Nathália McCoy, a Senior Product Manager at Charles Schwab, starts out her day like most of us do: with coffee. But the rest of her work experience is pretty unique. She loves her job not only because it affords her the freedom to creatively solve problems, but also because her colleagues are like family. As she puts it, “It’s somewhat cliché to say ‘we are a family,’ but in our company, this is actually true. My director, my vice president and my senior vice president all know who I am, where I want to go with my career, and support my moves to get there.”
In fact, it was the people-first approach at Schwab that encouraged McCoy to accept a full-time role there after she’d initially started as a contractor. After moving around between various companies, Schwab was the one she decided would be a good long-term fit for her. “We really get involved in each other’s lives. We work hard, but it’s not all about just the work.”
Perhaps that’s why returning to work after she had her son was a no-brainer. “My team made sure to shelter me and make sure I rested, and I took 12 weeks off from work total (6 weeks of Schwab paid parental leave and 6 weeks of PTO). I’m lucky to work at a company that really values new moms,” McCoy explains. “There’s a lot of work-life balance here at Schwab. There’s flexibility on both ends.”
She spoke to Fairygodboss about her favorite mistake and the career move she’s most proud of — and also offered some sound advice for job seekers.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I’ve been a product manager for five years and I was a business analyst prior to that. I currently work on Schwab’s integration with Salesforce, providing data so that clients can create reports, dashboards, and workflows.
What’s the most unique or interesting aspect of your job or company?
Schwab is a people-first company. There is a culture of ensuring that our clients, both in the advice and retail space, are well taken care of.
Right now there is a renewed push to building systems through our clients’ eyes. I am extremely excited about this! I don’t feel like I am just building systems; I am solving problems that are important for our clients. Along this same line of people-first Schwab takes good care of their employees. We talk about our families; we just care about one another in a way that is not always seen in corporate America.
What’s something you think most people (perhaps even current employees) don’t know about your company that you think they should?
That even though we are in a more traditional industry, we are not just about “regulations and compliance” work. Life in Schwab’s tech world is anything but boring! Our team is talented, engaged, passionate, and creative, and we talk about innovative ways to provide functionality. We are encouraged to ideate and bring ideas to leadership both in formal programs or just discuss directly with our leaders.
What’s something you’re especially good at work?
I am passionate about what I do and enthusiastic by nature, so perhaps as a result, my main strength is energizing and encouraging teams to leverage their talents, find creative solutions, and deliver a world class experience that meets our clients’ needs.
What about outside of work?
My main focus outside of work is being a good mom to my lovely 16-month old boy, Lucas. I love to work out and try to hit the gym three times a week, and along with that, I read about nutrition when time allows. I enjoy going into the kitchen and experimenting with different flavors. The results are of a mixed nature, though! Oh well...you can’t win them all!
What are you trying to improve on?
I have been told I can be a little intimidating (I believe the word used was “scary”) when I laser focus on something, and I can understand and appreciate that point of view. I believe in getting projects started, in failing fast as a team, course correcting, keep going, and getting things done.
If I know what you need, I will work on gathering answers and knocking on every door for the team. “Analysis paralysis,” or getting stuck on “we can’t do this,” doesn’t work for me, and sometimes I will come across as impatient or pushy. What I have been trying to work on is giving people time and space to get to solutions in a way that feels right to them, all while still moving forward with projects in an agile manner. It’s a work in progress.
What’s your favorite mistake?
I may not like them right away, but I see tremendous value on the big mistakes that truly humble you. There has been a paradigm shift as my career progressed. When I was younger, I had a true phobia of making mistakes, and it probably stumped a little bit of my own professional growth, as I would not take risks. I’d always play it safe and remain in my comfort zone. A co-worker I confided in once told me, “You’re building applications, not performing open heart surgery. If a mistake happens, you will be able to correct it, and no one will die from it.”
