Dec 22, 2021
Written by CJ
Junction Live host and Global SVP of Marketing and Business Systems at CJ, Nicole Ron, is joined by CJ Senior Product Manager, Lu Richie for the penultimate episode of Meet the Expert, our four-part career conversation mini-series in which we connect with CJ'ers from across departments and functions to learn about their current roles, career progression, and get a glimpse into what life is like at CJ. In this episode, Lu divulges what it's like to not only learn about the ins and outs of affiliate but also what it's like creating cutting-edge products and tech for such a niche industry.
Junction Live: taking thought leadership off the page and into the studio with some of the sharpest minds in affiliate marketing. Today, we're joined by Lu Richie, a Senior Product Manager in Boston, Massachusetts. Let's find out a bit more about Lu. Lu, it's so great to have you. I know we get to work with each other on a daily basis and so it's fun to get to pick your brain on something not product-related.
LU RICHIE: 00:48 | Exactly. Hi, everyone. Super excited to join. This is fun.
NICOLE RON: 00:53 | Awesome. And how long have you been at CJ?
LU RICHIE: 00:55 | For three and half years.
NICOLE RON: 00:58 | You're reaching that point where you've almost been here as long as you were in college if you went to college.
LU RICHIE: 01:03 | I know. You know what? I've been there for over three years, but I still feel like a newbie here because there are so many things to learn about. Every day is a different day for me here. This is exactly what excites me the most at CJ. And every day is a learning day. It's awesome.
NICOLE RON: 01:19 | Talk to me about what is a typical day looks like for you. I know you mentioned that every day is a little bit different. But if you had to kind of give listeners a sense of what it's like to be on the Product Development team.
LU RICHIE: 01:30 | Yeah. So, the funny thing is this question is really hard for a PM to answer because you probably going to hear different answers for every Product Manager. And every day is literally different for me. But a typical day will start with me working with my engineering team. We have daily check-ins; we have daily stand-ups. Probably the first thing that I do with them is just talking about how the thing's going, how are the projects, are we making good progress. And if there are any questions we discuss during that daily stand-up. I also spend a good amount of time by myself to go through my backlog. My backlog is the one that I keep all the requirements for all my stakeholders and my end users. I do regular backlog grooming just to make sure the requirements are up to date, and we're delivering the benefits and value to our end users. The other part of my work is working with the rest of the business and clients. So, making sure they are clear on the project deliveries and the timings and also answering any questions that a client may have, or a client dev may have about our product features, future launches, or anything like that. I will not say that I do this every day, but we definitely spend a good amount of time on a weekly or monthly basis to listen to our end-users to collect their feedback and make sure our products are delivering value ongoing basis.
NICOLE RON: 03:03 | Awesome. So, super collaborative. It sounds like not just within the engineering and product departments, but across the entire company.
LU RICHIE: 03:10 | Exactly. Yeah. I basically work with every department of the company, which is exactly what I like about my job.
NICOLE RON: 03:17 | Awesome. So before working at CJ, what was the most unusual or interesting job you ever had?
LU RICHIE: 03:26 | My husband is a wedding photographer, and he used to do this professionally. So, he would have a couple of weddings every weekend, and sometimes a wedding's super big. I go in to help him take photos. I'm not a professional photographer but I like taking photos. I think I did a good job taking photos. So sometimes I would be a second shooter at the wedding. It is really fun, and I love going to weddings, going through the ceremony and seeing the love between the couples, hearing their vows. That almost put tears in my eyes. So, I love, love being part of the wedding and being able to capture the fun and most memorable moment of their life probably is very—it means a lot to me. So, I really enjoyed it. That's probably one of the most interesting I've done before joining CJ.
NICOLE RON: 04:15 | So before you joined CJ, what did you do? What was your profession or career?
LU RICHIE: 04:20 | So I started as a business analyst in an e-commerce company. So basically, understanding the business model, writing different use cases, and I worked really closely between a product owner and engineering team. And from there, I started to develop an interest in working directly with end-user, figuring out what they want and what kind of value we can provide. And really being that liaison between the business and engineering team. And that's how I slowly transitioned my role from more like a requirement perspective to more like client-facing. So that's why I ended up deciding to move on to a Product Manager position and in the end finding a great job on CJ.
