Jovia Nierenberg is Chief Operating Officer at Experience in Software. That’s the company behind the new project management tool Webplanner. She’s only 23. I asked her about her life as a COO, what’s next for Webplanner and her advice for young women wanting to work in project management.
Jovia, how did you end up being COO at 23?
My father founded Experience in Software (EIS) in 1983. Shortly after finishing college, I began work at the company doing some basic bookkeeping. Just a few months later, my dad got sick and could run the business less and less.
We were at a pivotal turning point with the beginning of Webplanner’s development, which I was product managing. Given my father’s health complications and my experience working at the company, it made sense for me to assume more responsibility and become COO of the company. I’ve really enjoyed streamlining EIS’s business processes and learning how to run a company.
So what does your role involve?
At a small company we all wear many hats. I do everything from defining company procedures and operations to product-managing Webplanner to checking the mail. I also manage other employees, do Webplanner customer support (someone else does Project KickStart customer support), design the user interface of Webplanner, manage company finances, and various tasks that do not fit into anyone else’s job description.
Wow, that’s a varied job. Tell us about what role you play in the development of Webplanner.
Webplanner development is probably the most fun part of my job. When we have new features and pages, I draw the initial user interface sketches and work with our primary developer to turn the sketches into reality. I focus primarily on product intuitiveness; whenever a user has trouble understanding how to do something, I go back and see if that functionality can be made easier to use.
I manage the development team and communicate with customers about bugs they’ve found and changes they’d like to see. Whenever I use any web app or other piece of software, I’m thinking about how we can make Webplanner better. I record ideas and cool things I see in the world in an Evernote account.
Much of my process has been inspired by Steven Johnson’s book, Where Good Ideas Come From. I’m very interested in how people think and plan and how we can develop Webplanner (and future applications) to help people innovate.
It sounds like you’ve got a lot of good ideas for the product. How is the development of Webplanner going and what’s next for the tool?
Very well!!! Our beta testing group has doubled in size in the month of May and is continuing to grow. Our last big hurdle before release is getting our billing system set up. Once Webplanner is on the market, we plan to go mobile with an iPhone/iPad app and an Android app.
There are also many updates in the works, including improved multi-project functionality and better integration with other software like MS Project and salesforce.com. We will, of course, continue to incorporate the feature requests we get from our users too.
First Project KickStart, now Webplanner. Why do you enjoy working with project management tools?
I am fascinated by how people think and tools that can help people accomplish their dreams. Project management software helps people turn their ideas into reality and I find that very exciting.
What advice do you have for young women who want to go into project management or software development?
No dream is too big. Passion and good planning are equally important when it comes to accomplishing your goals.
Read books that feature success stories. I recently enjoyed Behind the Cloud by Marc Benioff. Read blogs and forums that interest you. Develop a network of people to bounce ideas off of. Go to local tech events and introduce yourself to people. It’s been my experience that if you’re warm and friendly, people are eager to help you when you’re starting out. I’ve gotten great advice this way.
There are also many organizations dedicated to helping female entrepreneurs. For instance, in the San Francisco Bay Area (where our office is located), there is Women 2.0, who we met at a SF New Tech event. Wherever you’re located, I recommend finding resources like that and taking advantage of what they offer.
I also want to put in a plug that at Experience in Software, we’re always looking for bright young women interns who are interested in getting into project management or who would one day like to start their own companies.