Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Box of Goo-hoo: New Faces at Box.net

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We are fortunate to welcome two new faces to the Box.net executive team. Jen Grant, our new VP of Marketing, comes to Box after heading up marketing on the Apps team at Google. David Lee, Box’s new Director of Product Management, comes to us from Yahoo where he was a lead product manager in their video advertising group. Previously, David was also a product manager at WebEx, where he was responsible for rolling out the popular MeetMeNow service. Together, their experiences at two of the Valley’s most storied companies will play an integral role in Box.net’s product direction and the launch of some really exciting things for 2009.

To kick off a new year on the Box.net blog, we had fun sitting down with Jen and David to learn what brought them to Box, what Google and Yahoo-ness they bring to their new roles, and the real scoop on what it’s like to work with Box.net CEO Aaron Levie. Read the full interview after the jump!

Tell us a little about what you were doing at Google and Yahoo, respectively, before you joined Box.

Jen: I was head of the marketing team for the Apps group focused specifically on our consumer-focused outreach with Gmail, Calendar, Talk, Docs, Blogger, Picasa and other apps and then moved to the Google Apps marketing team to help expand our efforts reaching out to Universities.

David: I was the product manager for video advertising products at Yahoo. I was responsible for improving Yahoo’s video advertising products for both advertisers (by enhancing ad performance and bridging off-line to on-line creative transfer) and end-users (i.e., minimize user annoyance with video ads).

What will you be doing at Box? What are you most excited about?

Jen: I’ll be focused on evangelizing Box as the best option for businesses to manage their content online and increase the productivity of their teams. I’m most excited about some big announcements we’ve got coming up in the next few months and can’t wait to start talking about everything that’s going on here.

David: As Director of Product Management, I will be working with Aaron, Jen, and the rest of the company to develop and drive Box’s product strategy and roadmap. I’m most excited about rolling out innovative and game-changing features that will redefine professional and corporate knowledge storage and collaboration

Have your commutes improved?

Jen: I used to fantasize about biking to work when I was at Google,  but it was really too far except for a once a year type event. At Box, I walk to work (and Starbucks is right on the way).

David: Palo Alto is a bit further from my place than Yahoo’s Great America office, but coming into a tree-lined neighborhood like this makes the drive seem more pleasant.

Considering the experiences both of you have had at two of the world’s most influential web companies, what do you see in Box? What, if any, Google and Yahoo influences will you two bring?

Jen: The best part about being a marketer at Google was that we were forced daily to be more creative, more innovative, and think more out of the box than traditional marketing departments. I still remember when Eric Schmidt spoke to the marketing department about how we should be leading the way in creating the best, most trackable, and highest ROI marketing to give our advertiser customers new insight into how to get more out of their marketing dollars. It was inspiring to be given such a challenge. Marketers at Google must also work within the bounds of the brand itself, which is Google’s most precious asset after its brilliant engineers. The stronger a brand is, the more careful and restrictive you have to be in marketing it. Although there were days when it was frustrating that I couldn’t rely on tried-and-true methods of marketing and advertising, it has made me a better marketer by forcing me to always think critically: can we be doing this a better way?

David: Yahoo has been an innovator in making Internet-based content and communication an indispensable part of our everyday life. I hope to leverage my experience at Yahoo to move Box services to that same degree of ubiquity for professionals and enterprises.

What interests you about your line of work? Working in Silicon Valley?

Jen: I love technology and how it can improve people’s lives, especially in the arena of productivity. Working on Google Apps, I developed a love of how technology can reduce and sometimes remove completely those things that get in the way of us really doing what’s important, like spending time focused on developing a new strategy or playing with kids and family. That’s what I love most about Box. It takes the hassle out of the day-to-day work of sharing, getting input, updating, and getting approvals so everyone can focus on the content itself, instead of whether they have the right version of the document or locating that attachment in some email.

David: I love the creative process and I’m a huge geek, so being a product manager in Silicon Valley is the best way to serve those two passions! I used to be an engineer and have always enjoyed working with bright and stimulating minds, and the Bay Area has the highest concentration of engineering talents in the world.