NICOLE RON: 05:10 | Amazing. And how did you first hear about us?
LU RICHIE: 05:12 | I honestly, I was just searching on Glassdoor. And I found this role at CJ, Senior Product Manager. And I obviously know nothing about the affiliate industry. But I shop online, right? And also, I'm a deal seeker. Whenever I try to buy something, I'll go to those coupon websites. I'll go to those cashback websites. But then I realized this is such a huge interest in the industry. And when I was interviewing and looking for CJ, I'm like, "Huh, this is what's behind the door." I'm now knowing all the interesting details about buying this product with a coupon code. So that got me interested and I thought, it's such a smart business model because it's a win-win situation. The industry wins a portion of the commission, but the consumer also got a big discount. So, I thought this really smart, interesting industry, and that got me really wanting to know more about the affiliate channel and about CJ.
NICOLE RON: 06:15 | In terms of like—you got your foot in the door at CJ, you joined the team. Is the role that you're in now the same as the role you started with at the company or has it evolved?
LU RICHIE: 06:26 | So I started as a PM. My role did not change much, but I did move from one domain to another. I started working on a domain called tracking engagement. And that domain focused on building CJ's best-in-class tracking solutions. And as a matter of fact, Nicole, you may remember my first project. We were working on GDPR and you and I actually worked together for a while.
NICOLE RON: 06:51 | We'll never forget GDPR.
LU RICHIE: 06:53 | That was a really fun project. That was my first project start on the domain. It was such a great way to introduce the affiliate industry to me. Understand how our tracking solution works, how attribution works. But gradually I realized my interest is more building front-end web applications. And that's what my role is focusing on right now. Building the in-platform reporting tools. Really come up with clear, concise reporting tools to help our clients and users to manage their programs.
NICOLE RON: 07:26 | Very cool. Yeah. Awesome. What challenges you at CJ?
LU RICHIE: 07:32 | Initially, the challenge I got was really the high learning curve about the affiliate industry. Affiliate is such a niche industry. For a person who is coming from an ecommerce background, the initial learning curve was quite large to understand what an advertiser is, what publisher is, how the tracking solution works, how we do attribution, how we do client integration. All of those took me a while. And I did meet with all the department leaders. They were really nice, really supportive to give me some training on those backgrounds. So that really helped me to conquer the learning curve.
NICOLE RON: 08:13 | And do you feel like you had the resources you needed to kind of jump that learning curve? I know from a product perspective, especially on GDPR and attribution and tracking, that's the farthest deep end of the pool that you could possibly be thrown in at. And you've done an incredible job. How did you navigate learning the industry and what sort of resources or support did you have?
LU RICHIE: 08:37 | Basically, everyone I met in CJ is so supportive. And that's why I felt, although the learning curve was high, I was not intimidated at all. So, in terms of support, all the leaders from each department are so approachable. And if I have a question from the Pub Dev team, I would just knock on their door. They're like, "Oh, I'm happy to have a training session with you." Each department is happy to meet with me, tell me what their team focuses on, what kind of clients’ needs are from their perspective. And they are just so supportive. They answer my question any time I have any question and there are no silly questions. I just feel so welcomed and I'm not afraid to ask any question to anyone. And all the departmental leaders even Nicole, the first projects we worked on that was GDPR was super high level, and I was working in the same room with three VP’s of this company. And that was the second week when I started my job. And it was great. I felt like everyone was so supportive and I wasn't intimidated at all. I felt comfortable asking questions, giving them my opinions, and I even got praised when I brought up a good point. That's why I love CJ so much is that self-empowerment is so crucial and really marks a big difference in my career development.
NICOLE RON: 10:06 | I'm curious, what's something that you've learned on the job that you wish you had known a little earlier?
LU RICHIE: 10:14 | So what I learn about my job is I'm actually not that bad at presentations. So, coming from a—as you already could tell, English is not my first language. So, coming from that background, I'm always a little bit afraid of public speaking. In my old job, I didn't get a lot of chances to practice presentation, practice public speaking. I always—there's a small side of myself that says, "Oh, you're just not good at it. You suck at talking." And what I used to do for a presentation is I would spend hours writing down the script and memorizing the script and making the presentation as quote-unquote "perfect" as possible. But in reality, it turned out to be a disaster because there's no interaction. It's like me delivering a speech and no one cares about it. But as I start working with CJ, was more doing more presentations. I realized presentation isn't that hard. And there's a lot of chance at CJ, you get to practice. And people give you constructive feedback after the presentation to help you to grow, to help you to improve. And now I start to realize I'm not that bad. This is just my style. My style of delivering is different than anyone else, and I'm accepting that fact.
