On the Record with Rose: Gardner Fiveash

Earlier this month, Rose went on the record with Gardner Fiveash, a platform product manager who joined Perfect Sense after graduating from UVA in 2017. Since coming aboard, Gardner played a critical role guiding the recent release of Brightspot 4.0. During their conversation, Gardner provided his thoughts on the latest Brightspot version and insights into new platform features that are coming soon. He also shared about the transition from college to the work force and how he's grown professionally since starting at Perfect Sense.

You've been working at Perfect Sense since you graduated from UVA about 18 months ago. What initially brought you here?
I found Perfect Sense at a career fair on campus and met Avery at the company's booth. I asked her if Perfect Sense had any product management opportunities and she said yes, which may or may not have been true! It turned out that my graduating year was the first time Perfect Sense recruited for product positions at colleges, so I wound up being the test dummy. I came in for an interview, really liked the company, and was excited to accept my offer.

Can you tell me more about your role as a Product Manager at Perfect Sense? What does a typical day look like?
The thing about product is that you get to be in the middle of everything. It's a little bit crazy on a day-to-day basis. I work with different people and a lot of different departments. Sometimes, I spend my day writing tickets in JIRA for requirements of new features on the platform roadmap. I'll work with engineers to talk through those requirements to make sure we are all focused on the same goals. I'll talk with the designers to make sure what they have in mind from a visual stand point is realistic. Once we're all on the same page, development can begin. I also spend time with sales and marketing talking about the platform and how it make sense to position it. Lastly, I often work on proofs of concept and early sales cycle leads with presentations to potential clients.

Last month, we launched Brightspot 4.0. What are some of the coolest changes that clients can look forward to in the latest version?
For starters, the entire UI has been revamped and is much cleaner. Now, when an editor clicks preview when writing a story, the preview appears side-by-side instead of a full screen takeover on older versions of Brightspot. This improvement makes it easier to see what your site will look like while you're creating content. We've also improved our video offerings by doing some cool work with Amazon Elemental.

What traits are most important to making you successful at your job?
You have to be a good listener and you have to able to hear different perspectives. I work with different people who represent many different parts of the company. Listening to all of their concerns and finding common ground is essential. Prioritization is also a valuable skill. You can't do everything at once so you need to step back and make sure you're focused on the right long-term goals.

What is coming up on the Brightspot roadmap in the coming months that you're excited about?
I'm really excited about about the work I'm doing right now with Brightspot Events. We've built out event sites for projects in the past, but this is a great opportunity to really nail what a platform implementation of events should look like. Our goal is for customers to have an easy to use solution for telling the world about the awesome events they host, while also integrating with event management platforms.

As we discussed earlier, you started at Perfect Sense directly after college. How have you grown professionally since starting here?
First, I'm grateful for the opportunity. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in product and Perfect Sense was the only company that was recruiting candidates right out of college. Since starting, I've had opportunities to go on-site to meet with clients and demo Brightspot. I've also had the chance to learn from watching David or Lisa present. Being in the room with clients and learning their needs has helped me grow. I've also built great relationships with great people.

You've had the chance to participate in two Unified Sports opportunities—snowboarding in Aspen last January and playing Top Golf a few weeks ago. What did you learn from those experiences playing alongside Special Olympics athletes?
I learned that they are very talented athletes! I have been so impressed by their abilities. Snowboarding in Aspen was one of the most enjoyable trips I've been on, especially spending time with co-workers and meeting the Special Olympics athletes and staff members.

Besides the people, what is your favorite part working at Perfect Sense?
Coming to work every day and doing something different is the best part. As a product manager, no two days are alike. There is always a lot to do and to learn. Every now and then it can get a bit crazy, but I'd rather have it that way then doing the same thing over and over again. We're a growing company and it's always exciting.

What are your favorite activities or hobbies to do outside of the office?
I like to read a lot. I am a die hard Atlanta sports fan, especially of the Falcons and Braves! I love music, going to concerts and playing bass.

Where would you go in a time machine?
I would go back to the 1960s to see the music coming out of California and the modern rise of rock and roll.