With more than 15 years of experience in high technology and operations leadership, Regina Wallace-Jones is a force to be reckoned with in Palo Alto, California. Previously, she worked as the Chief of Staff at Facebook and then eBay, before landing her current role as the Senior Vice President of Product at MINDBODY. Not only is she actively engaged within her industry with specialties in technical and business operations, data, process optimization, and more, but she’s an activist in her community as well.
She’s currently the Mayor of East Palo Alto, where many of her business philosophies are put into practice. Believe it or not, in her spare time, she runs an investment group, Entrepreneurial Spirit Investments, coaches soccer, tap dances, and tutors students in math and sciences. Did we mention she’s also a mother?
This impressive visionary took time from her overbooked calendar to talk about the future of her industry, which keeps her attention in a resume, and more:
What made you decide to pursue a career in software products?
When I started my career, the world of engineering was pivoting to software and the consumer internet. As a practical matter, I entered this industry because I needed to eat! But, it was also an industry that appeared to be led by ‘what’ rather than ‘who’ you knew. It felt like a new frontier. I wanted to be part of it.
How has the industry changed over the past five years?
In the last five years, I’d say that the industry has lost some of its extreme creativity. More seemed obsessed with making the fastest dollar and less focused on solving the most important problems. Perhaps my expectations have expanded. But, for what it’s worth, I am in favor of pivoting back to solving the most critical issues.
What excites you about the future of product development?
I have been and remain excited about our ability to iterate toward the best solutions quickly. COVID-19, combined with the current social and political climate, has highlighted some of the widest gaps in our economy and its support for the human condition. Many of these gaps can be solved with the principles and practices of product development. It’s the perfect storm.
What’s the most challenging part of being a leader/manager? What’s the best part?
The most challenging part of being a leader is leading for impact with courage, conviction, and inclusivity toward inspired outcomes. This is also the best part.
What are the most surprising lessons you learned as a mayor? How has that changed the way you work?
As mayor, I find consensus building to be one of the toughest and most surprising lessons that I am still learning. Moving others toward a point of view is much tougher as mayor. Consequently, I find myself seeking much more input than would be my norm in the private sector.
How can job applicants catch your attention? What stands out?
I keep wide channels of communication open to access me. Catching my attention is fairly easy. Keeping my attention is harder. For that, I look for people that are interesting and authentic.
What project at your company are you the proudest of? What did it teach you?
I’ve been remarkably proud of how MINDBODY pivoted to virtual enabling solutions to support our customers through the COVID-19 pandemic. It reinforced for me how powerful we can be in solving problems when we concentrate our energy in the right direction. It fuels me with infinite hope for our future.
I’ve been humbled by MINDBODY’s response to #blacklivesmatter. Our response, along with many others in the industry, encourages me to believe that my children will conjure up better memories regarding race in America and in their workplaces than I can conjure up in mine.
How do you find a healthy work/life balance?
As a full-time executive, a full-time mayor and a full-time wife and mother, I believe I’d be lying to say that I have achieved a perfect work/life balance. My goal is to fully utilize my talents to engage in things that I enjoy and that the world needs. Most would characterize me as overutilized. I would not have it any other way.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as a POC in this industry?
I think I’d place my challenges into three key categories. The first is that I generally have no social or psychological safety. The second is that I generally have fewer organizational champions. The third is that I typically have to bring more credentials to the table for the same or lesser roles.
How do you feel about the current climate in America right now in regards to race? Is it changing your work culture?
I believe that the climate in America right now is what I described as convicted outrage, certainly a tipping point that I did not believe I would see in my lifetime. It is too early to tell whether it is changing my work culture or the broader industry. But the environment feels ripe for change, and I’m optimistic that it will happen with our combined effort, commitment, and willingness to be incredibly uncomfortable. And, at the same time, we work to get it right.