Last week, I ventured outside PayScale’s office to meet with Amanda Powter — a former PayScale employee who is now working a few blocks away at Oath. Amanda entered the workforce without any idea of where she was headed, but found her passion and became a VP at a large tech company.
When Amanda was an undergrad at the University of Washington, her mom encouraged her to “follow her dream” and study what she was interested in. Amanda followed this advice and spent four years studying ancient Greek and Latin, eventually graduating with a BA in Classics in 1998. After graduating, Amanda knew that she didn’t want to go the academic route and become a professor. Naturally, she thought to herself: “Great, now what am I supposed to do?”
Amanda reached out to Amazon, then a small ecommerce company, and got her first job as a catalog specialist in their Seattle office. In this role, she manually reviewed user comments and corrected typos and formatting in Amazon’s catalog.
While working full-time for Amazon, Amanda simultaneously returned to UW to work toward a Master’s in Library and Information Science. Looking back at this time in her life, Amanda admits that she was too young and na?ve to realize how taxing this would be. But, she survived the experience and now views it as one of her greatest professional accomplishments.
In the eight years after starting at Amazon, Amanda made an effort to learn skills from the people around her and eventually transitioned to a series of product management roles. In her last role at Amazon, she launched the company’s Merchant Analytics program.
Although a background in Classics is extremely rare in the tech industry, Amanda says that it has benefited her throughout her career, giving her a unique perspective toward solving problems. After all, making sense of complex data is not that different from decoding ancient languages.
After Amazon, Amanda applied her knowledge and experience at PayScale. Here, Amanda organized data and developed multiple taxonomies for our compensation tools. Amanda spent three years at PayScale, and our company is still benefiting from her hard work.
Amanda then jumped between several companies on the tech side of the advertising industry before finally landing at a company called PrecisionDemand. At PrecisionDemand, Amanda worked as VP of Product (TV) and played a large role in the acquisition of the company by AOL. Earlier this year, AOL was acquired by Verizon and rebranded under the name Oath.
Amanda’s Role at Oath
Amanda now serves as Oath’s VP of Technology and Product (TV). In this position, she coordinates the efforts of the company’s engineering, data science and product teams for the TV advertising platform. The work that Amanda does now is much more abstract than her work at Amazon and PayScale. Nowadays, she spends most of her time reading about and researching new technologies, focusing on strategy and “attending meetings so other people don’t have to.”
Amanda’s passion for using data and technology to solve problems extends beyond her work at Oath. In her spare time, Amanda supports nonprofit organizations such as GeekGirlCon, which celebrates the contributions of women and girls in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math).
Advice From Amanda
Amanda’s first job at Amazon was very narrowly focused, but she often had the opportunity to roll up her sleeves and help in other areas in the company. Most of the time, coworkers in other departments were excited about their work and more than willing to share their knowledge. Amanda’s advice: take advantage of this at your own employer, and don’t be afraid to try things that fall outside of your job description. This is particularly important early in your career because you might not have that time or luxury later in life.
Although Amanda’s learning has always been very self-driven, one thing she wishes that she had realized earlier in her life is that you own your career growth and ambition. You will hopefully have mentors and managers to guide you along the way, but ultimately you must drive your own career and create your own opportunities.
Amanda also has some advice for people preparing for interviews. When going into an interview, it is common to primarily focus on selling yourself to the company. However, it is equally important to use interviews as a chance to see if the company is a good fit for you. From Amanda’s experience, this not only leads to choosing more fulfilling jobs but also relaxes you and makes you appear more confident to interviewers.
Amanda's advice: don’t be afraid to try things that fall outside of your job description.
It was refreshing to hear from Amanda, who has spent the last decade working for other companies in Seattle. From working at Amazon in its infancy to overseeing the acquisition of PrecisionDemand by a global brand, Amanda has seen it all and has great advice to offer based on experience.
I found it particularly interesting to learn how Amanda leveraged her background in Classics while working in the tech industry. Although many majors prepare you for a specific career track, you are by no means stuck on that path. Amanda’s story shows that with initiative, creativity and hard work, it is possible to enter — and thrive in — a completely unrelated field.
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