Our “DocuSign UP Career” blog series places the spotlight on employees who tell us about their first job (how they landed it, why they chose it) and key moments in their career that lead to greater learning or career momentum. At DocuSign, we believe in the next generation of leaders and want to help them get on the right career trajectory. That’s why we started DocuSign UP (University Program). This week we sat down with Laurel in Product Management based in Seattle to learn more about her career.

What do you do at DocuSign?

I’m the VP of product management for the global and platform teams.

When you were younger, what kind of job did you imagine you’d have?

I wanted to be a CEO when I grew up. I’ve always been good at math and science and decided I wanted to study engineering in college. I ended up attending Yale because it was more of a liberal arts university. I was in an electrical engineering program of only eleven people but got to take other classes like literature, history, economics, music, art and architecture.

What was your first job after school?

I did program management at Microsoft.

Why did you choose that job?

I chose Microsoft because of the culture. It was a great place to start right out of school; they were big and had structure. My job as a program manager was a bridge between the engineers and customers, and I liked that intersection of technology and people.

What did you learn from that job?

I learned that people matter—who you work for and who you work with – and they make a critical difference in what you get out of your job. You can do a lot more than you think you can, and taking on what seems like an undoable challenge makes you learn the most.  I also realized the importance of partnering – building your network and brand at a company — and knowing that all functions matter. I’ve built up relationships with people by working on projects together and, through that, I’ve developed allies to help me on future projects. Because of that, I’m more successful than I would be on my own.

Tell us about a pivotal moment in your career that helped propel you to another level.

You won’t get the experiences and opportunities if you don’t ask for them. Two years ago there was an opportunity I wanted but I was told I wasn’t ready. So I asked “Why not?” and worked on developing the necessary skills and capabilities. Now I essentially have that job. If you’re told “no,” follow up with “why not?” and take the feedback.

Have you had important mentors in your life?

I was fortunate to have a few good managers in my career, and I know I can still rely on them for perspective. They know me and my career, and are able to use that context to provide advice on my long-term potential. It’s valuable to find role models to observe and emulate.

How would you describe your career and the choices you’ve made?

I’ve worked in product management my whole career, but the company cultures have been very different. I discovered that I thrive in very technical positions, I love enterprise software and I love solving problems for businesses. Working in different environments has helped me learn what type of jobs and companies I do best in. And anything you can do to get exposure and empathize with business partners is useful—your relationships in the future will have more meaning because you understand the other sides of the business.

Did you ever face a setback in your career?

Yes, a couple of times. First, I was moved into a lateral position because the company was downsizing. Instead of leaving the company, I got moved into a different role, which wasn’t something I was interested in. Then, at my last company, I got moved from products to finance and operations. But that ended up being a great opportunity to round out my business skills. Neither was what I was looking for. One was a kick in the butt to find a new job, and the other was a great learning opportunity.

What advice would you give to a college junior or senior breaking into the job market?

Enjoy your time in college while also working hard. Be open to a broad range of opportunities. College is a great first network and those relationships can benefit you. I took advantage of mini internships. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and take the time to learn how to learn. It’s important to know how to ask the right questions and be open to the right experiences. At work, there’s no guidebook. The best source of learning is from the people around you.

Have you developed any particular habits to help you work more efficiently?

I’m a big list keeper because I need to get everything written down so I can keep track of it. It’s easy to fall into the pitfall of doing what’s urgent, not what’s important. If I write it down, I can pick the right things to focus my time and energy on.

If you weren’t working in this job, what would you be doing?

I love doing product management, and nothing’s ever come across that I’d want to do more. I’ve always been interested in health and fitness but not enough to make a career in it.

Think DocuSign might be a fit for you? Check out our job openings: [email protected]