it, and then go find another problem.

Jody (13:13):

And that’s kind of what I spent my first year doing. So once I started to look at that and try it on, I was like, “Oh, I can do this,” and I actually started to find colleagues that had had that same transition in their career and like, ask them about the job. Like, “What do you think? Like, is this, you know, do you like what you’re doing?” And it started to grow on me, like, okay, yes, this is actually the job for me, and we hired an awesome head of product and I’m so excited to partner with her, ‘cause now we’ve got four hands instead of two (Faith: Yeah.) to be able to do the like, product work that we need to, so…

Faith (13:46):

I’ve never heard business ops described that way, and it is like, so precisely what business ops is, you know, I think we muddy it often, because the nature of the product, the projects can change so vastly, (Jody: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) but you’re working on whatever’s most important in that moment with the intention of then passing it off to the relevant team. And I think at a certain stage of growth, that’s such a critical function that we often overlook and don’t even think of as something that we can hire somebody to manage, because it feels like, “Oh well, you know, if it’s a product problem, let product deal with it,” or “If it’s in operations, let ops deal with it,” or…

Jody (14:32):

The cool part, too, is that I liked problems that weren’t necessarily product problems, or operations problems, or even sales problems. And so I got to sit down and say like, “These are the problems that I wanna be involved in and make that part of my job,” and so I keep that list with me (Faith: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) that I make sure like, okay, I’m continuing to do this stuff. ‘Cause ultimately that makes me excited to come to work, is doing the stuff I know is necessary for the business but it’s also like, super fun. Like, I still work on API docs, I still help, you know, with the stuff on the website. Like, yeah. I just get to do a little bit of everything.

Faith (15:09):

Have you been surprised at all by the things that have been transferable from the product side into the biz op side?

Jody (15:19):

One-hundred percent. Especially, because I still do a lot of work with customers and building products. Like, I still influence that whole process, which is really awesome, because then it’s different to be on the opposite side of now I get to kind of say what we need to do, but I don’t actually have to worry about how the sausage is made. And it’s kinda like being a customer now. It’s very fun to not have to worry about some of those other pieces.

Faith (15:46):

Okay, let’s talk a little bit about Highnote, because, first of all, I love y’all’s website. Whoever did your design, major props to them. But like I said, I understand that the core product is white label credit cards, and then there’s a slew of other financial products and services that are nested underneath. So I’d love to hear like, you know, quick elevator, like, what is it that Highnote does, what value do you provide, and then I’d love to get into like, some use cases.

Jody (16:15):

One thing that’s really interesting, and I didn’t know this before I started Highnote, ‘cause I actually didn’t know about card issuance at all, is that there are a lot of different problems, people use like prepaid debit cards, credit cards, to solve that you wouldn’t think of like, a traditional card. Like, I got my Old Navy card, because I get rewards from it, but there’s actually like, a lot of different ways that people issue cards. For example, in the travel industry, people issue virtual cards as they’re paying for their hotel or your rental car, and they kind of bundle it all at once. Like, your travel agent is using a virtual card, a like, virtual prepaid card. And I had no idea, behind the scenes, that like, these things are solving the types of problems that you would think that payments has already solved. (Faith: Right, yeah.)

Jody (17:06):

So that’s kind of what we’re like, made out to do is to help like, solve those types of problems, but in a way that allows us to be driven by what customers need rather than like, “Here’s our opinion about the way you should do things.” (Faith: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) It’s more around, “Here’s what we’ve got. Let us know what you’re trying to accomplish, and then we can try the, either solution for you ,or we might have,” you know, like you said, “some other tangential product that helps to compliment what we do with cards that actually allows people to innovate around some specific area that they know way more about than us.”

Faith (17:46):

Yeah. Have there been any particular use cases that have been kind of like, more surprising or unique to you over the years of folks using your product?