NICOLE RON: 11:39 | I'm curious, what's your favorite thing about CJ?
LU RICHIE: 11:44 | I think people. It has to be people, hands down. Everyone is so supportive, and I just feel like I'm part of it. I feel confident being myself. I feel empowered to reach out to people I don't really talk to on a regular basis. And I feel like if I have a new idea, I want to try it out I got support from my boss, from leaders from other departments. It's just the people here are so great. And I'm sure you probably hear this similar answer from other folks from CJ, it is really the people that keep us going and keep us wanting to stay in CJ, which is an amazing culture in here.
NICOLE RON: 12:28 | How do you think CJ is helping your career development either now or even in the future and where you want to go?
LU RICHIE: 12:36 | I think the best one is self-empowerment. Of course, it gave me a lot of experience. I got to work on a variety of products. I come from one domain to another domain. And so that really enriched my knowledge, both technology and also program management knowledge. But the part that makes the biggest difference for me is building self-confidence and also feeling self-empowered to do what I want to do it. There are really no boundaries as long as I'm doing my due diligence. My boss really gave me a lot of trust in doing things my way. And she just gave me a lot of— she's just let me figure it out by myself. And she gave me a lot of trust, and that trust really make me thrive in my position. And I was able to trust my guts and do the thing I feel was right to do. Of course, after a lot of research, a lot of homework. But that feeling that no one is restraining you, no one is questioning your decision is really powerful for me to grow and evolve in my position.
NICOLE RON: 13:51 | What's one of the biggest hurdles that you've had to overcome to get where you are in your career today? It could be at CJ, it could be before CJ but just in general, what's one or some of the biggest hurdles you've had to face?
LU RICHIE: 14:05 | So I think the biggest one I have to overcome is really accepting who I am. So, I am a first-generation immigrant. I came to the United States for my master's degree. And you know, when you first come to a new country, to a new culture, there's always that feeling that I need to fit in. This is a new place, and you need to be adaptive. And when you try to do that, you kind of change yourself. Unconsciously, I just start to force myself into a different style just to fit in, feel like fitting into this new environment. And that just made me start to lose myself. I just started to realize this is not myself anymore. I'm losing the true Lu on my inside. And then coming in CJ and I didn't realize how easy to find myself in CJ. Everyone is just okay with me being me. I started to feel comfortable just accepting, this is me. I'm not perfect, but I'm okay. Everyone's okay with me not being perfect. Everyone is okay with me making a silly decision, making silly comments. I do that all the time. And that was the biggest hurdle. And I love that. I love that I'm okay to feel comfortable being myself and, in an environment, I feel comfortable with.
NICOLE RON: 15:32 | What advice do you have for people who are considering joining our company?
LU RICHIE: 15:38 | So I think for people who are joining our company if you are a hard worker but you also need a work-life balance, this is the exact place for you. I believe in myself being a hard worker. When I work, I'm really working. But you guys know this, I became a new mom in 2020. And during the pandemic, it was really challenging and different to raise a newborn. When I came back from my maternity leave, everyone was so, so supportive. I can't stress this more. Even if I have to step away to take care of my baby or have to feed her everyone said, "Yeah, no problem. I'm happy to reschedule the meeting." It was just that support from the internal teams. Being able to balance your work and life during the pandemic, I do not know that from anywhere else. CJ is a culture that cares a lot about work and life balance.
NICOLE RON: 16:45 | All right. Thanks so much for sharing a bit about your experience as a CJ’er. Now let's dive into a few rapid-fire questions. The goal of this segment is to get to know you a little bit better. So, answer these questions as quickly as possible with the first thing that comes to mind. All right. Here we go.
What's your favorite place you've ever visited?
LU RICHIE: 17:06 | Florence, Italy.
NICOLE RON: 17:08 | How do you like your eggs?
LU RICHIE: 17:10 | Over easy.
