Meet the Aries Team: Lauren Oppenheim, Business Systems Analyst

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 November 2017 after 20 years in the Netherlands, 18 of which I’d spent working at the Amsterdam headquarters of Elsevier, now our parent company. As a Technical Product Manager in Amsterdam, I designed features for the proprietary submission/peer-review workflow systems that Elsevier used before acquiring Aries in 2018. Editorial Manager (EM) had already been on my radar for years as the gold standard for systems of its type, so Aries seemed like a promising door to knock on once I’d returned to the U.S. I was right – it was a perfect fit! I was hired as a Business Systems Analyst, part of the Product Management team headed by Tony Alves.

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

I held several roles in the Netherlands related to Elsevier’s own submission/peer-review systems, so my current position at Aries is a logical extension of those. EM is a massive application with a steep learning curve and lots of surface area, so it was helpful to come on board with some understanding of how it works and what goes on under the hood. My previous experience has also given me a sense of which business processes work and which ones don’t.

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

There are nine analysts plus two documentation specialists and a data analytics/reporting expert in the Product Management team, divided into four general functional areas. I’m in the group that focuses on core workflows and ‘things that go’. Our features often involve UI-intensive functionality and enhanced navigation paths with database impact, and require us to get creative and think outside the box. I’m fascinated by UX, especially the subtle power of UI messaging, and I enjoy prototyping new screens in Axure. The people I work most closely with are my colleagues in Product Management and Engineering, but I also collaborate with Client Services.

Describe your typical workday.

The analyst role at Aries requires a lot of focused thinking, so an ideal workday for me includes an uninterrupted stretch of time when I can concentrate and get in the ‘zone’ – not that things always work out that way. Most days involve some combination of handling emails, attending calls or meetings, troubleshooting technical issues escalated to us by our Client Services team, and some quiet, focused work on larger-scale projects like a functional spec or feature request analysis. Tony Alves, our manager and Product Management’s front line, strikes a good balance between helping us manage priorities and giving us the space to work independently. Now that we’re all working from home because of the pandemic, we use Slack for casual exchanges – and of course for sharing cat pictures!

What do you most enjoy about your job?

EM is a complex, mature application full of snares for the unwary, so designing new features sometimes feels like trying to push a round peg through a square hole. But it’s rewarding to come up with designs that meet the requirements and also make complex functionality feel logical and intuitive from the end user’s perspective. It’s an extremely creative job – there are so many different ways to solve a problem. Our peer review process within Product Management is especially helpful, as my colleagues often suggest completely new approaches to a particular design challenge.

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

I’m a self-avowed crazy cat lady – my two cats, both brought over from the Netherlands, are great company during these pandemic-era workdays at home. In a past life I was a serious classical pianist. I still play, but I don’t call it ‘practicing’ anymore. Some musicians are disappointed when careers take them down non-musical paths, but I feel lucky to have been able to evolve professionally in areas that most conservatory graduates never experience! As a chess player, I also spend lots of time on, where I play in real time against opponents from all over the world and stay up way too late solving puzzles. And in the summer months I enjoy hiking in the woods. I often default to the same areas rather than explore new ones – they’re never the same twice. I miss my two kids (22 and 24), who both live in the Netherlands, but we communicate frequently by phone, WhatsApp, and Zoom.

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

With books I’m a serial monogamist – can only focus on one at a time, often novels about disturbed people, although lately I’ve been on a David Sedaris kick. On TV I gravitate for some reason toward morbid documentaries about prisons, autopsies, serial killers, and botched surgeries (often while multi-tasking on with a cat on my lap), but sometimes I get sentimental and watch Dutch films on YouTube. I listen to classical music often, but also to Jefferson Airplane, P.J. Harvey, Led Zeppelin, Punch Brothers, Portishead, dEUS, Jan Garbarek, and lots more.