Jody (17:56):

One I think that was really interesting to me is we have a company called Stretch, and they work primarily with people who have been recently incarcerated. And I guess when you get out of prison, usually get a paper check or sometimes you get a prepaid card, and if you think about like, you’re getting out of prison, you’re in a transitional home, you’re going to a bank, but you don’t have a bank account, you don’t have a home address, you may not even have an ID to be able to verify your identity. (Faith: Mmm <affirmative>.) So Stretch, this whole goal is to be able to help like, enable services to allow for them to be able to get an account, issue a card, they can deposit their check, and so when they start to get a job, they can actually deposit their check into their account, rather than needing to go get a bank account. And it’s just one of those like, very specific things that you think like, really we still issue people paper checks, and we like, this isn’t an easy process that just felt like we were solving for their specific audience.

Faith (18:58):

Mm-hmm <affirmative>. That’s fascinating. I used to work in refugee relocation, and it was a similar problem (Jody: Yeah.) where it’s like, what do we do? It’s a, you know, unbanked population, (Jody: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) which is, you know, massive, obviously outside of the U.S., but we have, you know, tons of populations here in the U.S. who are unbanked, and yeah, it seems like a really interesting solution.

Jody (19:22):

Yeah, and there’s other, there’s more commercial solutions that we have. For instance, we’ve got fleet providers that…in the fleet industry, so when you go and buy gas, if you’re a fleet operator, let’s say you actually can get a specific card that allows you to track the gas, like type of gas, the amount you pay, and what happens behind the scenes is these fleet companies actually do a deal with the major gas teams (Faith: Mmm <affirmative>.) to give discounts on the backend. This is like, outside of Visa and MasterCard, and they do these deals where you can get a discount, too. And so if you’re, even if you’re like, small plumbing, like you’ve got a fleet of vans, you can actually be involved in the discount process. (Faith: Cool.) So like, this is a random thing that happens like, way behind the scenes, but that actually help promote like, small businesses, too.

Faith (20:14):

What a niche. I’m always so fascinated by these like, super niche problem spaces that like, it’s part of the fabric of the way that life works for many of us, but we don’t think about what several layers below which are like (Jody: Yeah.) card issuance, and then like, I would never think of that as a problem space that I could feasibly solve with a startup, so kudos to Highnote founders <laugh>.

Jody (20:41):

Yeah. I’ve been amazed at the use cases that we’ve heard of, and there are just more. There are just so many places where people use cash (Faith: Yeah.) where they shouldn’t. And if you have a card program, you actually get more data about what people are spending, and so then you can offer better rewards to them or you can have more insight about your users. So it’s been super interesting to like, understand that whole world of payments, that I had, like, I say I have payments experience, but this is like unlocked a whole different world for me.

Faith (21:14):

And how long have you been with Highnote?

Jody (21:16):

A little over two years.

Faith (21:18):

Wow. I feel like every time I speak with somebody who’s working in kind of a niche industry, especially FinTech, like, there’s so many financial concepts when we’re talking about banking and card issuance that are just, they’re complex and sometimes it feels like maybe intentionally complex. And so it’s awesome to hear how quickly it seems like you’ve been able to become embedded in that world. Was there anything that really helped you kind of grasp like, “Okay, here’s what we do and who we do it for?”

Jody (21:52):

I mean, I think part of the reason it helped, because I was employee thirteen.

Faith (21:57):

Oh my gosh <laugh>.

Jody (21:58):

Yeah. So there weren’t a lot of people doing it before I started, and I think that you know, a lot of what we did, we made mistakes along the way, and so we had a bias to action, rather than like, a bias for always being exactly right. (Faith: Mmm <affirmative>.) And as we brought on more like, I would say “experts”, people who’ve done this before, they’ve kind of came and said like, “Oh, what are you doing there? That’s actually not right.” And I’ve been like, “Great! I’m so glad you’re here, let’s change that and keep moving forward.” And so some of that like, learning just happened, because we made a whole bunch of mistakes, but it was fine because we just wanted to get started quickly.

