In the latest edition of our Spotlight Series, we talked with Natalie May, a star Account Associate on our Channel Operations team. Armed with a graduate degree in entrepreneurship from Notre Dame and retail expertise from Walmart, Natalie joined Stackline with a mission to help brands build and implement multi-platform e-commerce strategies, and in less than a year, she’s already making a big impact. We caught up with her this week before she heads back to South Bend to share stories from the startup life with students at her alma mater.
Tell us about life before Stackline.
As an undergraduate I studied biochemistry, but I quickly realized life in the lab wasn’t my calling, and I went on to get a Master’s in Entrepreneurship from Notre Dame. My first big-girl job was with Walmart.com where I worked on the category management team as a category specialist. It was there that I developed a passion for retail analytics and for helping brands build their businesses on one of the world’s largest retail platforms.
What drew you to the e-commerce space after college?
I was intrigued by the rapid product innovation and responsiveness to changing customer behavior that the e-commerce channel demands. That dynamism, and the analytics behind why customers make certain decisions, was really exciting. I have always been a numbers person, but having an opportunity to apply analytical skill to business strategy in the retail space added a whole new dimension. I enjoy seeing brands redefine themselves and watching new challengers disrupt the existing landscape.
After working for a much larger company, what brought you to the startup life at Stackline?
Walmart was a great company to work for and gave me fantastic training in retail fundamentals. But I always felt that my impact was just a small blip on that giant map. I was looking for an opportunity that would challenge me to constantly learn new things and apply the knowledge that I gained in graduate school. To be honest, I missed the grind and wanted to directly impact the future of a company that I really believed in. I found that here.
Can you walk us through a day in the life of an Account Associate?
I am part of a growing team at Stackline that’s focused on business opportunities outside of the Amazon platform. No day or week is the same, which has helped me learn so much about the business. The main focus of my work revolves around client services, with an emphasis on marketing strategy, advertising analytics and execution, catalog management, and brand strategy. Beyond these more traditional account management and consulting projects, I’m part of new business pitches, I get to help shape the tech that powers our software, and I build relationships with key stakeholders in the retail landscape.
We are very excited for you to share more about Stackline with students in the Master's in Entrepreneurship Program at Notre Dame. Can you tell us a little more about the event and what you’re hoping to achieve?
I am thrilled to be headed back to South Bend with my colleague, Nick Duda, who’s also a Notre Dame alum. We’ll host a lunch and learn to discuss innovation in the retail space and how Stackline will be strategically positioned to evolve with the market in the coming years.
One of the things I love about this entrepreneurship program is that it attracts students with such a variety of backgrounds – entrepreneurship, data science, marketing, finance, consulting, and everything in between. Stackline employees have similarly varied experiences, so we’re also eager to talk to students about opportunities on our team once they graduate.
For those considering a role in Channel Operations at Stackline, what critical tools and skills should they possess in order to thrive?
I think the characteristics that make people successful and impactful at Stackline are the ability to think analytically, rapidly learn new things while being challenged with new ways of thinking, and demonstrate the grit to work through tough projects and problems that have never been solved before.I would also encourage potential candidates to not let a lack of specific hard skills deter them from applying. I majored in biochemistry and feel like I am a key player on this team. More than anything, constantly having an open mind and the willingness to take risks (although you'll have a whole team supporting you) is the key to great success at Stackline.
How would you coach someone through a comparison of Stackline and an organization of Amazon or Microsoft’s size?
I think one of the most striking things about Stackline is the agility and capability of our software development team. When I worked for Walmart, it could take months to get aspects of our user interface updated. At Stackline, we are not only making those changes within days or weeks, but we’re constantly rolling out new tools and technologies that are groundbreaking in the industry. Since I started in February, we have launched three new retail analysis tools and service offerings that cover an expanded set of retailers, including Walmart, Target and Kroger. We are helping close the loop for our clients and evolving at a quicker rate than any large corporation.
The other thing I enjoy most about Stackline, which I don’t think you find as readily at larger organizations, is the ability to work on high-impact side projects or special initiatives within the company. I headed up a training and development program for new hires and felt I had a high degree of support and autonomy to move the company forward in that realm. I’ve seen other employees dig into critical projects focused on launching new software tools, expanding into new markets, and even creating new employee benefits. I’ve been very impressed with the amount of support for personal and professional growth.
Life moves fast at Stackline. What are you most excited for in the next year?
Aside from the amazing holiday party that everyone raves about, I’m excited to see how the company grows over the coming months. We are beginning to get some great traction in new parts of the business that will allow us to apply our technologies in new ways. There are no other software tools out there that rival our suite of offerings, and we’re just getting started. I’m proud to be a part of a team that thinks big and overachieves expectations. We have a lot more to look forward to in the year ahead.