As you mature professionally, you understand that mistakes will happen, everyone has made them, and honest mistakes will not normally get you fired (not to be confused with plain negligence, of course). It’s how you handle them that really sets you apart. The big mistakes are the ones that make you stop and take a hard look at all your actions (or inactions) and allow you to grow, whether that’s personally or professionally.
I’m extremely hard on myself, and even though I will correct a mistake and move on at work, I will still spend days (even weeks) reflecting on them. Why did they happen? What was my thinking? How can I prevent them from happening again? Then I will read, talk to people who have done this longer than I have, create safeguards, ensure that one mistake won’t happen again, and eventually I will let it go — a little bruised but also a little wiser.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
I was a business analyst looking to move towards product management. I kept looking for those positions, but they all required a level of product management experience that for obvious reasons I did not possess.
One day, I heard that my product manager was moving to a different product and they were going to open his position. On the next 1:1 meeting, my product manager was talking about what would be the right fit and how I’d train the new person, and I took the chance. I point blank asked, “why not me?” and proceeded on a sales pitch on how I knew the product and I had the drive; I just needed a little guidance at first. Two weeks later, I had the job. It was the best move of my career!
What do you love most about your job or your company?
We talked about why I absolutely love Schwab and the people-first aspect of the company. But when it comes to product management, the creativity and problem solving is what gets me out of bed every day. I love a good challenge and, to me, every problem that is brought to my attention is an opportunity to get creative and solve it.
What are you currently reading and watching?
I’m currently reading “Nutrition & You: Core Concepts for Good Health” by Joan Salge Blake. As for TV, I jumped late on the “Game of Thrones” bandwagon, and that’s what I watch when my son and husband — who’s not a fan — are asleep.
What’s your #1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs right now?
Ask yourself: What makes you happy in the workplace? What is the environment that makes you thrive? What kind of environment makes you disengaged? The paycheck, albeit important and alluring, is not enough to keep you professionally fulfilled in the long run.
Once you understand who you are, what you need, and the type of work and environment you need, find a company with a culture that will meet your needs. Don’t allow interviews to be unilateral; make sure you are also interviewing the company and ensuring that it is a good fit for you. What you want from the company should matter just as much as what the company wants from you.
Who is/was the most influential person in your life and why?
My grandfather was the biggest influence in my life. He was born in one of the poorest regions of Brazil to parents who had very little education. He started working at a very early age and would go from work straight to school. I was always told he only had one pair of shoes so he walked barefoot everywhere to prevent his shoes from wearing off too quick. He only wore them when he arrived at his destination. He always studied well into the night sometimes until exhaustion would take over and he’d fall asleep over his books. The odds were severely stacked against him, but he never gave up on his dreams. He was a fighter, a very determined man, and that would be his key to success. He finished high school and went on to college. He graduated with an Accounting degree and became the manager of the only bank in his city. He was the one who showed me that if you truly fight for what you want, there will be no stopping you. My journey was significantly easier than his, but there were many moments in my life where I felt stuck and, in those moments, his story made me push just a little further, and just a little harder. I just hope that wherever he is, he sees me and feels proud.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
I have actually heard this my entire life, but I find that it also applies to work. If you never ask for what you need and for what you want, you are sure not to get it. There will be doors closed on your face, but none of that will kill you. What will kill you inside is to always wonder “what if I had spoken up?” Honestly, in always being upfront about where I wanted to go with my career, I found leaders at Schwab who were willing to help me design a path to get where I want to be.
What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?
The best boss I have ever had was the one who was the most brutally honest with me. Funny enough, he was the most difficult boss for me to get used to. We butted heads a lot early in our working engagement.
However, once I stopped reacting to the message and truly started listening to what he was saying with a true open mind, I grew exponentially in my capabilities. I always knew where I stood with him, where to focus, and he was always open to offering suggestions on how to improve. It became a real life “syllabus” of specific steps on how to improve and grow. So maybe there’s another lesson in there too: Welcome, embrace, and adjust to personalities that you are not used to. People can surprise you sometimes.
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