Meet the Team: Valentina

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Valentina (she/her) is a member of Sparrow’s Product team. Let’s get to know Valentina!

How did you get to where you are?

I grew up as a bookish, argumentative immigrant kid in Brooklyn, so obviously the plan was to become a lawyer. I did an internship with the NYC Law Department, got to know attorneys, and spoke with students at the law school when I was at Harvard for undergrad. Eventually, I realized it wasn’t necessarily going to be the right path for me, prompting a major identity crisis.

Meanwhile, I had been doing some internships and freelancing work with startups in the health and wellness space, covering various functions like marketing, analytics, content generation, and occasionally being the liaison between non-technical CEOs and development teams. Going through the recruiting process during senior year opened a new possibility of Product Management as a career path which would bring together many of the skills I had been developing and allow me to work on technologies that were reshaping crucial industries like healthcare.

I joined athenahealth, a tech and services company building electronic medical records, billing software, and patient portals for healthcare organizations. After spending four years on the product team there, I moved back to New York to be closer to family. Since then, I have worked at several startups in the healthcare industry, building product teams and making complex corners of the healthcare ecosystem more efficient.

Last August I joined Sparrow, and have been greatly enjoying my time getting to know the leave management landscape and becoming a part of the Sparrow team.

What is a fun fact about you?

I was born in Odessa, Ukraine and came to the US at 8, speaking basically no English. I was very lucky to have excellent teachers, a public school system that dedicated resources to English as a Second Language education to make sure kids like me caught up, friends who patiently translated lessons for me in the first few months, and a family who put a huge emphasis on education.

Why did you join Sparrow?

Our excellent recruiting team found me on LinkedIn, and once I learned about the problem space and Sparrow’s solution, I was extremely interested. The interview process was the best run I’ve ever been through - efficient, friendly, insightful.

Ultimately, the draw was also personal for me. I had to take an unexpected medical leave several years ago, and the whole process was a very difficult one. Filing paperwork and staying on top of correspondence was the furthest thing from my mind, and having the opportunity to make this process even a bit easier for other people was a huge draw.

What is your favorite part of working at Sparrow?

Ok, so, obviously the people are amazing and the best part, but to pick a slightly less obvious answer - the business model.

There are so many organizations that don’t provide a clear, tangible, honest benefit to their customers. Sparrow provides a valuable service at a reasonable price, and our customers often come out ahead financially by leveraging our services, in addition to providing a meaningful benefit to their employees during the most critical times of their lives, their happiest and saddest moments. Everyone’s interests are aligned: employers want to help their employees, employees want to focus on their lives instead of paperwork, and Sparrow wants to make everything work as smoothly as possible.

Working on a meaningful problem, making visible progress, and doing it with an excellent group of colleagues makes Sparrow a wonderful place to work.

What are you most excited about for your role in the next 6 months?

We are making major investments in our product, especially for our employee and HR users. I’m excited to learn even more about their workflows, figure out how we can take on even more work on their behalf, and continue to improve the overall user experience.

What are you doing this weekend?

I’m up in Vermont with my husband and some friends for a ski weekend. I don’t ski - terribly uncoordinated - but it’s great to get out of the city and spend some time in such a beautiful place. The snow makes everything so quiet and peaceful. I love curling up by the fireplace with a good book, although I do wish we could have taken our dog, Tayto, with us - unfortunately, no pets are allowed in this rental. He’s getting spoiled by my parents this weekend instead.

What are you most proud of in the last year?

I finally learned how to drive! I grew up in Brooklyn and never finished learning as a teenager, and then just kept putting it off. But at 32 I got my learner’s permit (for the third time…), took driver’s ed, and passed my road test on the first try. I’m still not particularly confident in my abilities, but it was a huge accomplishment after assuming I would never learn. I kept waiting for fully autonomous cars, but it’s looking like it’ll still be a while…

What’s the farthest you’ve ever been from home?

I spent the summer after my freshman year of college teaching English at a boarding school in China, about two hours north of Hong Kong in Dongguan. My students were 4-8 years old, so we mostly stuck to colors, family members, and foods - it was a lot of fun! At the end of the summer, the school sent our teacher cohort on a two-week tour of the country, mostly through small villages and towns. It was an amazing opportunity to learn more about the culture and practice my (extremely limited) Mandarin.

Want to join our team? Check out our careers page and apply!