Nikki Bown Bio

Major(s) / Certificate(s): English, ILS Certificate

Current job and anything you’d like to share about your current role: 
Product Operations Manager at – I work for a software automation company on the Product Management team, and get a front seat to new products and features that we’re releasing. The best part of my job is hearing directly from our customers, and turning the thousands of pieces of feedback we get from our users each quarter into a meaningful narrative that we can use to determine strategic areas of investment.

Any previous jobs, continued education, or other experiences that have been meaningful to you:
I’ll always value the time I spent working at small startups. There’s something special about joining a cohesive group of committed people, all playing a part in achieving a singular goal. I loved being able to make an impact on a lot of different areas, which is one of the things that led me to Operations as a career path. (Not unlike being able to get a dose of all the humanities in ILS, you do a bit of everything in Ops!)

How has your ILS experience helped to bring you to where you are today?
Oddly, it almost all comes back to ILS: My ILS professors and fellow students helped me with my application to the Writing Fellows program, which I was honored to be accepted into. I then served as Writing Fellow for several MHR: Entrepreneurship classes, which fostered my interest in Madison’s startup ecosystem, which in turn led me to working for small startups, which helped me develop the communication and technical skills that eventually helped me land a role in a much more established tech company.

With my work in product development, I have to think critically, holistically, and thematically every day. Writing well is a prerequisite for success in an increasingly remote world, and while AI can help, it can’t take the place of structured, critical thinking. And while the meetings that I attend today are in no way as enjoyable as a discussion at Meiklejohn House (😊), I do interact with opinions that can differ from my own, and must present cases with thought, care, and curiosity. ILS helped me with all of these skills, and I deeply value my education to this day!

Any advice for current students? You’ll never know when an opportunity might catch hold, so during school and in your early career, say YES to everything. There’s time to converge on focus areas later.