Over 200 Girl Geeks came together at Poshmark HQ in Redwood City on June 13, 2019. Speakers included Tracy Sun (Co-Founder & Senior Vice President of New Markets), Barkha Saxena (Chief Data Officer), Vanessa Wong (Senior Director, Product Management), Angela Buckmaster (Associate Director, Community Operations), Camille Forde (Senior Manager, New Markets), Adrienne Hamrah (Software Engineer, Cloud Platform).
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Co-Founder and SVP of New Markets Tracy Sun welcomes the crowd to the Poshmark Girl Geek Dinner in Redwood City, California. The stylish evening’s theme: “people-powered innovation”.
Tracy Sun / Co-Founder & Senior Vice President of New Markets / Poshmark
Barkha Saxena / Chief Data Officer / Poshmark
Vanessa Wong / Senior Director, Product Management / Poshmark
Angela Buckmaster / Associate Director, Community Operations / Poshmark
Camille Forde / Senior Manager, New Markets / Poshmark
Adrienne Hamrah / Software Engineer, Cloud Platform / Poshmark
Transcript of Poshmark Girl Geek Dinner – Lightning Talks & Panel:
Tracy Sun: So I’m here, I get to kick us off. And so after welcoming you, welcome again. What I’m going to do is tell you a little bit about me. I’ll do that pretty fast and then share what people-powered innovation means and why we chose that to be the theme of the evening. And then we’ll just kick it out to all of the amazing speakers that you’ll hear tonight. I believe there’s six women that will talk to you tonight about who they are, what they do.
Tracy Sun: When we talked to the panels, everyone wanted to share a tip that they’ve done or something they’ve done in their career that they really wanted to share with the group. So we’ll talk a little bit about tips and try to have a whole bunch of fun doing so. So to kick it off. My name’s Tracy. I’m one of the co-founders and I head up a new department at Poshmark we’re calling New Markets.
Tracy Sun: My background, I grew up in the East Coast. I’m still kind of an East Coast person, but getting more and more West Coast as the years go by. I started in science. I was a science geek. I loved reading about brain and behavior. I moved into fashion pretty early on because I loved building brands and obviously now, I’m in technology. So my one thing I wanted to share with all of you is you can switch industries. I get this question a lot. It’s hard. So you have to really want to do it, but if you want to do it, you can do it. And I’m happy to answer questions later about some tips on how.
Tracy Sun: But the first I’d say is you can do it and you have to believe in yourself. And I’ve done it twice and who knows what happens to me. I’m still pretty young and have a lot to look forward to. So now about the theme of the evening, people-powered innovation. The reason that this is the theme is this is Poshmark’s superpower. What I mean by this is this is the one thing we do that we think we do better than anyone else.
Tracy Sun: And we wanted to share with you how we’re thinking about it and what we mean by it. Because I think that maybe you can take some of that into your own lives or into your own careers or how you think about innovation. It might inspire you a little bit. So that’s why we’re choosing the theme is just really talk about our strengths and the things that we’re really proud of. So people-powered innovation to us means three things.
Tracy Sun: The first is, and then video kind of alludes to all three of them. The first is we built our entire business off of people. We call ourselves a social commerce platform. And what that means is we take people and we insert them into all the important parts of commerce. We think that all of us have stories to tell. We tell them differently. That’s part of the beauty of photos and words and stories. So we want to put that back into commerce. We think that there’s more to selling a dress than seeing it on a hanger at a store. So how did she style it? How did she feel when she was wearing it? Things like that. We think that’s really important.
Tracy Sun: So we put people back into the conversation of commerce and then we build an entire platform around this so that people, anyone, any one of you, it sounds like we have some poshers in the room, but really anyone in the world can become a seller, no matter what your experience, how much money you have, whether you’ve done it before or not. All those things are irrelevant. Anyone can be a seller. And so what we see now is we have 40 million registered users. About 6 million of them have become sellers. Meaning we’re one of the largest selling networks in the world.
Tracy Sun: So raise your hand if you’re a Poshmark seller here. Congratulations. You’re one of 6 million people in the US that are selling on Poshmark, including a lot of us here. So congratulations. So that’s number one. The second thing is you can’t build a people-powered platform without the people. So the second thing we did is we built a community. And what that means is we focused day one on really taking a look at our users and doing everything we can to support them and so saying, we are behind you to help you build your business and we encourage our community to talk to one another in case we can’t be there to support you, support each other.
Tracy Sun: And so not only does that happen in physical venues like this, but it happens in events that we hold like in our app. So a mobile event and it happens in the conversations when you’re on Poshmark and then it happens offline as well. So a lot of times we’ll see Poshmark users talk to one another, they met on the app and then they talk to one another in real life. And that to me is one of the most beautiful things about why I love coming to work every day. It also reflects in a lot of our business metrics too.
Tracy Sun: So, for example, every day a Poshmark user spends 30 minutes on Poshmark. And for those of you in commerce who think about these kinds of metrics and maybe some of you are not in commerce that think about these kinds of metrics, that’s unheard of for commerce. People don’t spend 30 minutes talking about shopping elsewhere and maybe nowhere. So people are not just talking about transactions on Poshmark, they’re also talking to each other as human beings. And that’s where we like to spend our time. That’s how we find extra minutes in the day when we’ve had a long day is to have a human connection.
Tracy Sun: And so, in so many ways, we feel like we’ve built a really large marketplace and a really large platform but also a really large place for people to come and to connect with people, either that they know really well or that they’re meeting for the first time. So that’s the second piece. And then the third is Team Posh. So there’s some of us here tonight. Team Posh is really all we have. We don’t hold any inventory. It’s all people. And then a lot of code that happens and a lot of packages shipped around but there’s 400 or so people that are part of Poshmark that really make everything go round.
