As social media evolves, Team Sprout is constantly working to enhance our platform and build new features to help organizations streamline their social media management. Sprout’s Product Team leads the charge by working with our partner networks and teams across the organization.

Arnita Hayden is a Senior Product Manager who works with the Publishing Squad. In this Meet Team Sprout interview, she shares how she got into engineering, where she’d go for her dream vacation and where she thinks social is headed.

Name: Arnita Hayden
Department: Product
Started at Sprout: August 2014

What’s your career story?

My dad is an engineer. When I was a little girl, I used to build things with him. Other little kids would get dolls; I’d get RadioShack “how to build a lightbulb” kits. I started taking coding classes in eighth grade and majored in computer engineering in college.

As a college student, I did two internships on the product team at Microsoft. I knew that product was what I would ultimately end up doing, but I wanted to learn more about finance and the business side of technology first—so that’s what I did. I worked in financial technology for four years, then I went back to school to get my MBA and masters in engineering. When I came to Chicago, I met Molly Jones and learned about Sprout.

How do you define product management?

Product management is defining the strategy and roadmap of a product or feature. It is a cross-functional discipline, and to do it well, you have to understand every aspect of the business. Product managers have to balance being strategic and tactical, creative and technical, utopian and pragmatic. Building a product is collaborative. Relationships are No. 1, and communication is key.

In your time at Sprout, what changes have you seen in the social media landscape, and how has that affected your work?

Brands are shifting from the model of having one person manage all of the official social handles for a company. Today, you’re seeing a lot more individuals and departments involved in social—social teams instead of a single social media manager on the marketing team. At Sprout, that means we’re developing more team collaboration and workflow features like message approval, message tagging and the publishing calendar.

Beyond that, social is definitely becoming more visual—now people expect to see photos and videos in their streams. As a result, our publishing roadmap this year includes a lot of visual and media enhancements: Image Preview, Posting Multiple Photos, Facebook Video, the launch of Landscape for social media image resizing and more.

Speaking of social media images, your Sprout Hack Week team built the first iteration of Landscape. What was your biggest takeaway from that experience?

It taught me how quickly you can iterate and ship a product when you’re really focused on that minimum viable product. We already do two-week sprints and quick iterations on our platform, but Hack Week solidified the importance of this approach. The MVP was finished and usable by the end of Hack Week, so we were easily able to continue building out Landscape prior to launch.

You can’t do Hack Week all the time, but it was a great reminder that sometimes even simple ideas can meet an important customer need.

So for you, as a consumer, what apps have improved your daily life?

There are a few apps that I really like:

  • Headspace: I recently started using this meditation app. It really helps me unwind.
  • PaperKarma: This is an app to get rid of junk mail—I love it because it helps me contribute less waste to the environment.
  • Google Now: It’s like having my own personal assistant.
  • My Fitness Pal: It helps me track what I’m eating through the day and has a barcode scanner for all of those Sprout snacks.

Do you have a favorite Sprout event?

I really like the company canoe trip; it’s great to be outdoors with the whole team. My favorite events are our squad outings. We’ve gone to laser tag, bowling, drinks. We work together every day, but it’s good to break it up and connect outside of work.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I read a lot. I love magazines: Wired, Fortune, Entrepreneur, Inc., Essence. I love Condé Nast Traveler. I’m always taking notes when I’m reading about the places I want to go. My dream vacation would be to go on the 180-day around-the-world cruise. It goes to every continent except Antarctica.

It might sound weird, but I also like personal organizing. I’ll do it for my friends or my family. I’ll go into a room that’s a mess and make a plan for how to reorganize it.

And you’re a big “Game of Thrones” fan! Do you have a favorite character?

I am. I’ve read the books twice. I like the Mother of Dragons, of course.

What’s your greatest accomplishment, personally or professionally?

I am most proud of accomplishments that result from mentoring or giving back to the community, especially to other minorities in engineering, math and science. When I lived in New York, I mentored four girls in a low-income school in Queens for a technical challenge. I loved that experience. Most of them didn’t have computers or cellphones at home. By the end, one girl ended up getting a summer internship at a tech company. I still keep in touch with them today.