Meet the Aries Team: Beth Fitzhenry-Neale, Product Manager

Tell us a little about yourself – how long have you been working for Aries? What did you do before joining Aries?

I joined Aries in May 2012 as a Business Systems Analyst writing functional specifications for new features in Editorial Manager (EM) and ProduXion Manager (PM). I later became a Product Manager for EM-specific functionality workflows and have recently moved to supporting the EM APIs connected through the Aries ecosystem of integrations. When I first joined Aries, I had no prior experience in the publishing industry. However, I have since been on a journey of continuous learning and growth, thanks to the valuable experiences and knowledge shared by my colleagues. I have a B.S. in Business Management from Bentley University with select MBA courses at Babson College.

My previous experience was as a Composition Programmer Analyst at Fidelity where I consulted and designed internal tools and customer facing applications in the print-on-demand Health and Welfare Communications space of the financial industry. Prior to this, I spent many years as a Customer Relations Manager and Quality Consultant at IBM (Lotus) where I co-facilitated the first Global Customer Support ISO 9001 Certification. I sat side by side working with developers to design the tools used to implement the policies, procedures, and workflows with an approval workflow built in for changes using Lotus Notes as the application. So, I am no stranger to customer service, process/workflow design, quality methodologies, and continuous improvement.

What have your roles at Aries been?

I’ve held my current position as Product Manager for several years. In my tenure as the Product Manager for EM workflows, I worked with my cross-departmental development squad to implement key system enhancements, such as the WeChat Gateway integration, inclusionary data collection, cookies warning banner, and more. I am now the Product Manager for the Aries development squad focused on APIs and work directly with our integration partners to connect customers with solutions through our ecosystem of technologies. I am responsible for understanding the future of the industry, finding opportunities to add value, and working with teammates to solve pain points and bring features to life. As a lifelong learner with a natural curiosity, I find that the Product Manager role aligns perfectly with my aspirations.

Prior to being a Product Manager, I was a Business Systems Analyst writing functional specifications. The roles are somewhat similar in that you spend a lot of time eliciting feedback, analyzing, and measuring the impact of the problem we are trying to solve and holding ideation discussion with various stakeholders. As a Business Systems Analyst, it was my responsibility to design the solution, create mockups, and document every facet of the solution. As a Product Manager, however, I decide on the product roadmap, elicit customer needs, and provide guidance to the engineers on what problems we are trying to solve and what criteria we use to measure the success of the design and sign off on the final design before it rolls out the door. I am still known to create a workflow chart from time to time!

How have your previous roles helped you in your current position?

Believe it or not, my very first full-time job was as an Associate Accountant where I learned to balance numbers and always tie them back when creating various reports. This built the foundation for my organizational skills and my ability to understand numbers and reports. The next relevant experience was as a Customer Relations Manager and Quality Consultant. This is where my love of workflows, continuous improvement, customer loyalty, version controls for documentation, learning new technology and listening to the voice of the customer bloomed. Analyzing our data to make changes, understanding how to apply quality methods such as The Balanced Scorecard, Customer Loyalty Surveys, and ISO 9001 to improve the way we deliver products and services was the next building block.

I then moved from software to financial industry working as a Sr. Programmer Analyst at Fidelity. I focused on automating processes, consulted on internal tool designs, and lead the design and implementation of a workflow tracking tool for cross-departmental issue tracking. This is where I learned and applied Excel Pivot Tables, Kaizen, Six Sigma, and a little bit about SQL to make minor changes on my own and have always had a knack for reading programming code to understand how the feature was working. I worked with developers to update HTML tag conversions to improve the translation from the rich text editor to the tagged text file used to drive customizable print on demand communications. This reinforced the fact that I like technology, solving problems, streamlining workflows and analyzing data to facilitate positive change.  

This led me to Aries Systems, as my passion was to design and have a perspective on how a tool needs to work. It became very evident to me that if you want people to use your product, it must be where they go to work every day, and I committed to bringing new features that solved customer problems. I apply everything I have learned in the past to my current role – You never know what tools you’ll need from the toolbox from one day to the next.

How do you stay up-to-date with customer needs and industry trends?

