Pursuing Her Passions while Growing Her Professional Career: An Interview with Brittany Edwards
The following conversation was conducted over email and edited for flow and clarity.
Brittany Edwards hails from Long Island and is forging her own path in Product Management. When she’s not working on innovation in finance and technology she is dedicating her time and energy to Incorp[Her]ated, a non-profit organization she co-founded. Incorp[Her]ated seeks to bridge the gap between communities and representation in creative industries. Brittany is a professional African-American Millennial who has found a way to merge her passion and talents to create opportunities for herself and her community.
Asha Atkins of Wealth Noir (WN): Brittany, thanks for taking the time to sit with us and share a glimpse into your career journey and the purpose-driven work you’re doing. Can you tell us why you chose to work in Product Management, specifically Fintech, and what led you there?
Brittany Edwards, Product Manager, Co-Founder, Incorp[Her]ated: Transparently, my journey to where I am in my product career was neither easy nor straightforward. I’ve always loved the technical space and started my career working on software integration in the aerospace industry. It was an awesome experience, being able to work so closely with my company clients and having the opportunity to really drive our testing and solution processes, but I knew it wasn’t my forever place. I wanted more strategic work and I wanted to be closer to the day-to-day development, not just the integration and testing.
This love for the end-to-end and creative aspects of the process led me to a creative agency, where I learned a ton about agency life (which helped me on my entrepreneurial journey!) and how to apply a creative lens to strategy. What I was missing there, however, were the technical details. So, ultimately, I ended up at a widely known financial institution where I found a role that melded those sides of myself together — product management.
I’ll caveat the “ultimately” and say that it took me over 100 applications, and definitely a double-digit number of interviews and even more no’s, to transition into product management. There’s no blueprint, which in many ways is amazing, but there are a lot of barriers to entry and it definitely took me a lot of patience, effort, tears, and conversations with mentors and my support system for me to get my foot in the door.
In between interning as a grad student and signing on full-time in aerospace, I interned at a media company — my first time applying for a job based on my personal relationship with a company/brand. My boss at the time, the head of business intelligence, was a previous product manager and she was my first introduction to the job family. When I was interviewing for positions, she said “don’t go into banking or media” — I agreed 100%, yet I ended up at a banking institution.
Here’s why: the company had a great mission and an exemplary focus on amplifying its technical infrastructure. I felt like I was walking into a space that was going to challenge me, support me, and help me develop the foundational skills I needed to grow.
I ended up transitioning from back-end product management, focused on the enterprise customer data platform, into digital payments to get closer to the customer and explore an ecosystem that was thriving both internally and globally. Now, looking back, getting into the fintech payments space was amazing. So much nuance and so much to learn about accessibility, customer expectations, the market landscape, and the emotional and sensitive nature around people and money.
WN: It’s really paramount that you mentioned that your journey was not only non-linear but that success comes with its fair share of No’s. Resiliency is definitely the name of the game. As a Product Manager, can you give us a sense of what your day-to-day looks like?
Brittany Edwards, Product Manager, Co-Founder, Incorp[Her]ated: It’s a super dynamic schedule! Every day I have stand-ups, or check-in sessions, with my development team, which includes software engineers and designers (sometimes data scientists and data engineers, too, depending on the team). I also have stakeholder meetings, where I meet with other product, fraud, analysis, and design partners to track our progress on a given initiative or brainstorm and discuss our next steps. Outside of those standard meetings, I have one-on-one sessions with my apprentice, engineering leads, and other partners to make sure all cylinders are operating, and doing what I need to do to ensure my development team is empowered and confident while they create. In short, I have a lot of meetings, manage a lot of communications and relationships with partners, and find time to think, document requirements, test, and present in between.
WN: I want to switch gears for a bit. Your path to product management is definitely a special one, but I would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the incredible organization you cofounded, Incorp[HER]ated. In what ways does the work you do as a Product Manager influence the purpose-driven work you do within your organization?
Brittany Edwards, Product Manager, Co-Founder, Incorp[Her]ated: I define my purpose as follows: to be a magnet and a catalyst. As a product manager, that’s manifested by the way I connect the partners and initiatives, and spaces in which I work and drive meaningful results through technical development. As a founder, I connect communities and brands to build a better, more representative, and inclusive future by curating spaces and strategies that bridge the gap between what we see and what’s reflected in the industry. So to me, it’s all connected!