Faith (22:42):

I like that approach, and I think the way I structure decisions <laugh> in my brain is like, the only way I’m gonna be stressed about it is if a mistake could cost us a million dollars. (Jody: Yep.) If a mistake is gonna cost us any less than a million dollars, I mean, hopefully my boss doesn’t hear this; I promise I’m not wasting a million dollars on mistakes, but like, that’s the mindset, right? Like, what you’re gonna net in a learning is usually more valuable than what you could have saved by not making the mistake, so…

Jody (23:13):

Yeah, that’s exactly right. And I think also being humble. Like, when people tell me that we’re wrong, I’m like, wonderful, I’m so glad that you’ve got the expertise. I’m not gonna hold on to my opinion so hard that like, it had to be this way. (Faith: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) There’s new information, let’s change it and let’s keep moving forward.

Faith (23:32):

Okay. So two years ago, you were employee thirteen, and since then, Highnote has scaled over 100 teammates. Like, (Jody: Yeah.) that is massive. I’ve been in startups for a while, but I have never, kind of, worked through that level of a transition. So I would love…

Jody (23:52):

Me neither. I’ve never done that before. (Faith: Ok, cool.) This is my first, yep, first time.

Faith (23:55):

So this is fresh. This is probably a good question to ask now then. I’d love to hear just like, a few high-level takeaways. Like, what has that been like, has there been anything that was kind of intentional about that period that you and the team wanted to hold onto? What was your experience?

Jody (24:11):

I mean, I think one of the most important things is we knew what we were good at and what we weren’t good at. And so when we would look into hiring, like, for instance, when we hired a new product manager, we looked for someone who knew about the credit space, (Faith: Mmm <affirmative>.) and we hired a great guy. He was at Capital One for eight years, like, has so much deep knowledge, and at that point, like, hiring people who knew exactly what we didn’t know was really important. I think the other thing that I try to do, too, a lot of times was like, because when you’re hiring fast, and you’re growing fast, there’s just a lot of context that changes, (Faith: Mmm <affirmative>.) and so most of my conversations were just about sharing context and then getting outta people’s way.

Jody (24:58):

‘Cause the more that I gave them the context, the more that they’d be able to make a decision on my behalf. I think earlier in my career, I thought about multiplying myself. It’s like, “Oh, how could there be more Jody Soldos? But that’s the best way is like, to share a context, and then let people kind of run with it and make the decision that they, you know, think that they need to make, given all the information, ’cause that’s exactly the same thing that I’m gonna do. So I think those two things like, felt like the most important things to do, as we just accelerated in all areas for that matter, not just engineering, and operations, and sales, et cetera.

Faith (25:37):

I think in order to do the first thing you mentioned, which is like, hire where you have gaps, is to have a really clear picture of what’s next, right? (Jody: Yeah.) And I think that’s hard for a lot of us, because when we think about hiring, I’m the same way as you. I’m like, “Well, how can I expand my bandwidth?” Right? Like, “How can I just like, make it easier to hit everything that I have on my like, one year horizon checklist, when really it’s, “No, as a business, we might need someone who’s an expert in this area that we’re not currently thinking about, but we should be thinking about in the next one to two years.” Like, that takes a lot of foresight.

Jody (26:15):

Yeah. Well, and I think that’s where like, hiring that new product leader was really important, because as we think about where we need to be in five to 10 years, like you have to even have more planning and more foresight. I’m more of like, tactical. I’m probably a six-month plan kind of gal, (Faith: <Laugh>.) and so we, you know, we’re making it up along the way, but we’ve kind of gotten to your point, where now it’s time to really double down and be a little more strategic (Faith: Right.) with some of the, not only hiring, but also just like, general investments that we make.

Faith (26:51):

I have friends who, since the time we graduated college, have worked at companies of 1,000 plus employees and 1,000 is like, on the small side. (Jody: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) And so, to them, this conversation isn’t gonna make much sense. How we’re like, “Yeah, going from thirteen to a hundred employees is like…everything changes.” (Jody: Yeah.) Not one thing stays…the way that you communicate with your teammates changes, right? (Jody: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) And to do that over the course of two years is wild. So, you know, I’m curious, particularly as it relates to like, relating to your team, making connections, like, cross-functional connections, are there any nuggets of wisdom that you can leave me with? Because I feel like we’re on the cusp of this, as well.