Tracy Sun: So we spent a lot of time thinking about how we can innovate in this realm and really keep people happy and motivated, creative. And eight years into the business still feel like they’re learning new things every day. And so I’m really excited to kick this off. We have five people coming up to share their story, get into some specifics about the innovation that they’re seeing and the stories that they have. So with that, I’d like to bring up our next speaker. Can I go ahead? I’m going to go ahead and do it. Okay. So our next speaker is Barkha and she’s our Chief Data Officer here and officially one of the coolest women at Poshmark.
Chief Data Officer Barkha Saxena talks about being a data geek, and working with mobile, social, and commerce data, at Poshmark Girl Geek Dinner.
Barkha Saxena: Thank you, Tracy. Hi, everyone. Is everyone having fun? I was telling Tracy that I’m always bummed when I go after her. She’s such a fascinating speaker. So I’m basically making sure that nobody has very high expectation. I’m going after Tracy. So just about a little bit about myself. I’m Barkha Saxena. I’m Chief Data Officer at Poshmark. I’ve been here for five years. But somebody was asking me, I was talking to them, hey, this whole data thing didn’t exist 10 years ago so what did you do then? I was like, yeah, it’s true. This whole world data service didn’t exist but I had been literally doing this. This was my first job out of college.
Barkha Saxena: I studied statistics. Numbers is what I have known my entire life. I spent my first 10 years at a company named FICO. I was a data scientist there. I started as an individual contributor, moved into management role and then I spent some time in product management, sales, and corporate strategy. After that, I spent a couple of years in advertising industry, still focused on the data, building data products for advertising. And then I had my second child and I thought I would take a little bit break. And like in two weeks break time, my husband, someday one day comes and he says, hey, I heard about this really cool startup. They had these virtual parties which is called posh party and I think you should go and meet with them.
Barkha Saxena: And I was like, okay, it doesn’t hurt to meet. So I found a connection to Manish and I met with Manish and Manish said we had some conversation and then he said, “Hey, you should come and meet with Tracy.” You just met with Tracy. Once you talked to Tracy. There is no going back. So here I am, five and a half years ago, I joined Poshmark, still here and having a lot of fun. When I joined Poshmark, it was really the driving factor was people. I met with Manish, Tracy, Chetan, Gautam, our founding team. And honestly, it had been a long time.
Barkha Saxena: Like being in the tech sector, I had not met so many smart but super humble people. And then from being a data geek, this aspect of I’m going to be working with mobile, social, and commerce data. It can’t get any better than that. What I didn’t understand at that time was when you are putting this social and the commerce together, it’s a totally different beast than just thinking about the social network and just thinking about the commerce. So Tracy explained the social commerce from the vision perspective but I’m a data person. So I have to understand it from the data angle.
Barkha Saxena: So how did I understand the social commerce? And how I started to understand it’s really not putting two plus two, four. Really getting them together is we are making two plus two, seven. And the way it works is from the data perspective, when you are selling, what are your goals? You want to acquire users who will come and buy stuff. So at Poshmark, you build your follower network, you follow people, they follow you. And by that way, you are basically finding out the impact, the people who are going to see your merchandise.
Barkha Saxena: Then how do you market inventory? So there is a whole aspect of sharing which happens in the platform. Everyone who is successful in selling at Poshmark knows that you cannot be successful if you’re not sharing. So you’re engaged in sharing, not just your item but you also share other people’s items. Because when you share somebody else, they will share yours and you are basically just expanding the network of the people with whom you’re sharing your item. So you market your items, but then after that, you have to close the deal. How do you close the deal?
Barkha Saxena: You have to engage with your buyers in conversations. So their conversations happen in their platform around fit, style, color, and then Poshmark has built all these tools in the service of community to which you send out offers in a very personal, personalized manner to all these buyers. And that’s how you close the deal. So sellers are very vested in being social in the platform because at Poshmark that gives them an advantage to drive the more social you are, the more successful you will be. Now from the buyer’s perspective, the reason you want to be so socially engaged because when you follow people, it’s exposing you to a larger and larger merchandise which means you are looking at so many items from where you can buy.
Barkha Saxena: So you are getting exposed to the styles of different people. You engage with the seller because you want to be able to understand the merchandise beyond what just the description is telling. If you think of the reason the whole social commerce exists because just in reflecting back, the 15–people who are a little bit older. If you think of the way the commerce was done like 15, 20 years ago. I grew up in India and a lot of time when we went for shopping, we will just go back to those limited number of shops. But it was fine to go because you will go and talk to the person who is selling and that person will know which grade you are in, what you’re doing, what’s happening at your home. And it was fun in those conversations.
Barkha Saxena: As commerce became very efficient with the e-commerce and access a lot of inventory and fast shipping. It was all very efficient but it took the fun away of that personal conversation. And what we have learned at Poshmark is people actually like to connect and talk to each other. So buyers, when they engage with sellers in the conversation on hey, will this dress look good on me or like because the same dress size can be different in different [inaudible]. How do you figure it out it really fits you? So you engage in that conversation and you’re figuring out.
Barkha Saxena: Buyers do a lot of liking activity in the platform and that’s because by doing like you are creating this sort of your wishlist of the items you want to buy. By doing the activity, you’re also building the connections with the seller. So when seller is ready to make an offer, there is a way for seller to reach out to you. So that’s how like when I started looking at social commerce and the numbers started to explain why the social is truly driving the commerce. It wasn’t just hey, we got a commerce, they come less to the social. This is the genius of the founding team who built this amazing platform.
