I’m Marianne Tessel, Intuit Small Business Products Specialist, and This Is How I Work
“I really believe in having a network,” says Marianne Tessel, who pioneered her computer science skills in the Israeli military before working at General Magic, Ariba, Docker and VMware. We talked to her about her work habits, her position at Intuit, and how she maintains her sense of humor in the office.
Location : Mountain View, California. Current Place of Work : Director of Product Development, Small Business and Self-Employed, Intuit. Current mobile device : iPhone. Computer : MacBook. One word that best describes how you work : Breakthrough
First of all, tell us a little about your past and how you got where you are now.
I grew up in Israel. My technical career began in the Israeli army. Military service in Israel is compulsory and I had the opportunity to first get my degree in computer science and work as a software engineer. This gave me the early experience of working with a team on something important, where creativity and resourcefulness needed to be.
My first job in Silicon Valley was at General Magic. Our challenge was to change the way communication works by creating innovative PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants). Although the company ultimately did not succeed, the idea of personal devices such as smartphones still lived on, and the company and its many talented people spawned many innovations that have spawned many large companies in the Valley today.
I then held various senior engineering positions, primarily at Ariba and then at VMware. At VMware, in addition to leading the development of several system components, my engineering team was responsible for the technology ecosystem. It really helped me understand the inner workings of our industry. I left VMware to move to Docker, my beloved open source developer, where I was at the forefront of the container movement and had the chance to be a part of this amazing, industry-changing journey.
I now work at Intuit, where I have the opportunity to apply the latest technology to make a real difference and ensure the prosperity of our many users. We say that we are “champions of those who dare to dream.”
Tell us about a recent work day.
No two days are alike, but they are almost always incredibly busy. During the day, I tend to spend a lot of time in meetings and interacting with teams and leaders to provide customers with great products and to push us to solve serious and difficult problems.
It is very important for me to stay technical. I’m naturally curious about what’s new, and I spend time reading and learning new innovations every day. I also enjoy keeping up with new leadership ideas, productivity tips, and other news to continually improve my thinking and leadership skills. I am constantly learning.
I also try to get to know the product and stay close to our customers. I even code with the team from time to time, especially when we have so-called “engineering days”. The team is now madly focused on coding the project they choose, and that is their area of passion. Although my contribution to coding is admittedly very small, it is important for me to be part of the team.
What apps, gadgets or tools can’t you live without?
The phone, of course. How do I know this? When I find that I miss it, my heart falls. I am always pleased to see how irreplaceable he is in my life. At work, people joke that I’m a fan of Slack, Google Docs, and Sli.do. I view these tools as a modern table and conference room. These tools also help me collaborate more effectively with the team in real time, which helps us stay consistent and move quickly.
How is your workplace arranged?
My desk is very basic, it has a screen and a socket for my laptop and phone. I love stickers and you can find them all over my desk filled with ideas and tasks. A few years ago at another company, when I was away from the office for a week, the team put up stickers all over my office: on the walls, ceiling and furniture. They said “your absence was note- worthy.” It was only then that I realized that I use so much Velcro. I also have Tylenol, water and a bunch of snacks because life is short but some days seem long.
What’s your best shortcut or life hack?
I know when to be serious, but my best life hack is not to take things too seriously. I work a lot, but when things get tough, I find humor a great way to get down to business. Done correctly, it can help in many situations. The best part is that it makes your life easier and more fun. There are studies that say humor contributes to better health. There is also research that says fake laughter makes your brain feel happier. But I stop at the fake laugh.
Tell us about an interesting, unusual, or challenging process you have at work.
We kick off our staff meeting with the What I Learned This Week cycle, in which each person briefly shares their discovery last week. We started it out as a way to get to know each other, but it was so great that we just kept it. The richness of the proposed questions is striking: we talk about project problems, new technologies, books, articles, farms, family, life lessons, work dynamics, etc. It helps us all learn about something new and get to know each other. a little better every time.
Who are the people who help you achieve results, and how do you rely on them?
I rely on many people both at work and at home. Most of all, I rely on my husband Dror. We met in engineering school, so we chat all the time. He is a great supporter and great person to get advice with and can empathize with both work and family life.
I believe you have a network. This only works if you are sincere in your relationship. Help others and get help when needed.
How do you keep track of what you need to do?
I have several systems to organize. I use my calendar, Slack, stickers, Quip and email. As you can see, it occupies the village. Every day I try to balance several priorities and types of “to do” for both work and home. I believe different things work with different subjects. For example, I block my free time on my calendar to work on the things I need during the day. I use Quip as a tool to track my personal affairs and collaborate with my family. The stack of books next to my bed is my reading list. I don’t have a single tool or system that fits everything for me. Does anyone give a hint?
How to recharge or relax?
I try to keep some time with my family sacred. I have four boys and they are always fun to be with. On weekends, I try to keep my work to a minimum so that I have time to disconnect from the network.
On longer breaks, I love to travel, learn about other cultures and eat good food.
I love to play sports and in particular I love yoga. Standing on your head literally gives you a different perspective.
What’s your favorite side project?
As a child, I have always been fond of medicine and science. I was really thinking about becoming a doctor. I love computer science, but I want to spend more time on projects that use technology in the life sciences. There are so many more possibilities. I have several medical technology innovation patents that I took over from my father a few years ago. This is really cool and useful and I hope to someday find more time to work on it.
What are you reading now or what do you recommend?
I finished it a while ago, but loved Sapiens: A Brief History of Humanity , Yuval Noah Harari’s super-fascinating overview of human history. I am currently reading The Defining Decade , which was actually recommended by our CEO at the meeting. I also listen to a lot of podcasts. My favorites are How I Built It , Masters of Scale, and A Revisionist Story . My youngest son and I also listened to Wow in the World .
Who else would you like to see to answer these questions?
Gosh, I have such a long list. Eileen Lee, managing partner at Cowboy Ventures, is phenomenal! Also ask Dan Ariely to answer. I listened to it a couple of times. His research is simply stunning.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
That I can learn something if I put in the effort. It allows me to think of work and the world as limitless possibilities.
What problem are you still trying to solve?
My ultimate career goal is somewhat banal or naive, but it is to make a positive impact on the world through technology. Particularly at Intuit, I am inspired by the mission to harness some of the latest technology to bring prosperity to the world. Personally, I, like many people, feel that I have so much to do and so little time. Still waiting for this time machine.