My Twitter account is entirely used for business and I follow many in the industry who have a pulse on today and tomorrow. I attend industry conferences and recently spoke at our Editorial Manager User Group (EMUG 2023) last month where I spent time with as many customers as possible. I am also an end user at heart and try to put myself in the persona I am designing for and try to imagine what I am trying to do at each step. I also consult with our Sales, Marketing, and Client Services teams as well as our customers directly to understand both the pain points and the opportunities. I review all feedback collected from our users through UI/UX research, interviews, surveys, wish lists, workshops, and more. Again, my curiosity, love of learning, and genuine desire to improve the value our products bring to our customers comes naturally to me.

Tell me about your department and the people you work most closely with.

I work as part of Aries’ Product Management team made up of energetic, creative, competent, analytical leaders who form a high performing team of Product Managers, Documentation Specialists, Business Analysts, and Reporting Specialists. Some have been with Aries long-term and built the product from the ground up. The combined knowledge and skillsets of this team is what makes this team shine. We support each other and are happy for each other’s successes.

How do you collaborate with other departments within Aries?

I value all opinions and understand each department and each person gives a unique perspective to customer pain points, trends in the industry, and design ideation. Other departments at Aries are critical to my job, making for a better product. Client Services provides customer insights that help drive the solutions we put our energy into. The DBA team helps with internal reports that inform technical stack decisions, the volumes we need to consider, or customers we need to ensure continue to work as we deploy new features. Sales and Marketing provide great guidance on how to position and promote enhancements through go-to-market strategies. Technology and UI/UX Departments are where the design ideation magic takes place using the customer insight as their guide. While the customers are not a department, they are the ultimate resource and provide invaluable insight to help guide me where I need to go.

Describe your typical workday.

We are at the start of a new quarter, which means a lot of time was spent on planning out new features to include on the roadmap, speaking with stakeholders about their priorities, crafting design ideation for the new features, and getting the work into sprints as an agile-based development team. I recently automated much of the reporting on feature development work to provide management with a one stop shop for what the squads I support are working on. On any given day, I spend time discussing the needs of our customers around particular features and gaining insights using reporting that is available to me to help drive decisions. I work on the vision of the products I support, looking for new opportunities to make our products a better experience for our customers and to have enough insight to anticipate their needs. By having a clear vision, I can lay the foundation early to allow for scaling and adding new functionality because I listen to what our customers want today and tomorrow and plan the road to get there.

In addition to my day job, I also work with others who are new to the Product Manager role, coach and guide the squads to remove impediments, and assist with internal processes as requested. And last but not least, promote the new features through demonstrations and user group channels and collect feedback to continuously improve the user experience.

What do you most enjoy about your job? What do you enjoy most about working for Aries?

Vision and strategy are number one; ideation, working with the best minds to discover new ways of working and seeing the vision come to life. Next, is learning new things from technology to analyzing customer input that drives decision-making. Lastly, I enjoy the variety of the types of work where there is never a dull day.

As an Aries employee, the culture and organization are important to me. I have been a part of teams who formed the next generation of the Aries Knowledgebase, ideate with the culture champions, prototyped Squad Status pages, co-wrote a white paper on the transition to agile, as well as contribute to the continuous improvement in our internal processes and procedures where I see opportunities. I try to learn from everything because every interaction could be what sparks a new idea. I enjoy working in such a collaborative environment!

What are you currently reading, listening to, or watching?

Lately, I find myself hooked on watching the series Suits which has nine seasons. I am currently reading a book by Nora Roberts. I find I like happy endings to my stories with a mystery thrown in here and there. I have been known to go into Barnes & Noble in the business and computer science sections to see if there is anything interesting. Workflows, strategy, agile, cloud, coaching/mentorships, and customer satisfaction are some of the topics I seek to continuously learn and improve. 

Tell me about some of your hobbies/interests outside of work.

During the summer, I enjoy spending time at Cape Cod. Some of my favorite activities include going to the beach, riding my electric bike, looking for treasure at estate sales, and listening to jazz while reading a book. Spending time with family and friends is the most important activity, and I make a point to get together at least once every year with long-term friends. I love listening to music that moves me, so my playlist crosses all decades, generations, and genres.