Barkha Saxena: Social is so integrated with the commerce that the two actually drive each other and that is what has gained given us such a unique advantage that we didn’t just try to bring the two pieces together. We built them interlinked from the day one and then you build that kind of platform with the types of numbers Tracy was sharing, like 40 million users and 5-6 million sellers stylist, 18 million shares per day. Think of the amount of data we are collecting. Like we have 30 plus terabytes of data, 400 plus million events logged every day. You leave a data team in that kind of environment. It’s like the wonderland for people.
Barkha Saxena: So my team is so excited. It’s a cross-functional thing. We work with multiple teams and we are solving problems that cross the aisle. From working with the marketing team on different types of users. That question problem. Working with Leanne’s team and helping out how we can serve our community better. Working with Tracy’s team and figuring out how can we help them launch market. There’s so many problems teams are solving, they get to work with humongous amount of data. They get to use different types of data technology and the tools to build out the solutions which creates business value for our community.
Barkha Saxena: And just to bring it back to I’m very lucky to have such a fantastic team which is just building all these awesome solutions. But the reason all of us are so engaged in doing all this wonderful work, going back to what Tracy said, this is just a wonderful place to be. The people are–I don’t know how many have notice our core values. I have worked at multiple places. This is the first place where I would say we actually live by our cultural value. We focus on people, truly on people. You heard Tracy. The whole conversation is started on people. We lead with love. We trust each other. We believe in supporting each other.
Barkha Saxena: We embrace all the weirdness. That is one of the core value. Honestly, even I use it in my personal life. Like when you start to accept people for what they are, life just becomes simple. And then together we go. So we are so vested in each other’s goal that it just makes this place, this beautiful place. With that, let me invite… Can I invite? More wonderful people that you guys can meet with. Okay, thank you.
Poshmark girl geeks: Tracy Sun (speaking, right) moderates a panel discussion with Adrienne Hamrah, Camille Ford, Vanessa Wong, and Angela Buckmaster introducing themselves at Poshmark Girl Geek Dinner.
Tracy Sun: Sorry, I’m just trying to make them nervous. We’re just going to get excited, get loose. Let’s go. So first question, can you introduce yourself a little bit about what you do at Poshmark? So everyone has context of all the amazing things you’re going to say after that.
Angela Buckmaster: Yes. Microphone on. Okay. Hi, I am Angela. And as Claire mentioned, I am the Associate Community Operations Director. And so my team works under the Community umbrella and what we do is actually support all other areas of the community team through data analytics, product knowledge, and training.
Vanessa Wong: Hi, I’m Vanessa. I’m senior director in the product team and I run the core experiences team. And when I say core experience, what it means is the buying, the selling, the social interaction, working with our power sellers, our new sellers, any international expansion. And then also like market expansion as well.
Camille Ford: Hi, everyone. My name is Camille Ford. I work on the new markets team and the markets team is really focused on driving expansion into new business areas. So what that looks like could be developing a new category, launching multiple markets within the product alongside Vanessa’s team or expanding into new departments as well.
Software Engineer Adrienne Hamrah talks about innovation at Poshmark Girl Geek Dinner.
Adrienne Hamrah: Hi, everyone. I’m Adrienne. I’m a software engineer on the growth team. What does that mean? I basically work on projects to bring in new users to our platform. Whether that’s like an influencer project or just any like fun new things, new features.
Tracy Sun: So I know it was pretty fun to hear from me and Barkha but these ladies have the real stories that you want to hear about. As I was hearing earlier about what you guys wanted to share. I just thought it was great content to share with this group here. So no pressure. So we talked a lot about… Sorry, I’m being really goofy. It was a crazy day today. We talked a lot about innovation. And I kind of talked about it at high level, Barkha talked about it at high level. Can you guys really bring it home? Like what does innovation look like to your day to day?
Tracy Sun: Is there an example of something you’ve done recently, for example, that you think it was just a really cool project to work on because it involved innovation and, or something around people? I think that would be great for everyone to hear. Who wants to go first? Adrienne, you want to go? We’ll go backwards.
Adrienne Hamrah: So a good example of innovation was we basically wanted to bring the influencers I work with on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, etcetera. We wanted to bring them onto our own platform rather than going through a third party. So that was my first project, starting from helping the product manager all the way to doing the tech spec and actually executing on the code. And one example of innovation is in order to like see the level of influence someone has, we have to have some sort of metric so we know how much to pay them for, for posting on Instagram, for example.
Adrienne Hamrah: And instead of going through their API because there was a lot of stuff going on Instagram and they’re saying they were taking away their API, we decided to actually just use the HTML code and get their stats that way. So I think that was a really fun example. Because the first thing, if you’re familiar with software, the first thing you usually do when you talk to different companies, is you go through their API. And we decided to just bypass that completely.
Senior Manager of New Markets Camille Forde talks about markets and using technology and social as tools at Poshmark Girl Geek Dinner.
Camille Ford: So the innovation question’s interesting because I feel like throughout my career I’ve always tried to think about how can I do something different? But at Poshmark, I feel like that question gets tipped a little bit. It’s how can we do things differently using social as a tool, using a technology as a tool. And so I feel like working on markets for the past six months is a really good example of that. And so markets themselves are just easy experiences within the product that make it easier for people to connect, sell, and shop by what’s important to them.
Camille Ford: And in many ways, it’s just a layer on top of Poshmark’s existing platform, but really digs into the social piece, which is, brings it back to people, I think at the end of the day. And so for me, even working on markets and figuring out like how can we get people to shopping experiences that are relevant? It’s almost like this backwards thing where through markets we’re now enabling people to shop the way that they used to shop.
