We’re delighted to introduce you to our Director of Cyber Product, Ari Vared! Ari sat down with us to chat about work, motivation, design thinking, and the secret to finding a company you’ll be proud to work for.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I would say I’ve had an entrepreneurial spirit since the third grade. I was eight when I started my first company. I desperately wanted a boom box. My parents told me I would have to wait until I was 13 unless I came up with the money myself. To make the money I needed to get the boom box, I painted the neighborhood’s residential addresses on their front curbs. After a couple weekends of going from house-to house and painting addresses, I had enough money to buy my boom box!
In college, I owned a shipping and storage company. We served roughly 20 percent of the student population. It proved to be an invaluable experience. After college, I moved into the nonprofit world for 10 years. It was there that I had the privilege of working with some of the most extraordinary leaders and mentors in the nonprofit world.
What shaped your interests while you were in business school?
A big part of what we do in product is try to understand user motivation. I’m fascinated by the human experience. I learned that doing good business means putting people first. When you do that, business success follows.
The courses I took in business school taught me the values of design thinking. An iterative process, design thinking is about empathizing with your target audience and developing a tool or service that helps make their lives easier. Design thinking demands that you answer this question: What fundamental need does this product/service perform?
I worked with several different companies to answer this question. Implementing design thinking strategies, we determined the customers’ motivation, what they wanted and how they wanted it. So much of product is about empathizing with people. For me, this was one of the more significant lessons I learned. How do you listen? How do you pay attention? How do you develop a product that satisfies a need?
When I met with Anita and Keith Moore, our CEO, we discussed what we could do to help inform, engage, and serve our customers. I knew after our conversation that this was a culture I wanted to be part of.
How have your early experiences influenced your managerial style?
Management is learned by doing and receiving. My mentors taught me the importance of putting people first. When I was still in business school, I learned that most teams are built homogeneously. It’s widely believed that teams with members of similar backgrounds are best. In reality, it’s heterogeneous teams that drive the highest results. In my experience, I’ve learned it’s better to celebrate diversity. Collaborating with colleagues from varied backgrounds helps us to examine a problem from more than one angle.
Not only that, but it’s necessary as a manager to recognize that people are more than their job descriptions. I live by the assumption of goodwill. When I sit down to a meeting with a colleague, I assume the best of the person sitting across from me. If I perceive their behavior as rude, I assume there is something more going on behind the scenes. I don’t take it personally. Instead, I work to understand that individual’s motivation and map out a better way I can support them. When you build healthy relationships, you’re better able to channel diversity and create a positive work environment. I firmly believe people are generally good. Sometimes, they just need someone to recognize that and help them see it in themselves.
You’ve worked with vastly different companies. What makes you excited about working for CoverHound?
I’m a very intentional person. Before I join a company, I look at its people and leadership. I want to make sure that the organization I’m going to be working for creates positive change and helps me to grow both professionally and personally.
What immediately struck me during the conversation I had with Anita was her interest in me as a human being, not as I was written on paper. The ways in which CoverHound has succeeded is in part due to management’s commitment to diversity. The truth of the matter is, ideas are cheap, execution is difficult. Ultimately, my decision to join CoverHound was seeing the work I could do with an extraordinary team of people.
What goals do you hope to attain while at CoverHound?
I have several goals I hope to attain during my tenure with CoverHound. I want to learn every day. I want to use feedback to design a better product, and I want to continue to challenge thought processes to develop and support new ideas. In short, I want to grow in my position and contribute to our company’s positive culture and strong work ethic.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, Ari! We’re thrilled to have you as a member of our growing CoverHound family!