I know both of you have been around the legendary founders of Google and Yahoo – Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and Jerry Yang. Can you tell us what those experiences were like?

Jen: Larry and Sergey always challenged our team to do more, do it better, and do it faster, which was very motivating and, even as the company grew bigger, that drive was instilled in everything we did and making it feel like we were still operating like a start-up. I also always loved that sense of wonder and fun that they both had with everything they did. I still laugh when I remember Larry giving me advice on the advantages of jumping stilts and recommending that a teapot was a better gift for my husband’s birthday. All this before a very serious meeting about the lawsuit against Google’s library scanning project (which was thankfully and successfully resolved).

David: I’ve had a couple meetings with Jerry Yang. True to his reputation, I found him to be sharp, direct, and genial. Jerry always made it a point to come around and shake everyone’s hand at the conclusion of each meeting, which gave me a feeling that he was approachable.

Keeping those things in mind, what’s the most interesting thing about working with CEO Aaron Levie?

Jen: Aaron is an infectiously fun person to work with, he’s full of passion for Box and how we can make it better and more intuitive for businesses to use. He’s always available to talk to anyone in the company and makes it a point to roam the building and see how people are doing. His quirky sense of humor keeps meetings fun; I actually think that I have laughed more at work in the month that I’ve been here than I have in a long time. There’s nothing more motivating than that.

David: Like Jerry, Aaron is also quite easy to approach and bounce ideas off. He is also exciting to work for since he always has a million ideas pouring out of his head! Aaron has a very important trait for a successful startup CEO: he keeps an open mind to new and different perspectives and is able to absorb and make quick decisions based on new ideas.

What, if anything, has surprised you about Box so far?

Jen: I think I forgot how great it is to work in a smaller company where anyone I need to talk to is just a few steps (or perhaps a few stairs) away.

David: Box, like many early-stage companies, is able to introduce new products quickly. What I have been pleasantly surprised about is the level of attention Box pays to product quality and customer support that many other start-ups don’t. This is an important factor in Box’s success so far and my goal is to help maintain this culture.

How do the ping pong and foosball skills of Box employees compare to people you’ve seen at Google and Yahoo?

Jen: I’d have to say that the ping pong action at Box is intense and I’m not sure anything I’ve seen compares.

David: I haven’t played a game of foosball, but I must say Boxers’ ping pong skills are superior to that of my former co-workers!

Everyone likes the free lunches at Box: what’s your favorite place? Any area restaurants you want to add into the rotation?

Jen: Lunch at Google was fantastic and it would be lying to say that the local restaurants compare, BUT I have found a silver lining. Because we pre-order at the beginning of the week, I actually choose my lunch when I’m not hungry. Let’s hear it for healthy salads vs. the fantastic desserts the pastry chefs in Google’s Cafe Moma (building 45) create.

David: It’s great that we now have Cheesecake Factory – I love their pizza.

What are your favorite hobbies?

Jen: Pre-kids, I was an avid underwater photographer, scuba diver, played ice hockey, sang and danced in musicals, skied, ran fun runs, wrote a novel, and general contracted the addition on our house. Post-kids… well… I love a good shower and a Peppermint Mocha Twist (but not at the same time).

David: Snowboarding, online gaming, and collecting turn-of-century antiques.

Any Box-related resolutions for 2009?

Jen: Truly change the way that businesses work together online, and by increasing productivity at work, increase the time that everyone has to spend doing the things they love.

David: Introduce new products that our customers want and can’t live without!

Post by Sean Lindo, Community Manager

  • aaron

    Hey! No shoes on the couch. Come on….

  • http://www.box.net/enterprise Blake

    Nice interview, but you forgot to mention that us Enterprise guys have the best ping-pong skills in the office…

  • http://www.mzinga.com Patrick Moran, CMO Mzinga

    Congrats to Box for finding great talent and to both of you on your new gigs.
    – Patrick

  • Rick

    So Jen passes Starbucks on the way to the office? Not surprised! I can’t walk for more than 10 minutes in any direction in California without bumping into one!

    Congrats on attracting good talent to the company!

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