Camille Ford: So if I only wanted to shop luxury and I want to go into a luxury store and I want that like real-time feedback on a certain thing, I can get that through the luxury market on Poshmark. And so to me, this is like an interesting full circle view of innovation around how can we use the tools that we have to kind of bring it back to its core. And so just working on launching markets over the past six months, I think now we have roughly 25-ish markets has been an interesting experience for me with regards to innovation.
Vanessa Wong: So, many years ago, we launched a feature called Offer. And what that feature is, I don’t know if any of you… Has anyone used it? Raise your hand if you’ve used that feature on Poshmark? So it really mimics normal behavior. You’re there like, think about the olden times. You’d go barter and negotiate. And we kind of bring that to life in the app. So what we did last year is we launched a feature called Offer to Liker. Has anyone ever liked an item on Poshmark? Has anyone had a listing and gotten likes on Poshmark? Yeah.
Vanessa Wong: So it’s an amazing feeling. You know that these people are really interested in your product. And so you’re getting all this love for this product. And so we thought why don’t we use that energy to the seller and help them. So what we launched is Offer to Liker and where you can give a private discount to the people that like your item. And that’s been amazingly successful for us. We’ve just used kind of normal behavior and we’ve used that organic behavior and we’ve amplified that through our product.
Angela Buckmaster: Awesome. So I’m kind of echoing some of the things that you’ve heard. Poshmark is a social commerce platform. And so on the app, people are commenting and communicating with each other on listings. They’re liking. They’re communicating and building bonds with each other through buying and selling. And so from the very early days of Poshmark, we actually saw that these users, these poshers, were, as Tracy mentioned, getting together outside of the app, as well, very organically and just meeting up.
Angela Buckmaster: There’s actually a term that has been coined for someone that’s a friend that you meet on Poshmark that is PFF which is Posh Friend Forever. And so, as you can tell, these bonds are lifelong. And so we saw this and we thought, okay, this is really, again, the lifeblood of Poshmark. We are all about the people and spreading the love. And that’s the only reason all of us are here today. So we came up with a type of event called a Posh N Sip. And the Posh N Sip is a posher-led event.
Angela Buckmaster: And these poshers are finding the venues. They are inviting their friends, their family, their PFFs, to get together and not only talk about Poshmark but also just build upon these bonds. And make more connections and really grow and empower each other. And so I think, to me, that’s something that’s super exciting because we get to see them meet all over the country and just get together and just kind of continue what they have on the app but in the physical world as well.
Tracy Sun: Okay, great. So we talked a lot about innovation and if you guys want any more, feel free to ask. They’ve all agreed to stay for the Q&A so you can’t leave. We’re doing a Q&A right here and then after if you have questions that you want to do in private. Now I want to talk about you as people. You have so much experience that I think is so interesting. It was really interesting to me to hear it. I think it’d be really interesting to everyone else in the room mostly because we’re all so different. Our stories are all so different.
Tracy Sun: And so can you share a little bit about how you got to Poshmark and if there is, and with that, is there anything you did along the way that kind of helped you get into the role or any tip you have? I imagine anyone, here either now or in the future, might be looking to make a change in their job, for example. So if you have any tips on that or you might want to have a job. So if you have a job are they any tips on how to be successful. It’s just you are four really successful women. And then I think I’d like to give a little bit of the floor to that. You want to start, Angela?
Angela Buckmaster: Yeah. Awesome. So I actually have been at Poshmark for a little over six years now. And so I found Poshmark through a friend who still works here. We were friends through middle school and high school, and she heard that I had graduated college and was looking for my first big girl job. And she was on a community team here and said, hey, you should come interview. So I did. And at the time, we had basically one role, which was community associate. And through that, we wore a lot of different hats, as is typical at a startup. And from there, we kind of started to build into different teams.
Angela Buckmaster: And so from there, I moved into the support team. It’s still under the community umbrella and I did some management for a couple of years. And through that, I noticed that I started having and more of an interest in our KPIs and our SLAs. And I wanted to know why are they the way they are. How can we make them better and to really understand them on a deeper level. And so I started speaking to my manager and Leanne, our SVP, and just letting them know I’m really interested in this. I would love to move into more of a data-driven role.
Angela Buckmaster: The time wasn’t right, right at that moment. But I kept telling them and I kept trying to get into projects that I could kind of dip my toes into the analytics area until the day came when Leanne approached me and she said, “Okay, the role’s here, let’s do it.” So I happily went to that more of an analytics role on the community team which was awesome. I got to stay with my community family and did that for about a year.
Angela Buckmaster: And then Leanne approached me with another opportunity and said, “Hey, let’s build out this team.” So now I have the three areas. I have a data analytics team, a product knowledge team, and a training team. And so I’ve learned a lot over six years. I’ve learned that you can’t just keep your dreams to yourself. I think something I really believe is whatever you think about and you talk about all the time is what you are or what you will become. And so I was very open and I kept telling people about my dream and I truly believe that that’s why it happened. Because if you don’t speak up, no one knows. So if that’s my little tip, I would encourage you all to just be very open about your passions and your dreams.
Tracy Sun: That’s so amazing that, Angela, you knew your dream and then went and told your boss. That’s so vulnerable. It’s so scary. Has anyone here done that? Told your boss you want a different job or you want a different you know. Anyone who wants to do that? Just kidding. I love my job. I was just trying to get people… So if you’re one of the people raising your hand, come talk to her. Because she did it and sounds like it worked out for her. So, Vanessa, you want to go?
Senior Director of Product Management Vanessa Wong talks about her journey in product management, and moving on up, at Poshmark Girl Geek Dinner.