NICOLE RON: 17:12 | What's your favorite childhood movie?
LU RICHIE: 17:15 | The Little Mermaid.
NICOLE RON: 17:16 | What's your biggest pet peeve?
LU RICHIE: 17:18 | I don't like people being late.
NICOLE RON: 17:21 | What's your favorite holiday?
LU RICHIE: 17:23 | It has to be Christmas because we have the day off and there's an unlimited amount of food to eat.
NICOLE RON: 17:29 | What are you reading right now?
LU RICHIE: 17:31 | A lot of mom books. How to raise your baby. That's my bedtime story.
NICOLE RON: 17:40 | Favorite band?
LU RICHIE: 17:41 | Backstreet Boys.
NICOLE RON: 17:43 | Favorite breakfast cereal?
LU RICHIE: 17:45 | I don't know. I love all kinds. All the ones with a lot of sugar.
NICOLE RON: 17:50 | Favorite board game?
LU RICHIE: 17:51 | Ooh, I love social deduction games. So, and my favorite one is Mafia and Avalon.
NICOLE RON: 17:58 | If you could teach one subject in school, what would it be?
LU RICHIE: 18:01 | If they offer mandarin, I'm happy to teach them. I can't mess that up.
NICOLE RON: 18:07 | What is something you can't do?
LU RICHIE: 18:10 | I cannot count in English.
NICOLE RON: 18:12 | Favorite food?
LU RICHIE: 18:14 | Sushi.
NICOLE RON: 18:15 | Least favorite food?
LU RICHIE: 18:17 | I cannot stand strong tastes. Foods like cilantro or cinnamon.
NICOLE RON: 18:24 | Favorite Disney character?
LU RICHIE: 18:28 | It has to be Mickey.
NICOLE RON: 18:30 | Name a favorite place you want to visit.
LU RICHIE: 18:33 | I want to go to Australia. I want to see the reefs.
NICOLE RON: 18:36 | Yes. What is something you wish you could be good at?
LU RICHIE: 18:41 | Dancing.
NICOLE RON: 18:42 | Any kind of dancing or a specific kind of dancing?
LU RICHIE: 18:45 | I really love breakdancing. Like a robot. I think that's super cool.
NICOLE RON: 18:50 | Yes! I'll take breakdance classes with you!
LU RICHIE: 18:52 | Yeah. That would be fun.
NICOLE RON: 18:54 | Who's your first celebrity crush?
LU RICHIE: 18:56 | A soccer player in England called Michael Owen. I used to be a soccer fan and I have his poster all over in my bedroom.
NICOLE RON: 19:07 | Nice. What's your guilty pleasure?
LU RICHIE: 19:11 | Watching any kind of reality show. My newest favorite one is called Below Deck, talking about a yacht. People renting yachts for vacation.
NICOLE RON: 19:21 | Awesome. What's heavily played on your music playlist right now?
LU RICHIE: 19:25 | Super Simple Songs.
NICOLE RON: 19:27 | What's your favorite beverage?
LU RICHIE: 19:30 | I don't drink a lot of alcohol. But I drink a lot of soda any kind of bubbly soda. I love it.
NICOLE RON: 19:37 | Do you have any nicknames?
LU RICHIE: 19:39 | My nickname is Hippo. And I got it from my middle school. My classmates saw me yawning and randomly gave me that name.
NICOLE RON: 19:49 | What's your favorite sport to watch?
LU RICHIE: 19:51 | Right now it is hockey.
NICOLE RON: 19:54 | What is one item you could never live without?
LU RICHIE: 19:59 | Unfortunately, my phone has grown into my life.
NICOLE RON: 20:04 | What chore do you hate doing?
LU RICHIE: 20:06 | I hate folding laundry.
NICOLE RON: 20:09 | Me too.
LU RICHIE: 20:09 | I don't mind doing it. I hate folding them.
NICOLE RON: 20:12 | And what's your best feature?
LU RICHIE: 20:15 | I'm very passionate about things. And I think that drives me to grow a lot. I can be passionate about random things and I start to learn about random things.
NICOLE RON: 20:25 | Awesome. That's a wrap! Thanks for joining us today. If you enjoyed this episode of Meet the Expert, a podcast mini-series, be sure to check out the rest of our Meet the Expert series on Junction.