A New Beginning at the End of the World

I’ve got some big news! Friday was my last day at CafeMom. Today, I’m hopping on a plane to Chile to backpack in Torres del Paine for 2 weeks. When I return to New York, I’ll be starting at Pivotal Labs as a Product Manager.

It’s been a bittersweet goodbye. I’m incredibly grateful to the team at Cafemom and MamásLatinas for taking a huge chance on me.  Last January, I’d never written a line of code, never prioritized a backlog, and never worked on a team larger than 5.  I had four years’ experience building technology-enabled solutions for startups (including  Yipit‘s affiliate and data businesses,  Hoseanna‘s logistics, and Urgent Career‘s sales assessment framework). But I’d never built a product from the ground up.  So when an old friend approached me about a yet-to-be-launched Latina destination within Cafemom, I jumped at the opportunity to learn.

The first few weeks were a whirlwind to get our minimum offering — a community forum and a content site — up and running smoothly. Once live, we really got to work. What had attracted our first users? What value were we adding to their lives? How did a bi-lingual Latina want to experience the site? Everyone had an opinion. No one agreed. We could have spent months just arguing about our mission statement. Faced with a tidal wave of potential user stories, but limited design and development resources, I immediately recognized a familiar startup pattern.  So I began doing what I’d always done — making incremental changes based on hypotheses, measuring them, and adjusting.  

Slowly but surely, we shortened our learning curve. We had some epic early failures (including a ‘following’ feature and an elaborate new user checklist).  But we also had some huge wins. We turned on anonymous posting in our forum and saw a dramatic spike in the number of new user posts. Several iterations later, this is a Postsecret-style “Confessions” group that drives a significant portion of our acquisition and member pageviews. We stripped our registration down to five fields — the first of which asked a user to select English or Spanish — and saw our conversion rate double. 

In October of last year, I got to see the results of my experiments. We hosted a small awards ceremony to honor 7 members of our site who’d made extraordinary contributions to their communities. Sitting with two of our honorees and hearing their stories was inspiring. MamásLatinas had become their go-to place to navigate their everyday parenting challenges — from what to buy for a new baby to what to do when your daughter says she hates you. That was the moment it hit me — we’d set out to bring conversations online for people who had never had a place to express themselves. And we’d succeeded. It was one of the most humbling moments of my career.

I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve built at MamásLatinas, and I didn’t expect to be moving on so quickly. However, if I’ve learned one thing across six years of startups, it’s that opportunities come your way when you least expect them. Earlier this year, I’d heard that Pivotal Labs was building out its product offering. I’d always dreamed of a role where I could help others run leaner and build only what’s necessary to test their hypotheses. Come April, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing for Pivotal’s clients. I’m thrilled by Drew McManus’s vision for Product at Pivotal, and eager to to hash out the details with Graham, Jon, and Mike in NYC. I’m especially grateful to Pamela for making the initial intro to Pivotal and getting the ball rolling.

I’ve tried to take the time to thank everyone at Cafemom that’s helped me along the way — from patiently helping me translate copy into Spanish, to troubleshooting my rookie CSS, to explaining once again where to find our changeset log. It’s been an incredible year and I have learned so much from all of you. I sincerely hope in the future I’ll be able to help you as much as you’ve helped me. I can only hope that the buena onda I’ve gotten from this experience carries through to my hike and my new adventures.

Torres del Paine | Flickr @davideguallini

 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.
  • http://datainsightsideas.com Dave Ambrose

    congrats lauren!

  • KatieKfromBetts

    congrats LG!

  • KP

    Rock on, lady!

  • http://twitter.com/susanmcp1 Susan McPherson

    Woohoo! Such a fabulous move. Congrats, Lauren.
    Hugs to you,
    Susan

  • http://www.facebook.com/meghan.molino Meghan Molino

    Congrats, Lauren! Have so much fun in South America & I can’t wait to catch up when you’re back!!! xoxo