Vanessa Wong: Cool. So when I graduated college, the economy wasn’t great and I was just applying jobs everywhere. I was hanging out with my unemployed friends. It was really fun, but my parents were like you need a job. And me being a geek, like many of you guys, I saw a job posting. I don’t know if you guys have heard of CNET? They review electronics and I love electronics. They do a lot of cool tech stuff. It’s in San Francisco. Super fun. And I got a job there. Just amazing. And it’s at a big company. It’s like, “Wow, that’s really cool.”
Vanessa Wong: But I started my job and I was really bored. It was just something, yeah, it was a job, but it wasn’t something fulfilling. But then I got immersed and started talking to people and I got involved in helping building tools for that team with engineering. I was kind of doing product management for the backend tools but I wanted something more. So like Angela, I actually went up to my VP and very–more like a “Hey, this is something I’m already doing. What can I do next?” Like, “How do I prepare myself? Do you have advice for me? Do you have input?”
Vanessa Wong: And he was very open and receptive and pretty much immediately he was like, let’s craft a role for you, which was amazing. I did not expect that. I came to kind of talk to him, building a case, not sure what would happen. I definitely was really scared, but he was very receptive and I got the role as a project manager to help build internal tools. But deep down, I really wanted to work on the user side. So I was building tools for the shopping team. So that was my kind of first step into shopping which kind of leads to where I am at now.
Vanessa Wong: And so then I was in that role for maybe about a year and then internal opening opened to be a PM for CNET shopping and CNETshopper.com and I applied. And what was great about the people at CNET is that they were so supportive. My manager was like, “Hey, yeah, go, go talk to that hiring manager.” And we were able to work through and I was able to transfer into that role. And then I was there for several years and then it kind of leads me to Poshmark where my then boyfriend was like, “Hey, there’s this job opening at this company called Kaboodle.”
Vanessa Wong: And Kaboodle is our CEO, Manish Chandra’s, first company that he started. And I just applied. I was like, okay, this seems pretty cool. I’m already doing something in shopping. This is social shopping. This is pretty new then. And then I applied and I wasn’t sure about this whole thing because it was still pretty new. Social shopping was a pretty new concept back in the day. And then I applied and then worked there for several years. I went on with my journey in product management to many different companies.
Vanessa Wong: And then I had kept a close relationship with Manish and he’s always been my mentor. And then one day he’s like, “Hey, what about joining Poshmark?” And I was like, “Yeah, of course.” This seems natural to work with people you really trust and you really admire. But coming full circle back to my role now, just a couple of weeks ago, someone on my team, she came up to me and she kind of did the same thing that me and Angela did.
Vanessa Wong: She’s like, “Hey, I love what I’m doing but I want more. Can I talk to you about it?” I’m like, “Yes.” She’s like, so the first thing she said was, “Sorry, if I’m being aggressive,” and I stopped her right there. I was like, “You’re not being aggressive at all.” Like, “I welcome this. Please, please feel that you can do this any time. I’m here to help you fulfill your dreams.” So we’ve started this conversation and we’re really helping her where we’re going to really help chart her to her dream.
Tracy Sun: That’s amazing.
Camille Ford: I’m going to cry.
Tracy Sun: Yeah.
Camille Ford: Sitting next to her. So there really are some interesting themes here. I also graduated when the economy wasn’t doing so hot and I felt like, what is the responsible thing to do now? Go be an accountant. And so my team teases me now because I call myself a recovering accountant because that’s exactly what I am. But I started my career about 10 years ago at PWC. It felt like that was the right thing to do. That was the safe thing to do. I had student debt, but it was like not the right thing for me at all. In about a couple of years into doing that, after I felt like I had a good foundation around financial services. I was auditing at the time, mainly VC funds and private equity funds.
Camille Ford: I also then went to my boss and said, I’m not happy. Like, I like it here. I like the people, I like the culture, but I don’t like the work that I’m doing. And I feel like there’s a part of my brain that’s withering away because I’m not doing anything creative. And they helped me, they helped me find a new role. And so I moved into a marketing function where I felt like I could get some different functional expertise in something that felt like I would be able to still use the analytic side of my brain but also use the more creative side of my brain as well.
Camille Ford: And it was a really great learning experience. But after a little while, it also felt like, okay, what’s next? This isn’t quite enough. And so I made the decision to move from the East Coast. I was in Boston at the time, go Bruins, and I moved to the West Coast to attend business school. And I was really intentional about my time during the MBA to just like, one, unlearn all the stuff that I didn’t feel like was for me. Because I told myself, “You are an accountant. You are only the analytical person. Who are you to think that you can be creative? Who are you to think that you can find both of those things in one job and be happy? Who are you to think you can work in fashion at all?” And really opened myself up to the possibilities of what could be.
Camille Ford: And so I spent those two years just doing a lot of internships in fashion tech and just retail and trying to just learn everything I felt like I didn’t know. Interestingly enough, I had been a user of Poshmark for several years. Actually, before I moved for business school, I sold all my stuff on Poshmark, moving across the country. And it was right before I was about to graduate. I look around and a lot of my classmates have these fancy jobs. They’re all set. They’re enjoying all this traveling and here I am still recruiting up until the day of graduation.
Camille Ford: I’m looking at Danny back there because I got a call from the Poshmark recruiter on the day, the morning of my MBA graduation and I thought he was going to say, Camille, we have an offer for you. He didn’t. Instead, he’s like, “Camille, we don’t have something for you right now. But like we still want to stay in touch.” And that was a little heartbreaking, to be honest, going into graduation, but still stayed the course. And a week later which actually was on my 31st birthday got a call from Danny again and this time it was like Tracy’s ready to make you an offer.
Camille Ford: And I share that level of detail only to say that what got me through like, one, switching these functions, kind of keeping the momentum up when I felt like I wasn’t necessarily getting to the place that I wanted to be in the time that I wanted to be at, to get there, rather, is just this layer of tenacity. And just going after it and knowing that like you are totally worthy of whatever it is that you think that you can get. Because the opportunity might not present itself right now but it definitely will.
