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Meet Our Product Team: A Q&A With Esme Lutz, Director of Product

Learn more about our Product team, their work, and how they embody the Benepass values.

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Our mission is to reimagine how companies take care of their people. At Benepass, our Product team designs the technology that helps companies support employee well-being in unique, personalized ways. 

Get to know our Product team in this Q&A with Esme Lutz, Director of Product at Benepass.

How did you end up at Benepass and what made you join Benepass?

The first answer is a short one: A former colleague who knew I was looking for a product role at an early-phase startup introduced me to Jaclyn, Benepass’s CEO. (Thank you to that person, if you happen to be reading this!)

And then the more interesting: Why join? Of course, the full answer is a lot of reasons, but let me highlight an important one. I’d felt lucky in my experience up to that point that I’d worked on teams that valued respect and encoded that into their processes (like literally having a question in performance reviews about being respectful to others). This, frankly, isn’t always the case, and hasn’t generally been the experience of many female friends working on mostly male teams in tech. 

So, I was on the lookout for a team that held this as a core value from its day one. And, while it’s always a leap, and an interview process will never be exactly predictive of what it’s like to work somewhere, I felt like I saw respect on display everywhere during my first interactions with Benepass. Working here now, I’m happy to report that this is definitely a key ingredient of the org culture. 

Tell us a little bit about the Product department. Why would someone want to join your team?

We have a small but mighty team! We try to move fast. This means that Product should enable, not bottleneck decisions. I want to empower the person closest to a question or issue, who has great insight and knowledge, to make a recommendation, implement it, and ship it. As a result, this means we aim to maintain a high ratio of Engineers to PM and UX (we’re a ‘Design + Product’ department).

One effect of this is that it means members of our team work on things that are important. As the team’s experts in product and design, we apply our focus to the problems that are most critical to the ongoing and future success of the business. Another effect is that our team works deeply with folks in other functions, in particular Eng, throughout the lifecycle of a project. There is no handing over a done product spec, dusting off your desk, and moving on. But in return, you feel like a really integral part of the group working together to make something happen. 

It’s a great opportunity if you want to have a big impact and you aren’t afraid to roll up your sleeves and pitch in to do the work that the team needs right now. It’s not a great opp if that sounds overwhelming. 

What qualities do you look for when hiring someone for the Product team?

One thing we’re really looking for is excellent problem-solving abilities. That sounds like such industry-word jargon, so let me explain: It’s the ability to develop a comprehensive framework about the problems Benepass is trying to solve and then generate a point of view about how we should go about solving them. 

Benepass has a complex and powerful product operating in a complicated space. So a member of our team needs to be willing to dive into that muck, figure it out, and present it back to the world in a coherent and compelling way. When it comes to our interfaces, they also need to be highly usable. Do you find this type of untangling fun and rewarding, instead of frustrating and tedious?

Then the other side of this is about influence. A member of our team needs to be able to form a well-supported and feasible opinion of how to solve the problem. It isn’t about always being right — I’m often wrong! — but being able to confidently present that opinion, being willing to disagree with the incredibly smart company founders, and being humble enough to take criticism and feedback. This is what will make our product and our Product org more robust and helpful over time. 

What is your favorite core value? How does the Product team display it in their daily work?

My favorite team value is “Seek joy!”

This shows up in how members of the team interact with one another. If you’re going to work extremely hard, do you want to do that in an environment of coldness, emotionless, and seriousness? I don’t. Seeking joy comes in little daily things — wishing someone a happy birthday, naming a meeting a silly but surprisingly accurate title, starting off a sync by taking a moment to thank someone for the work they did. All together, it makes the experience more enjoyable, fun, and supportive.

In the actual product itself, it translates into a very carefully considered amount of confetti animations. :) 

What exciting things are in store for the Product team as Benepass continues to grow?

Let me tell you the single most remarkable thing I find in working at a company this size and stage: When you launch things, they have a big impact. 

At more mature companies, you’re often working in a world of risk-averse incrementalism. For this product, we have so many ideas that we’re interested in exploring and introducing — parts of the product that exist only in our heads today. Joining the Product team gives you the opportunity to architect these solutions into being, to go from a blank page to interacting with a real thing in living color, and getting customer feedback like “this is the best benefit my employer has ever offered.”

It’s a powerful feeling. And it can be daunting! Because the power to make things great also comes with a responsibility to both your users and your colleagues. I find this challenging and motivating and would say what’s truly exciting is the opportunity to get it right in a meaningful way.  

Interested in joining our team? Check out our careers page to learn more about our open positions.

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Lauren Ortiz

Talent Acquisition Manager

Lauren is the Talent Acquisition Manager at Benepass and has been scaling organizations of all sizes for the last six years. She is responsible for overseeing and building out Benepass's recruiting function. Lauren joined Benepass because she believes that benefits aren't a one-size-fits-all solution and employers deserve to have the flexibility to take care of their people. Lauren is passionate about creating a positive candidate experience and is motivated by innovation. Outside of work, she loves hanging out with her black lab Sophie, wine tasting, and playing basketball!

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