Emma Sheridan ’21

What are you doing now?

I’m a product manager at Microsoft building digital experiences for our commercial customers to manage their Microsoft 365 subscriptions through the admin center. I currently live in Seattle, Washington.

How did you get there?

While I was a sophomore at Pomona, I took Human-Centered Design (HCD) at The Hive with Professor Fred Leichter. Doug Powell, who was VP of Design for IBM at the time, visited my class and mentioned that there were two spots open for IBM’s summer intern program Patterns. Before I knew it, I was off to Austin, Texas, working as a user researcher for the summer and learning about Enterprise Design Thinking–IBM’s take on design thinking geared toward large companies. (Read more about my experience at The Hive and IBM.)

At IBM, I was exposed to the work of product managers and became increasingly interested in exploring this field further. While I learned many skills as a user researcher that I still leverage today and have deep appreciation for the craft of user research, I was looking for more involvement in the end-to-end product development process.

With my IBM experience, I was well positioned to apply to product manager intern positions the summer after my junior year, and I secured an internship with Microsoft working on email notifications for billing-related communications. This was not your typical intern experience. I worked remotely from my parent’s basement in Minneapolis due to the pandemic. Despite the last-minute shift to remote work, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Microsoft as a product manager and accepted the offer to return full-time after graduating. I’ve been at Microsoft for two years now working on two different teams.

How did Pomona prepare you?

The foundational design thinking skills that I learned in HCD at The Hive continue to bear fruit in my career. As a product manager, I lean deeply on design thinking to understand and design for our customers as well as bring the team together through activities meant to spark creative confidence and challenge the status quo. The project- and team-based course structure of HCD provided opportunities to work with diverse, empowered teams composed of students from all 5Cs on a range of design challenges that is not unlike my work today as a product manager which requires collaborating across multiple disciplines including design, content, engineering, business planning and more.

Pomona’s liberal arts curriculum and study abroad programs rounded out my education, deepening my perspectives. My core computer science and math curriculum was complemented by engaging classes including Strategies for Urban Livability (DIS-Copenhagen), Intro to Gender and Women Studies, Intro to Drawing, Philosophy of Technology, and Basic Acting–to name a few. This diverse range of coursework inspired me to engage with feminist theory applied to urban planning and to design; to practice my sketching skills for when I draw to think; to dissect the history, sociology and wide-ranging impacts of technology; and even to leverage improv techniques in ideation activities.

Lastly, Pomona and Pomona-Pitzer athletics (shoutout to Coach Sarah Queener and the women’s lacrosse team) have given me some of the most supportive friends. And the strong, global alumni network of The Claremont Colleges has helped me navigate my career.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

While my current job title is product manager, I see myself as a designer. I heavily leverage design thinking in my role and constantly consider how to intentionally design team interactions, meetings, our digital experiences and even my personal life.

As I continue to explore my career as a product manager, I hope to deepen my education and expertise in design. I continue to be enthralled by design’s versatility and flexibility. The designer’s toolset is one that can be picked up and applied to any field. I’m excited to see what opportunities are ahead for me as a product manager and designer.   

Any advice for current or prospective students?

Take Human-Centered Design at The Hive! Or if you are unable to take the class, join a workshop or pop-up class. The energy at The Hive is special, so take advantage of the space to express and practice your creativity.