Camille Ford: And so just staying the course that you feel like is true and natural to you and not being nervous that like, “Hey, I’ve invested all these years in like financial services.” Like that’s what I’m an expert in. No, like, now I’m an expert in social commerce. Or I’m going to get there. So just being really honest with yourself and not giving up on yourself would be my best advice.
Adrienne Hamrah: That was amazing. So like everyone else, I also had a career change. I actually had four. So 10 years ago, I was in school. I was in structural engineering and undergrad and while I really liked like calculating forces and making sure things don’t fall down in buildings I ended up getting–
Tracy Sun: Me too, by the way.
Adrienne Hamrah: Yeah, it’s still like every time I drive over a bridge I’m like, I hope this bridge like doesn’t shake. That’s always in the back of my head. So I ended up actually taking a job in civil engineering with the city of San Francisco, interned there for public works. Really, really boring. I worked on sewers and sewers are very, very boring. They like fall apart every 100 years. There’s not much thinking involved. So I went back to school, got a masters in engineering management because I wanted to learn more about the business side, the people side of things.
Adrienne Hamrah: And then after that, I actually went to Verizon. I did a four-year rotation program and that was really, really cool. I got to do four different jobs in four years. Got really great training with executives, seeing how they run a really large company. But telecom was also very boring to me. It’s like there’s only so many cell phone towers I can design. They all look the same and not very challenging.
Adrienne Hamrah: So I shifted again, I decided to become a product manager, and luckily, a girl from high school was the recruiter at a really small startup of 55 people at the time. It was in the cancer research clinical trials space. And so that was really interesting to me because I actually was pre-med for a hot minute in college. So I was like, I’m going to go back to healthcare. As a PM, though, I was doing internal tools and I don’t think that was the right fit for me. And also, the management there was just a disaster.
Adrienne Hamrah: And I think the most important thing I learned out of that is it doesn’t matter how cool the space is or how cool you think the product is. If the people, if they’re not the right fit for you, then go. Because you’ll find someplace else better. So after going through that experience and even though I was like this is such a cool like company, I was like, this is not the right thing for me. So I walked away and then I decided to go into software, so I did a boot camp.
Adrienne Hamrah: It was a three-month boot camp, 100 hours every week of coding. It was the hardest thing I’ve had to do. Harder than structural engineering undergrad because it was all crammed into one. But I came out of it absolutely loving it. I met up with a girl at a new restaurant opening. She’s actually there, Christina. Because we do food influencing on the side. And so she was like, I work at this company called Poshmark. We’re always hiring. I’m sure we have software engineer openings. Why don’t you like look?
Adrienne Hamrah: And so I took a look. I decided to apply. She referred me and I just absolutely fell in love with the culture, the people first, and then it happens that the product is also something I love and I use as well. So it’s like best of both worlds. So I think my tip is, first, if it’s not the right fit for you, don’t be scared to move. For me, I moved four times, four different companies. But just don’t settle and just go for it.
Tracy Sun: Thank you for sharing your stories. You guys, can you give them all just a… Yeah. Amazing. So I’m going to ask one more question and then I think we’re going to open up to Q&A. So those of you who know me and there’s a lot of you in the room, I’m a huge believer in superpowers. So I just gave Poshmark a superpower, which is people-powered innovation. And what I mean by a superpower is that there’s typically one thing that you can do that you know you do better than everybody else. And if you’re lucky, it’s useful in your personal life or career, but it doesn’t have to be.
Tracy Sun: And so I think it’s really–sometimes you don’t know what it is and sometimes it can change but I think it’s really helpful to have that conversation with yourself. Like, what is my superpower? So that you can carry that with you and just know, no matter what, I can do one thing better than everybody else. And I think that’s great for confidence. So I wanted to–this is one of the questions I snuck in there so I’m not going to call on anyone. But if you want to volunteer and share with us your superpower, my hope is that if we share then if you don’t know what yours is maybe we can help pull it out of you by sharing what ours is.
Tracy Sun: So I’ll just start. I didn’t know this until a few years ago but I think one of my superpowers is that I’m really good at telling stories if I care. And I’m really bad at telling stories if I don’t care. And so going back to like career stuff, I have to do things that I care about because then I do my best work. So I think my superpower is, I’m a good storyteller. Anyone want to share?
Adrienne Hamrah: I don’t know if this is a superpower, but I can literally talk about food forever, which is like it’s how I got this job. It’s how I got the job before this one. It’s great because like this company loves food too. So it just worked out and I’m like a supertaster. So I’m just very sensitive to like ingredients as well. So I’m the kind of person sitting at the table and like asking the waiter like, “What exactly do you put in here?” “Oh, yeah, yeah, I did taste that.”
Camille Ford: That’s funny. My superpower? I would say that I’m really good at building relationships with people. Not like massive amounts of people, but if I like find my group, I can really build deep relationships with them and it certainly served me at work, given that the markets team needs a lot of other people to get things done. But it just played a big role in my life to be able to like put myself in other people’s shoes.
Camille Ford: And it’s funny because my friends tell me I’m a good listener. My mom tells me I was the worst listener as a child. So I’m not exactly sure how to reconcile that. But other than kind of going this back to this point around caring. For the people that are around me, I care a lot, and building relationships has been something that I found I’m pretty good at it.
