In this edition of our Employee Spotlight series, we got to know Lauren Wan from product operations.
While working in quality assurance at Checkr, Lauren Wan discovered her passion for product optimization. Her willingness to confront new challenges head-on and her knack for quickly getting to the root of a problem has made her a valuable addition to Finch. Read on to see what Lauren has learned on the job and the helpful advice she’d offer others starting out in product operations.
I’m part of a team that’s responsible for operationalizing and optimizing our product. A big part of it is being a subject matter expert on the many payroll systems we integrate with so we can help inform engineering decisions and provide insights when our customers reach out with questions.
If I were to break down my day-to-day, the big categories would be researching different payroll systems, building and iterating on processes and SOPs, investigating issues our customers have surfaced, and providing hands-on support. While I’m not a highly technical person, I love learning how a product functions and translating that to non-technical and operations folks.
I graduated from UC Davis with a degree in managerial economics and had various internships throughout college. One of my main projects was at the university research office, where I performed data quality assurance for a new website launch.
That’s what led me to Checkr, which was one of my first jobs out of college. I started there as a quality assurance associate in operations, which meant ensuring the accuracy of background check reports by investigating criminal records, researching court documents, and analyzing compliance laws. I was in that department for three and a half years, ultimately getting promoted to manager. Eventually, I realized that, while I loved helping the people on my team grow, I was mostly passionate about optimizing our product by rooting out inefficiencies and reducing manual workloads.
That’s what drove me to product operations, which was my final role at Checkr. I was in that position for nine or ten months before making the transition to Finch.
I heard about the position through Diana, who I worked with at Checkr. She posted on Instagram that Finch was hiring, and I reached out to learn more. I wanted to understand what product ops meant in a broader context and where my skill set might fit in. That led to conversations with Finch’s co-founders, Jeremy and Ansel, which really got the ball rolling.
I loved my team and role at Checkr, but I was ready for a new challenge. The idea of learning about a brand new product and industry was exciting, and Finch felt like a great fit. I’d known for a while that I wanted to join a smaller startup and truly contribute to its growth, and I appreciated the thoughtfulness that Jeremy and Ansel brought to the interview process. They made a point of going through all the reasons that I stood out as a candidate, and that was a defining moment for me. It really demonstrated the fantastic culture at Finch.
Of course, I’ve learned a lot about our product and how it works, but one thing that’s emphasized at Finch is running toward problems, not away from them. Even if you’re not the person who can solve a specific problem, that doesn’t mean that it won’t impact you in some way. I’ve learned the importance of finding the right people to help you tackle an issue and collaborating with them to find a way forward.
In product ops, you’re often operating in ambiguity. There are thousands of payroll systems out there. If a customer makes a detailed request, or if we’re exploring new integrations, I may have to explore payroll systems I’ve never worked with before. It can be challenging, but it’s very rewarding when I’m able to find the right solution.
One of my larger projects is studying different payroll systems to understand the specific set of permissions a user needs to implement to successfully call each of our API endpoints—allowing us to provide more granular error messaging to our customers. It requires a lot of up-front research and testing across payroll systems, and it’s been super exciting to work on. The impact to our customers is going to be huge.
Be flexible, and understand that what your role looks like this month may not necessarily be what it looks like next month. That’s certainly been the case for me. Product ops is a unique team, in that we’re interacting with payroll systems day in and day out—probably more than any other team at Finch. So, the requests we see from customers and internal teams can take many forms.
I’ve recently rediscovered my love of reading. I have a goal to read 52 books in 52 weeks, and I try to read a little each night before going to bed. Right now, I’m just two books behind schedule.
I also travel a lot. I moved to Denver three years ago, but I probably only spend 40% of my time here. My partner lives in Miami, and my family lives in San Francisco, so I get to split my time between these very different cities. It’s great just biking around, exploring new neighborhoods, and trying out new restaurants.
The people here are incredible. Everyone is so hardworking and always willing to help. They’re also genuine and kind, which speaks volumes to the culture we’re building at Finch. The company as a whole has done a great job of creating a space where people feel comfortable being themselves, and there are many different personalities in the mix.
Scrappy. The team has doubled in size since I joined six months ago, but we’re still small, and everyone still wears multiple hats. I love that no one’s afraid to roll up their sleeves and get in the weeds to solve problems.
Interested in joining Lauren at Finch? We’re hiring! Check out our open positions.