Meet the Aries Team: Caroline Webber, Senior Product Manager
Tell us a little about yourself – how long have you been working for Aries? What did you do before joining Aries?
I have been working for Aries since 2002, and just recently celebrated my 20th year anniversary with the company! My educational background is in finance, with some additional coursework in computer science. Prior to joining Aries, I started my career as a financial analyst working for the telephone company GTE (now Verizon). Subsequently I worked in finance for Digital Equipment, and then switched over to software support and business analysis work for Digital, the NASDAQ Stock Exchange, and Sabre (the airline reservation system spun off from American Airlines). I was originally on a financial training program with GTE where I relocated every six months, and later my husband relocated a lot so I have worked in six different US states and also lived in Belgium for a few years. I am originally from Virginia and New Jersey.
What have your roles at Aries been?
For my entire career at Aries I have been in the Product Management department, initially as a Business Systems Analyst and now as a Product Owner. The roles are a bit different – as a Business Systems Analyst I wrote a lot of functional specifications supporting our waterfall methodology. I have recently transitioned to a Product Owner role within our agile methodology, as a member of the Stark squad.
How have your previous roles helped you in your current position?
I feel that my position calls for a “generalist” – someone who understands business and customer needs, can make presentations at conferences, can create functional documents and PowerPoint presentations, but can also weigh in on technical issues. My previous jobs have given me exposure to all of those areas and that experience definitely has helped me in my current role.
How do you stay up-to-date with customer needs and industry trends?
The Stark squad primarily supports one Aries customer, so I am very much in touch with their unique needs. I am also involved in RFPs for prospects and conversations with other customers. In the past, I have had extensive involvement with customers at our in-person EMUG user group meetings and continue to participate in the virtual versions of those meetings.
Additionally, I am on some industry-wide committees related to the MECA transfer package and Peer Review terminology and attend industry conferences. Also, The Scholarly Kitchen blog and the Straive Knowledgespeak Newsletter are valuable for publishing industry issues and trends, and the Jacob Nielsen newsletter is a very interesting resource for software design.
How do you collaborate with other departments within Aries?
The Product Management group collaborates with all of the other departments in Aries, which is a fun part of the job. Primarily I collaborate with my own cross-functional squad, but also have extensive involvement with the Aries Client Services, QE, Engineering and TIO groups. But on any given day I may also collaborate with Sales, Marketing, and other Aries groups.
Tell me about your department and the people you work most closely with.
Our department has to have a deep understanding of our workflow solutions Editorial Manager (EM) and ProduXion Manager (PM) as a whole – how the end-to-end workflow takes place, how specific customers are using the product, the value we provide to the publishing industry, how data is imported/exported in the system, and what reports are available. We also need to have an understanding of the Submission Systems group within Elsevier and what they are working on. The Aries Product Management team is a very close-knit group and we all support each other. We meet together a few times during the week to discuss not only the features we are working on but industry trends, customer needs, and how we can meet them.
Describe your typical workday.
My mornings are taken up with meetings – internal and external because a lot of my time is spent collaborating with colleagues based in London and Amsterdam. Each morning the Stark team has a scrum meeting to assess how our current sprint is going and plan for future work. There are also several other agile-related meetings that I attend on a regular basis.
Outside of those meetings, I am researching future features, doing quarterly planning, answering questions from others in Aries and from customers, and occasionally jumping in on testing. Because I have been here so long, Aries colleagues often come to me to find out who is best to weigh in on a certain feature or question, and I am happy to triage those requests.
What do you most enjoy about your job? What do you enjoy most about working for Aries?
I really enjoy the variety and the chance to work with a lot of different groups within Aries and Elsevier. I like having an understanding of the product as a whole and how customers are using it. In addition, I have found that everyone in Aries has great company spirit and we help each other out.
What are you currently reading, listening to, or watching?
During COVID I have gotten pulled into some escapist reality TV shows, and have also had the opportunity to catch up on shows I didn’t watch originally (such as Glee and Grey’s Anatomy). I also enjoy PBS shows particularly Masterpiece Mystery. I have switched to reading newspapers online, and get emails every day with the headlines from those papers. I am a book club organizer so I definitely try to read the books in advance of our meetings! One that stands out is A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell which is the true story of an American woman who was part of a British spy network combating the Nazi regime in France. I also listen to a lot of history-related podcasts, and this fall am taking a tour in England sponsored by one of the podcasters. (Shout out to two of my favorite podcasts: The History of England Podcast by David Crowther and The History of English Podcast by Kevin Stroud – both of whom I have had a chance to meet in person!).
Tell me about some of your hobbies/interests outside of work.
I love traveling and am so glad that the world is reopening. I try hard to exercise each day (typically a long walk) and keep up with the news and podcasts. I also enjoy knitting, crocheting, and reading, and am involved with my church. I visit my adult children as much as (or perhaps more than) they want me to!