Vanessa Wong: So for me, I don’t know if this is a superpower, but I think this applies to–how many moms are out there? Yeah. So I’m a mom to three young children. I have three girls. They’re all under the age of five so I have to multitask like crazy. My husband has a really busy job too and so I think that carries on into my work life and personal life. I became super efficient after I had my first child. I don’t know if that applies to you other moms too. So I would say a superpower that I have is just being able to manage multiple things, switching context here and there and just being able to switch gears on the fly and just to readjust and reassess and prioritize accordingly. So, yeah.
Angela Buckmaster: So I think my superpower is actually something that other people knew about me before I knew it about myself and that is that I will and can support anyone in anything they want to do. So when I was a kid, I was the kid in elementary school who would get put in groups with like the trouble kids because I’d be so patient and supportive but I could like help the group get to the group project and get through it. And so for a lot of years though, I didn’t really realize this about myself and people are like, you should be a teacher, you should do this, you should do that.
Angela Buckmaster: And I always was like, “Oh, what’s my skill? What’s my thing?” And then actually being here at Poshmark and noticing kind of the roles I drifted towards and the people that I drifted towards, I kind of drifted towards the natural leaders because I wanted to support them and empower them. And I found eventually by spending a lot of time looking inside that that’s actually something I enjoy and I’m really good at. So I would say that’s my, my superpower.
Tracy Sun: Thank you guys for sharing. Let’s open it up for Q&A. If you have questions, I don’t know what to do. If you have questions, the mic is coming around. Raise your hand. Barkha, do you want to come up here? You’re fair game for questions. Thank you.
Speaker 12: Thank you. Thank you for sharing. I have two questions, so you can answer either or. One question I have is just about how you try to maintain the company culture as you grow into a larger company eventually over time? The other question I’m curious about is how you use innovation to stay ahead of your competitors? Who are your competitors?
Tracy Sun: Angela, you want to take those questions?
Angela Buckmaster: Yeah. So the first question about culture. I think for us, like you said, we’re scaling so much, so rapidly, not only internally, but externally. And so we have to think about both. And tying back into something I said earlier, I think that the way that we make sure that we continue to scale our culture is to make sure our culture is top of mind. Because again, if you think about it, if you talk about it, if you embrace it, it’s only going to get better. And you can never forget about it. So doing things like making sure we stay in touch with both our internal and external community all the time. Even at the company here.
Angela Buckmaster: So when I started six years ago, we were in one room and I knew everyone, I knew what they ate for dinner the night before. And now that we’re spread out and we’re on two different floors, it is a little bit harder, but you have to remember that we are all working together towards the same goals. So we talk to each other a lot. I can still go up to anyone in the company and talk to them about anything that’s happening inside or outside of the app. So I think again, just keeping it top of mind and always trying to think of how can we do this better has made us be able to scale our culture with the company.
Vanessa Wong: Yeah. Actually, I’ll do the first one too and I could go a little into the second one. So for our product features whenever we build something, we look at what our values are and we always make sure they’re rooted in there. So our CEO is really into love. I don’t know if you’ve guys have… You should catch some of his videos on YouTube but he always says something where you lead with love and with love comes money. And we use that a lot in our product thinking. We have a like, which is a heart, but we don’t have like a hate or dislike. Like how Facebook has different reactions.
Vanessa Wong: We always–everything is really positive. Everything is really transparent. And that goes along with a lot of our company culture as well. Everything is transparent. You can voice your opinion. You know what’s going on at our all hands–all the information is kind of disseminated into everyone. So that’s kind of how we look at when we’re developing products. As far as our competitors, yeah, we’re always checking them out. They’re always doing cool and unique things.
Vanessa Wong: But again, I think because we’re so different. We have like the largest community, social community out there. We have to take a little different angle. We can’t be like an eBay. They’re very different than us and whatever–let’s say we do something similar to them, it may not work for us. So we’re always on the lookout, but we always search within of like what would really help our sellers stylists? As people, they’ve started their own businesses on Poshmark. How can we empower them and how can we help them grow? You’ll be good…
Tracy Sun: No, no, no, no. She’s all right. I was going to echo.
Speaker: Do you have another question? Otherwise, we can keep going. All right there. Is there a mic?
Audience Member: Hi. I have a question about user feedback. How do you gather that and how do you incorporate that into the product development and innovation?
Angela Buckmaster: You can maybe onto that.
Vanessa Wong: So I actually work with people like Angela and we meet with the community team very often. I look at our Facebook groups and we talk to our users. We go to Posh Fest and we’re very connected to our users and we hear what’s going on and we incorporate that into our product roadmap. There are things that our users may request but they may not fit in. They might think that that is the solutions for them. But when we internally talk about these things, we think one step further is like, is that really helping? That might be one thing but we have a larger plan and larger vision for them.
Vanessa Wong: And I think one of the coolest things that I’ve done at Poshmark is each year, we have an annual get-together with our seller stylists called Posh Fest. And I’ve been very fortunate the last couple of years to kind of announce what we did for our hackathon. And so what we did is we had users submit things that they’ve want in the app and we get like, I don’t know, thousands and thousands of requests. And they’re like the spreadsheet is crazy.
Vanessa Wong: But I love looking at it each year because I’m like, “Oh, this is what they’re interested. This is what they’re passionate about.” And so, for example, last year we were able to rehaul our newsfeed and this is something that the users have wanted for so long and they were so excited about it. Another killer feature that we launched was they’d been always wanting a draft listing and so we were able to launch that. So that was really amazing.
Speaker: I think we have a question over here.
Audience Member: Thank you, everybody. I’m actually a Poshmark buyer, especially. I’ve been seller but buying more than selling. And so a question I have for you that I’ve noticed is that there is a very distinct culture within Poshmark. And I was wondering, how do you ensure that positive culture and thinking when like cybersecurity issues or bullying issues and things like that online considering there’s 40 million users, how do you use data or how do you think about the product or how do you build the communities to be able to continue that very specific type of culture that’s already been there? And especially around Cybersecurity anti-bullying.
