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Alex Legault
Alex Legault started at Seattle-based PitchBook in 2014. (PitchBook Photo)

Alex Legault is a guy who likes to follow the money. Or, perhaps more accurately, a guy who likes to manage the tools that help companies follow the money — and be smart about chasing deals and making investments.

Legault is the associate director of products at PitchBook, the Seattle-based financial data and software company. He’s also GeekWire’s latest Geek of the Week.

“I oversee the customer facing side of the PitchBook platform and related features like search, direct data, plugins and workflow tools,” Legault said. “I started at PitchBook back in 2014 as a junior product manager where I focused on supporting core Analysis features within the platform. One of the first features I worked on was the Co-Investors feature released in 2015, which helps users uncover actionable insights on investors that commonly participate in similar rounds of funding.”

Prior to joining PitchBook, Legault worked on user acquisition, marketing and business development initiatives at Social27 and ActivityPal.

He’s Northwest grown and 2011 graduate of the the University of Washington.

“I am an avid soccer fan, tech news junkie, and occasionally, a salsa dancer,” Legault added.

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Alex Legault:

What do you do, and why do you do it? “First, let me explain more about PitchBook. We’re an authoritative financial data and software company covering the private and public markets. We’ve developed a SaaS-based platform the institutional investment community relies on to source information and beat competitors to the next big deal or investment — making the PitchBook Platform one of the most innovative technologies in a traditionally tech-adverse industry.

“In my role, I’m responsible for building the product management practice, which involves looking for the things causing our customers the most grief and developing data-driven solutions to solve these issues — quickly.

“Our market is incredibly dynamic, intricate and plays a vital role in the business world. Private equity and venture capital firms are raising record levels of capital and pouring it into the world’s most promising companies. There’s never been a more pressing need for rigorous and transparent financial market data to help guide investment and business decisions. What’s more, detailed financial information is extremely hard to come by, making PitchBook uniquely positioned to take over the market by providing comprehensive access to both private and public financial markets data. This is what keeps me coming back. When deal makers have access to quality data, they make better decisions and startups receive the funding and resources they need to grow, thrive and positively impact an industry.”

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? “Being data-driven isn’t easy. Just because you can increase usage of a specific feature doesn’t mean clients will pay more for it (or pay for it at all). Many folks we interview and chat with talk about data as though it’s easy to install some sort of tracking software and you magically arrive at the truth. The reality is tracking the right metrics, interpreting test results and making the right assumptions is difficult. It also requires more than just data. You need qualitative feedback, good interpretation of the data and context to make the best decision. There’s also a speed component. If you spend too much time gathering data and feedback, you might get beat to market by a competitor. In this case, data is sometimes more useful as a directional indicator and validation/invalidation tool, and is less of a surefire 100 percent way to know what you’re doing is right.”

Where do you find your inspiration? “Anyone who knows me, knows I’m hyper competitive, which explains why I’m known around the office as ‘the ultimate panther’ (PitchBook insider secret). Right now, PitchBook is uniquely positioned to dominate the financial market database category, especially with Morningstar in our corner. The competitor in me won’t allow us to pass up this opportunity because we’re moving too slow or haven’t explored platform innovations to take us to the next level. This competitive drive translates into weekly product updates (we launched nearly 120 in 2017 alone), customer interviews and mid-week and weekend testing and product updates.”

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? “Aside from my iPhone and Alexa, one non-traditional piece of “technology” I couldn’t live without is a combustion engine. I get restless after a few hours in a car and on long plane rides, making me super fun to travel with — especially on my regular visits to PitchBook’s Ukraine office.

“If it took me a full day to get to Crystal Mountain in a buggy, I would NEVER ski.”

Alex Legault
Alex Legault, laughing at his PitchBook desk — probably because his inbox is at 0! (PitchBook Photo)

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? “PitchBook is an open work environment and all the product managers and UX designers sit together, to create a collaborative atmosphere. I like being able to jump into team work sessions as needed by just turning around and joining in a conversation.

“I also love my standing desk, which can often get messy. A technique I use to stay focused is to stick Post-It note reminders in inconvenient places, like in the middle of my computer screen, so I’m forced to prioritize the task and get it done. If my desk and computer screen are covered in in Post-it notes, chances are I am having a busy day.”

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) “First tip: Turn your calendar into your to-do list. If PitchBook is anything like other workplaces, teammates are prone to scheduling meetings by syncing calendars, versus asking for availability. While that can be more convenient, it’s less conducing to getting work done. For pressing action items requiring my full attention, I block off time on my calendar to focus on these projects. If I schedule it myself, I know I will usually get to it. Anything else I happen to get done is bonus points for the day.

“Second tip: I also try to keep my inbox at 0. Anything that needs immediate attention goes to a ‘To-Do’ folder. Things that I’m waiting on someone else for are filed into a ‘Waiting’ folder. Everything else goes to archive. This forces me to be ruthless in the prioritization of what comes through my inbox. If the inbox starts to pile up too far above 0, it means I was either recently on vacation or I’m taking on too much. Being able to prioritize and say no to good ideas in favor of other crucial tasks is a core PM skill. I think PMs should exercise this muscle as often as possible.”

