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Lob Culture
February 16, 2022

Humans of Lob: Ayo O.

by 
Dolly Slinker

Humans of Lob is a project dedicated to getting to know our Lobsters on an individual level. We sat down with our Senior Product Manager of the Data Team.

Let's go back to your beginning here on this planet. Where were you born?

I was born in a small town in Nigeria called Eket. When my family was  there it was one of the newer states that just got formed. There was a lot of growth, and a lot of figuring things out community wise with everyone chipping in. It was very cool.  It was an amazing place to grow up and see how strong the community could be. We weren't too far away from my dad's colleagues, so they would have parties and all the children would come. It was just this cool group of young, up and coming people in the world and their children. It was this new city, new state, and everyone's figuring out everything at the same time. It was brimming with potential. It was very cool for me and my siblings. 

Where do you fall in the mix with your siblings?

I'm the oldest and the youngest, at the same time. I am the oldest by birth, but my siblings have celebrated more birthdays than I have, so I’m the youngest. Hint: it's a Leap day riddle (shout out to all my February 29th leapers out there)

What do you work on at Lob? 

I'm the Senior Product Manager on the Data team. At a high level what that means is, if you've got a data or analysis question I can help you get answers. Day-to-day I'm launching or monitoring projects to improve our big data infrastructure, and data modeling capabilities. This helps give us visibility into how we can be more efficient fulfilling customer marketing campaigns, and also what levers we have available to meet our own internal goals. Work for me can be quite dynamic from helping on back-end database or data warehouse work in the morning, to an analytics project in the afternoon, to a data modeling session after that. What's incredibly validating is seeing people around the company use data to answer their questions.

Have you always worked with data?

I spent a lot of years on data teams at Microsoft. I've been doing some version of this in many of my roles. It never focused on building out infrastructure for analytics. But it's not a thing that has been unfamiliar to me at some level, every Product Manager is doing some sort of analytics as their day-to-day job. It's very rewarding to go one layer below and build out the infrastructure that helps PMs make the right decisions and quickly answer their questions.

How do you handle work life balance in such a fast paced environment?

I was in a workshop last year, where the instructor had a good metaphor for what balance looks like in practice for me. He started out by explaining that people usually think it's some version of 50/50. Either, I'm happy here or I'm happy there. But the instructor got out a pen and showed what it looked like when you tried to balance it in the center. Sometimes it tilts too much this one way until you overpronate and push back the other way. Work-life balance for me is in the process of awareness. It's normal for some weeks to not be 50/50, but it's important to notice when I'm unbalanced and need to apply pressure one way or another. That could mean for example declining meetings so I have some time to breathe and reset my energy.

What is something that has surprised you about your chosen career path?

Maybe a controversial opinion, but what's been surprising is the hubris of a lot of people that work in tech (myself included). Early on, I was primarily inspired by the technology I would see in movies like Star Trek or Ironman. I could see how tech was used to legitimately change the world, even create a new world order. I think there's also an optimism and naivety that comes with that.

As I got more experience building, I noticed more instances of the downsides of tech where products and experiences weren't fleshed out, and we would build products that actively caused harm. That's what's surprised me about working in tech - we get so carried away with building cool stuff that we forget people have to use and live in the experiences we create. We have to remember that we are building tech for living, breathing people with all their history and messiness, not fantasies that exist in our minds.

What energizes you outside of work?

I read a lot! What people are thinking about, how the world came to be, and how we can imagine it to be better. It gives me a lot of rich stuff for conversations that I can have with people. I enjoy picking people's brains to understand what they like about the world today, what they're yearning and itching to change about the world, and what they're doing to try and make that future world real.

What is your go-to genre?

Both fiction or nonfiction. Each can make me tired of the other one. If I read too much nonfiction it can get too serious– it almost feels like work. Then I might want to delve into complete fantasy fiction that expands you. I try to keep it level between the two. Right now I’m reading a book called Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. It talks about how language shapes us and our society. You probably haven't thought about where the metaphors you use everyday come from ("Pedal to the metal", "Time is money" etc). It's been a fascinating journey so far.

What's a scent that makes you feel nostalgic?

Eucalyptus, it was one of the scents my mom had around the house while growing up. When we moved away from Nigeria, I just didn't interact with it or come across it again. I remember walking down some street and I just got this whiff of it. Then I grabbed her and I was like, ‘I have been trying to identify what the smell is for the longest time’. I could only recreate it in my memory. It was hard to describe what that smell was. She told me ‘oh yeah, absolutely. It's Eucalyptus’. Then I went out and bought a bunch of Eucalyptus essential oils to have in my room. Eucalyptus has got this calming and energizing quality to it that I've found helps me feel centered and alert.

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