Tracy Sun: So I’ll start and then Barkha, if you have anything to add, let me know. So we get this form of question quite a bit. And the first thing I’d say is it’s really hard to fake a value. So when you talk about the values that are our unique community, I’d say that comes from what we want and it’s a little bit of the world that we wish we had before we had Poshmark. We live it here at headquarters and it’s, we intentionally said let’s also build it into the user experience and also to our community.
Tracy Sun: And it’s really hard to fake that because you almost have to be a little bit crazy about it and not know you’re crazy. And in that way then you just naturally start to act in a way that’s according to your values and it becomes stronger and stronger. So what we did is we talked a lot to Angela’s point. We knew people were important to us. We knew culture is important to not just culture here, culture in our app, in our community. So we had that top of mind and built everything with that in mind.
Tracy Sun: And there are some times where we said this would make sense to make more money. But this doesn’t make sense if we want to be empowering to our sellers. And so we had our North Star and we chose that path. And so if you know what your North Star is and for us, it’s our people, then it’s easier to make those decisions when those crazy moments happen and you’re panicked and you don’t know exactly what to do. I don’t know if I can answer anything about cybersecurity. Can you? Where is Chetan?
Barkha Saxena: Or Gautam.
Tracy Sun: Or Gautam?
Barkha Saxena: Well, the only thing I would say is we also rely on our community to help with that. That’s the power of this community who is very passionate. For them, Poshmark is not just a product. It’s their own thing. So they really help us with that too. Like there’s lot of comment reporting, a lot of reporting that happens which goes to Angela team and of course, you have to look at it like the… You can report anything. But that’s where their team has the expertise in knowing like how to do it. But I think it’s our community who is actually allowing us to scale more than I would say the data in this case.
Speaker: We’ll take a few more questions.
Audience Member: Thank you. And thank you guys so much for volunteering your time to talk to us today. My question is around branding, especially when starting a company and starting a venture, especially social like Poshmart. How did you decide your values and how did you decide what kind of brand you wanted to put forward?
Tracy Sun: So I touched a little bit before… I’ll take, okay. I touched a little bit before about our values and just to recap, I think it comes from what you deeply care about and the founders and the founding team, we have a lot of things in common but I think one of the strongest things we have in common is just a belief in the way we want the world to be. So it’s almost outside of business and it’s not just a company value. It’s like our personal values. So it comes from there.
Tracy Sun: In terms of branding, I think that’s a really interesting one for us. And when it came time to really formalize our thoughts around brand, we were a little bit confused because we’re a company that wants to empower other people. And so if you create a really strong traditional brand, likely you will alienate some people. So I come from the fashion background. So my first thought was, “Ooh, we’re going to create a really cool logo and all of our messaging and all of our images are going to look chic and sophisticated.” Things that you had imagined at like Net-a-porter, for example, or just another cool brand. But we’re like, “Yeah, but 80% of America doesn’t want to see that. So what do we do then?”
Tracy Sun: And plus all of our sellers, they have their own story. How can we possibly create a brand around our story? And this is where those core values come into play. And one of our core values in terms of how we prioritize our time is to get behind our sellers, get behind our community, and make sure that we’re empowering them. And so when we think about brand, our brand became empowering sellers. And so when you see some of our videos or you see where we put our energy into things that might be called brand. We usually don’t put our faces, we put your faces right and we celebrate your wins. We don’t really celebrate our wins because if you or the community’s winning, we know we’re winning. So a lot of our brand is around community, honestly.
Speaker: Last question.
Audience Member: Thank you all so much for taking the time to speak with us today. I was wondering if you have an example of a challenge that you’re facing as a company right now or maybe in the recent past. And I’m interested in hearing about what kind of problem-solving methodology you use in a fast-paced environment like Poshmark.
Vanessa Wong: So I think one of the problems is scaling. We’re getting larger. Our app has a lot of different things in there. We want to introduce new features, but I think the core thing is keeping it simple. We don’t want it to be complicated. We don’t want a million steps in the listing flow. We don’t want to make buying complicated. But we do want to introduce new things that are useful for everyone. So I think one thing we’ve introduced within the last couple of years and we’ve introduced a concept of a metamodel.
Vanessa Wong: And what it is, is it’s basically a core set of principles that you kind of adhere to when you’re building a feature and really mapping it back to those. So if I’m going to create this button, like does it really adhere to what we’re trying to do? So really sticking that and it really gets the team aligned, as well. So let’s say we have a team of like 10 engineers working on it. That helps us really stay focused and make sure that we’re reaching our North Star.
Tracy Sun: Just to add one thing to what Vanessa said. The metamodel is a great one. But really that the problem that we’re facing that led that to be the solution is that we used to be a team that would sit around the table and design the product and then we grew to 400 plus people. And what we found is conversations were happening all over the place about the same project in different offices. We have three other offices around the world, and we had trouble–We would always try to communicate but things would always slip between the cracks.
Tracy Sun: And so that’s a challenge of scale that we had is we were not talking to each other in a way that — we weren’t communicating. We were talking and not communicating. So what the metamodel does, and you can call it what you want, but it gives guidelines. Here’s the core values. Here is what when we’re doing a feature, when we’re doing a project, we’re doing a campaign, here’s what it should do. And so double check yourself so that we don’t have to. We can be more nimble as a smaller team.
Speaker: All right. Thank you so much. Let’s give them a big round of applause here.
Technical Recruiter Claire Berkley passes the mic to SVP of New Markets and Co-Founder Tracy Sun to deliver opening remarks at Poshmark Girl Geek Dinner.
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