Mac, Windows or Linux? “At work – Windows. I am always using Excel and other Microsoft Office products to manage various parts of our data and PitchBook Platform initiatives. At Home – Linux. In my spare time, I enjoy building apps for my own learning and Linux is more manageable for this.”

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? “I never really watched Voyager. It’s long overdue that Janeway gets her own movie so I can give her a fair shake here. As a leader, I think Picard wins hands down. If I want to be entertained at the movies though, I’d rather be watching Kirk- the quick wit, rule-breaking, Kobayashi Maru-ing attitude makes for great film. The PM in me wants to take a look at the data. Someone did a Google analysis looking at popularity, battle tactics and combat wins and Kirk had the edge there.”

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? “Transporter. If I could get a few ski runs in at Crystal mountain during lunch and make it back in time for PM team meeting, I’d be a happy man. As I mentioned earlier, traveling long distances makes me cranky so I’m sure friends and family would appreciate it if I could just appear. A time machine would be cool, but let’s avoid those tricky paradoxes.”

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … “I have always liked the idea of annotating the internet, or at least giving each website a place where 3rd parties can rate, review and discuss any site. I think Genius has tried some approaches to this, but I have my own take on it.”

I once waited in line for … “Just as I do not like long car or plane rides, I am not a huge fan of waiting in line. I think the longest line I’ve waited in is for the paddle board rental shop at Green Lake Park in Seattle.”

Your role models: “I really admire, Ken Norton. He’s probably an obvious one in product management. I read everything he writes and try to always stay up on what he’s doing.

“Elon Musk is also someone I admire. It amazes me how he can rally people behind his vision, which is what product managers must do and often struggle to do effectively.”

Greatest game in history: “It’s probably a toss-up between two series: Greatest game I like to watch has to be the FIFA videogame series – a staple in my life since junior high school. These are also considered major events at PitchBook today. The greatest game I personally played growing up is Metal Gear Solid. The interactive story mode and game play in metal gear were incredible and I looked forward to every new game release date so I could get my hands on it as soon as possible. I spent countless hours playing it.”

Best gadget ever: “Amazon Alexa: She turns off my lights when I forget to after crawling into bed. She also helps me to control my TV and is connected to other technologies in my house. I even spend time creating and programming different apps for her to find innovative ways to use her throughout my home! I recently made one that hooks up to the OneBusAway API. I give her the location of my bus stop and she tells me how far away the E line is so I know when I should leave my house to catch the bus.”

First computer: “I don’t remember exactly, it was a desktop…I think it even had a dial-up connection. While not a traditional computer, I do remember having an Atari (it was my dad’s), which I played Pong and other classic games on all the time!”

Current phone: “I have an iPhone 6S and have been avoiding upgrading. I’ve been holding on to my headphone jack for dear life (hate the dongle). I think I will finally cave with the iPhone X, though.”

Favorite app: “Reddit. My commute can be long and the homepage is a great collection of random stuff: learning things, topical stories, emotional feels, great photos – a real variety of things to look at and read. When I am commuting home on the bus it’s a nice mental break from work. I am also a huge fan of r/rarepuppers and r/tippytaps (you’re welcome dog lovers). The comments sections have some of the best witty replies, inside jokes and clever puns that you will ever read. It can be pretty inappropriate at times too, so if you’re new to reddit, you’ve been warned!”

Favorite cause: “Men’s Prostate and Health month in November, and commonly referred to as Movember. It’s a great cause and our entire office gets into it. We did a great fundraiser last year, where I challenged my team with some lofty donation goals and if they could hit them, I would dye my mustache. I wanted to give them some extra incentive to get them to give money to the cause and reach a very lofty donation goal. I spent Dec. 1 with a pink mustache.”

Most important technology of 2016: “Mobile payment technology was probably the most important or impactful. Venmo and Snapcash have taken off allowing money to change hands quickly and with little friction. More and more we’re also seeing online services and retail locations accept Apply Pay as a form of payment. I love not having to carry cash and I think this will soon be the norm.”

Most important technology of 2018: “Quantum computing … I hope. I would love to see a breakthrough getting us closer to more generalizable quantum machines and practical uses for them. There are currently things impossible to calculate and model due to the complexity and number of calculations required. QC will unlock these problems, which I hope will lead to new discoveries across some of the hard sciences. It should also unlock so new innovations in the software world and spur growth, maybe even making life easier for product managers.”

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: “Nurture your curiosity. I’m a huge fan of continuing to learn new things and new perspectives. I think letting your curiosity take hold of you helps expose these opportunities. For some folks, it’s that new hobby they will become an expert in overnight. For others, its new technologies that might not yet have a practical application in our world. These people are the most fun to interact with and I think, they tend to excel as well. So, next time something new piques your interest, dive down that rabbit hole. I bet it will be worthwhile.”

Website: PitchBook

Twitter: @ARLegault

LinkedIn: Alex Legault

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