I’m glad I’ve worked at companies that are mission-driven. I made a promise to myself that this will always be the priority when looking for a new team, partner, or client.
Also, as a business owner, I know firsthand that funding is a major barrier to entry for entrepreneurs. Access to and safe holding of funds is also a barrier to entry for many people in general. The lessons I’ve learned from starting my own agency definitely add a layer of context and understanding when it comes to exploring and understanding the banking landscape.
WN: Speaking of mission-driven, I think it’s interesting that the “Work” section of the Incorp[Her]ated site breaks down how you serve the community. The problem that exists is what’s highlighted first, then the solution. When thinking about all that transpired in 2020, and the fact that we’re still navigating a global pandemic, what problems do you think exist now and what are some solutions you hope to provide for those problems?
Brittany Edwards, Product Manager, Co-Founder, Incorp[Her]ated: We started having conversations with different brands and companies last summer who said they wanted to help and really be a part of the solution, not the problem. What we soon realized was that by the fall and winter we stopped hearing from them. It was as if fighting racism or being anti-racist was no longer in the budget. The problem that exists right now is that we need more companies to not only pull up but pay up when it comes to supporting organizations run by people of color and the communities they serve.
WN: Very much like your organization, we are all about serving the Black community, specifically Black Millennials, by helping them find ways to make money and build wealth. As someone who worked in banking, what initiatives does Incorp[HER]rated plan to implement to improve financial literacy within the community you serve?
Brittany Edwards, Product Manager, Co-Founder, Incorp[Her]ated: We did a Paycheck Protect Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (PPP/EIDL) panel to support Black-owned small businesses. Our goal was to educate them on the available support to help keep their businesses going. We believe that financial literacy is incredibly important in our community, but before we venture into that space and provide that information we want to get good at what we’re doing right now. So for us, doing this made sense given that we know how small black businesses were disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
WN: At Wealth Noir, we interview a lot of entrepreneurs because entrepreneurship can be intimidating. For our readers who are interested in building their own business, what are some things you believe people should know when starting out (such as copyrights, licensing, legal)?
Brittany Edwards, Product Manager, Co-Founder, Incorp[Her]ated: Develop a consistent mission statement. It is the thing you’ll be repeating a lot. And you will hear a lot of no’s, and that’s okay, but being consistent is key. Protect yourself by figuring out if you want a Limited Liability Company (LLC), a Corporation (Inc), or Doing Business As (DBA). It’s important to know what legal entity is the best fit for you and your business. You also want to find a good bank account and an accountant. Always remember to get insurance, it’s worth the money, and my business partners and I have found that it’s not terribly expensive.
WN: You’re pursuing your passion with Incorp[Her]ated and managing a 9-5 career, which is a lot. When thinking about all that you do, what are three things you believe are essential for creating a balance to ensure success in both roles?
Brittany Edwards, Product Manager, Co-Founder, Incorp[Her]ated: Sleep, creating boundaries, and movement. I’m definitely someone who believes in getting eight hours of sleep. I also have learned to create boundaries with the people in my life, be it friendships, family, or romantic relationships. For example, if I’m going to be prepping for a big event or project for Incorp[HER]ated, I make sure that I let people know not to expect me to be checking in or calling during that prep time because I only have the bandwidth for that specific project.
WN: You’ve made incredible strides in your career as a Product Manager and businesswoman. When thinking about your career trajectory, where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Brittany Edwards, Product Manager, Co-Founder, Incorp[Her]ated: Ah! What a question! I see myself being someone who not only focuses on technical innovations by building trust and confidence through accessible products but also someone who focuses on industry innovation by shifting the demographics and notions we have about who should work where and hold what position. I am a Black woman technologist and my greatest success will be initiatives that put a major focus on diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging. I plan to always challenge the norm until I am no longer one-of-one and our society moves past this notion that people with a seat at the table are the only ones with perspectives worth hearing.
WN: Thank you so much Brittany for sharing your story, dropping gems, and stepping into your purpose to support the Black community. WN readers if you want to learn more about Brittany Edwards follow her on Instagram as well as her organization Incorp[Her]ated and check out their website.