Coffee with: Alissa Dos Santos


March 5, 2014

Alissa dos Santos Hightail employeeName: Alissa Dos Santos
Hometown: Louisville, KY
College: Northwestern University
Title: Product Marketing Manager

When she’s not out on a run exploring San Francisco, sampling the latest food trucks at the SoMa StrEat Food Park, or playing Berlin style ping pong, Alissa Dos Santos works as a Product Marketing Manager here at Hightail. Alissa’s bubbly personality and can-do attitude always shine through whether she’s working with colleagues or talking to our customers about how they use Hightail. After a brief tango with the world of TV journalism, Alissa’s love of storytelling brought her to the bustling Silicon Valley. I caught up with Alissa to talk about her journalistic roots, guilty pleasures and her biggest inspiration.

Ofunne Okwudiafor: How did you get into journalism?
Alissa Dos Santos: I didn’t know anything about journalism until college, when I saw friends writing for the school newspaper and taking these amazing journalism classes. I had always loved to write, and I was so jealous. I decided to shadow a few different people (in various professions) after my freshman year, and I had an amazing day following a TV reporter around for a day. I went back to school, switched tracks, and jumped into working for the newspaper, TV and radio stations. Journalism is great if you’re a curious person — you get to learn new things every day and tell stories. I love stories.

OO: How did this love of storytelling influence your job search after graduating from Northwestern?
AD: I decided to do TV for a few reasons. I like talking to people face-to-face (with newspaper and magazine, you’re often on the phone), I love public speaking, and I really liked the extremely tight deadlines — they’re such an adrenaline rush. There’s also nothing like live television. I was lucky enough to land my first job in my home state of Kentucky, reporting in Lexington at an ABC affiliate, WTVQ, channel 36. I was the lead reporter on Good Morning Kentucky, which meant 3 a.m. wake-up calls, and driving to the station in the middle of the night for breaking news. I did general assignment reporting, which really means I covered anything from bad weather and city council to fatal house fires and car accidents. I covered a lot of “crime and grime,” as we call it in the TV biz.

OO: What were you able to take away from that experience?
AD: Every day I covered at least one story, and sometimes up to three — so I became pretty good at making fast deadlines. I would wake up in the morning, not knowing whether I was covering a homicide or a food drive. Sometimes I’d be live with breaking news five minutes after arriving on the scene. You learn to piece together a story very quickly. The job also toughened me up, and taught me to be independent. I shot and edited my own stories, which was really tough and quite unglamorous, contrary to what people often assume with TV news.  But it was an adventure every day, and I was always learning, which I loved. Things move fast in journalism, just like they do in tech. The two aren’t as different as you might think.

OO: How did working as a news reporter lead to you moving to the Silicon Valley?
AD: Storytelling on TV only went one way. I spoke to the viewers but they never really got an opportunity to talk back to me. I got interested in social media after seeing the power of two-way communication on Twitter. It was neat, I’d be live during a snow storm talking about school closings and parents would tweet me about the road conditions in their neighborhoods. I’ve always been curious about technology, as I was in math-science-technology programs from sixth grade until college. When I started looking for my next job, my brother (who has a more traditional engineering background) encouraged me to come out to the Bay Area and try out tech. I set up a ton of informational interviews, and ultimately took a leap of faith when I came out here. I knew if I hated it, I could always go back to journalism. My first job was at a start-up, and it was awesome because I was able to learn a ton and get my hands in everything. It was my first time working with engineers, wireframing, designing web pages. Seeing things go live on the product side was such a thrill for me. I also ran a college internship program, which was so much fun.

OO: What brought you to Hightail?
AD: From a marketing standpoint, it was a really cool opportunity to go through a rebrand. I love being able to help tell the Hightail story with our new image — it’s a chance to have a big impact at the company. The cloud space is interesting because a lot of people use products like ours, but don’t really understand what “the cloud” even is. It’s exciting to work in a space where we can help shape the way people think about file sharing and cloud collaboration, which is ultimately about productivity. Files and folders don’t sound sexy, but productivity sure is.

OO: What do you love most about product marketing?
AD: A lot of the things I love to do in my current position are the same things I loved about journalism. In product marketing, we’re telling the story of a product. I like to make complex concepts understandable. You know, what’s the real value of this small feature? Why does this product matter to our customers? When I was in TV, I would show up at a crime scene and interview six people, but only have a minute to tell the story. It taught me to be concise and tell people what they want to know. I also like being in such a cross-functional position, because it means I get to work with people from every team, from product and customer success to sales and design. I’ll be working on a go-to-market plan one hour, and looking at metrics or writing a blog post the next. I guess you could say I like to be in the middle of the action.

One of the best parts of my job is talking to customers. I get to hear how our product is helping their organizations run and how it lets them to do their jobs better. I hear what they really love about Hightail and what they want us to build in the future. Like I said, files and folders aren’t always bar conversation (though they are in Silicon Valley), but what we enable is really awesome. We help people organize their lives and run their businesses. That’s pretty cool.

After getting the scoop on her TV reporting days and making the big move to the Silicon Valley, we chatted about a few of Alissa’s favorite things and a couple of other neat tidbits as well.

OO: Favorite sports team?
AD: University of Louisville Cardinals (Men’s basketball)

OO: Favorite pastime?
AD: I’ve always loved running since I was really young. I was that kid who loved the mile in grade school. Whenever I’m in a new place, I go on a run to explore.

OO: Favorite game?
AD: I enjoy a competitive game of Scattergories.

OO: Favorite music?
AD: I love this band called Beirut. I’ve been able to see them at the Fox Theatre in Oakland a few times, which was incredible.

OO: Your guilty pleasure?
AD: Late night Amazon Prime shopping (I recently bought an immersion blender I’m pretty excited about). Oh, and $4 red velvet cupcakes.

OO: Favorite coffee?
AD: Blue Bottle. Since moving to SF, I’ve become a total sucker for overpriced drip coffee. But when I’m back home in the Midwest, I’m all about Dunkin’ Donuts.

OO: Running power song?
AD: Jason DeRulo’s classic hit, “Ridin’ Solo.”

OO: What are you reading?
AD: A book called Nudge and another called The Power of Habit. I’m only reading books with yellow covers right now.

OO: If you won the $100 million jackpot in the lottery, what would you do?
AD: I would buy a place in Bariloche, Argentina and fly all my friends and family there once a year. It would be awesome to be able to treat my favorite people to a week of fun, food and relaxation.

OO: Who’s your inspiration?
AD: Growing up, I really loved watching Oprah and I still really like that lady. I think it goes back to my love of storytelling. Everyone has a story to tell (as cheesy as it sounds), no matter what job you have or where you grew up. Stories help us relate to each other and the world around us. Oprah has been able to expose people’s stories in such an impactful way, and she’s allowed people to shine on their own. I think she’s pretty badass.

We think you’re pretty badass too, Alissa.

For more info on Alissa, follow her on Twitter or read her latest blog post.