Jody (27:40):

Seventy-five percent of our team is remote, and I have found that it’s really important to have, not necessarily personal relationships, but like, good relationships with people across the organization, no matter what team they’re in and like, to get to know them well. (Faith: Yeah.) So we are like, we’re a “camera-on” company, you know, we make sure like, we’re like, leaving time to just like, “Hey, how was your weekend?” Or, you know, “Oh, like, how are the dogs? How are your puppies?” et cetera. Like, I think that that kinda stuff is really important, like, relationship building, because at the end of the day, I’m gonna have to ask somebody to do something for me that is outside of what they were planning to do one day or what maybe their job is supposed to be, (Faith: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) and I think that’s been pretty important for me along the way.

Jody (28:34):

I would also say, I mean, you’re never gonna get it right. I don’t know, like, just be okay with mistakes, (Faith: Yeah.) and be okay with just trying something. Like, that bias for action has actually really served well, and even in some cases, oh, we are a team of overthinkers sometimes of like, “…and then we could do this big thing, and that would be great,” but it’s like, what’s the small thing we can do today? What’s the little thing (Faith: Yeah.) that can like, move it forward. I think that has probably helped us a ton in just, getting the boulder a little bit further and further, because we make up some boulders for ourselves, (Faith: We do.) but we have to push it a little bit.

Faith (29:20):

I’m gonna write that. I’ve got a window in front of me, and I’m gonna get like, a window marker and write, “You’re never gonna get it right,” because I feel like I do the same thing. I mean, I will read books and articles, and listen to podcasts, and like, cross reference 16 different frameworks, and be like, “Okay, this is the best way to like, build relationships on a scaling team.” But I love that sentiment, which is like, as long as you’re thinking about it, as long as like, it stays top of mind, and it’s important to you, you’re gonna do the best possible thing. (Jody: Yeah.) And if you could go back in time, maybe there’s some things you would change, but like, you’re never gonna get it right the first time, so just go ahead and do it.

Jody (30:01):

Yeah. Just try it. (Faith: Right.) And build relationships along the way, so when you don’t get it right, (Faith: <Laugh>.) you have to apologize, that you go, and you’re like, “Okay, I messed this one up.” (Faith: Yeah.) “Sorry guys.”

Faith (30:14):

Yeah. ‘Cause I’ve done always like, just do it. Like, do the thing, but also like, be a good human.

Jody (30:20):

Yes. Like 100%. Yeah, yeah.

Faith (30:22):

Unfortunately, I feel like we’ve got a lot of maybe non-examples in the news of like…

Jody (30:28):

I know.

Faith (30:28):

You know, but that’s helpful. You always have to have like, an example and a non-example. For sure.

Jody (30:33):

Yeah, that’s exactly right.

Faith (30:35):

Well, Jody, this has been so much fun. I think, particularly for folks who are thinking about getting into product, kind of switching cross-functionally within their organization, this is gonna be a really helpful episode. If folks are listening, and they wanna get in touch with you or learn more about Highnote, where should we send them? (THE FRONTIER THEME FADES IN)

Jody (30:56):

Highnote.com, our awesome website. (Faith: It’s very cool.) Feel free to check that out. And I mean, I love to connect with people on LinkedIn, so feel free to connect with me. I think the road to product is never gonna be the same, and I will get back to product. Even though I’m in business operations, I haven’t made a hard pivot into a new career, so(Faith: Yeah.) if you ever just wanna talk shop or need some advice, like, I’m happy to help.

Faith (31:21):

Awesome. Well, Jody, thank you so much. I hope we get to talk soon.

Jody (31:26):

Okay. Bye!

Faith (31:27):

Thanks for listening to The Frontier podcast, powered by Gun.io. We drop two episodes per week, so if you like this episode, be sure to subscribe on your platform of choice, and come hang out with us again next week, and bring all your internet friends. If you have questions or recommendations, just shoot us a Twitter DM @theFrontierPod, and we’ll see you next week. (THE FRONTIER THEME ENDS)

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