Profile: MaryAlexa Divver, Director of Product at Public

Published Feb 24, 2021
Mary Alexa Divver
Name: MaryAlexa Divver

Role: Director of Product

Company: Public

What’s the best way to keep your team motivated?

Consistent and in-the-moment feedback. I have regular touch bases with people on and off my team but I think feedback in the moment ends up being the most impactful. With the positive feedback, the recipient feels accomplished in the moment, further encouraging similar behaviors and actions. For the negative feedback, which is often more important, the feedback is given right in that moment, turning it into a teaching moment to move forward from, rather than a list of items to go through in a once-in-a-while formalized performance review. And at Public, “Feedback comes from a place of care” is one of our core principles

What product(s) are you responsible for? What makes your product special? Why do you love working on these problems? is the investing social network. I’m responsible for the investing side of the house. That includes everything from opening your brokerage account, funding, trading, as well as the tools that help our internal teams provide the best experience for our members. The topics of personal finance and investing are shifting. They are becoming “cool” while the taboos around talking about money are starting to fade. With that, there is room for innovation. There’s so much more to be done in the investing space. Our decision to not participate in PFOF (payment for order flow) is just the beginning. Taking the complex, antiquated systems of investing and making them accessible with an educational context is what keeps me motivated.

What productivity “hacks” or habits do you live by? 

My calendar heavily guides my day — both making and meeting time. It’s critical for me to include important tasks on my calendar so I can dedicate time to get them done. I even color-code different types of blocks of time (meetings, heads down, interviews, etc.) so I can look at my calendar at a quick glance and know what kind of day I have on deck. I also use pen and paper for tasks. At the end of each day, I highlight the 3-4 most important and urgent tasks I need to complete the next day so I can hit the ground running.

When it comes to communication, what works for you and what doesn’t?

Public’s principle of “honesty kills bullshit” is one of my favorites because it’s how I tend to live my life in general. The only way to improve something that’s not working is, to be honest and upfront about it. Talking to people often and early is key. Repetition is also important, especially in remote work. If you think you’re over-communicating, you’re probably communicating the right amount.

What advice do you have for aspiring PMs?

“Curiosity killed the cat” is a myth in regards to product. Always ask questions, especially when you don’t understand what is being discussed. Write down the answers so you can review them after the fact and come up with more questions to get an even better understanding.

How did you get into the PM field?

To be honest, a little bit of luck went a long way. I started my user experience-focused career at American Express working in a waterfall development cycle. The business unit I was a part of went through a reorg that included an acquisition of a start-up and a transition to agile product development. After a few days with some consultants, I was running two web scrum teams. There was a lot of “learning by doing”, which worked to my benefit because that’s how I learn best. While I hadn’t planned for a career in product, my degree in psychology and economics highlights the intersection of user behavior and business that I live daily more than I ever could have anticipated.

How do you start your day? How do you end your day?

Around 6 pm, I sign off to exercise. As a New Yorker, I used to get 10k steps in without thinking. Now I’m lucky if I break 200. I’m very thankful that I get to work from the safety of my home but I need to make time for physical activity to keep everything else working. More often than not, I’ll sign back online after dinner to finish what I needed to accomplish that day.  

What’s your go-to jam when you need to concentrate on a difficult task?

When I’m trying to think through a difficult problem, I lean into instrumental music. This can range from deep house to Tchaikovsky to Hans Zimmer. Not having lyrics to sing along with helps me focus.