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Impel Employee Spotlight: Britt DeJohn

Team Impel includes musicians, foodies, avid animal lovers, athletes, and more, and their passion, energy, and grit make Impel successful. Impel’s Employee Spotlight Series highlights one of our incredible teammates each month, giving you an authentic and behind-the-scenes look at our culture. This month we’re introducing you to Britt DeJohn, VP of Product, Sales/Service AI.

Tell us about your current role and some of your history at Impel.

I’m currently our VP of Product, overseeing our Sales AI, Service AI and Car Buying AI product suite. I joined Impel on April 1, 2019 (April Fool’s Day!), so I’ll be celebrating my five-year anniversary soon. Throughout my tenure, I’ve held five different roles within the Product organization. I came aboard as a Senior Manager of Content Operations and created a content and data strategy for our (then newly launched) Feature Tour and F&I Advantage products. Impel has experienced incredible growth since 2019, so I’ve been able to step into increasingly challenging roles, moving from Content Ops to growing our first Product Marketing and then Product Operations sub-departments. Most recently, I stepped into AI Product Management leadership and joined Impel’s executive team.

Which Impel core value resonates with you the most and why?

Inventiveness! I think being able to formulate pointed questions with the goal of true, deep understanding is an artform. I think I’m a much more effective leader when I feel like I genuinely understand the audience we serve, the technical work, psychological motivations – all of it. Understanding the ‘why’ and ‘what’ behind each layer is so important – what are the problem statements we’re trying to solve? Why do we think this solution will address those problems? How does it work? For me, it’s anathema to leave a meeting feeling confused or unclear on the topic at hand. Ask questions until you achieve real, genuine understanding!

What are your thoughts on how organizations promote diversity and inclusion, particularly in leadership roles?

At this point, there have been numerous studies done that unequivocally show that diverse teams perform better and achieve better results than homogenous teams. This isn’t necessarily surprising, since the best collaborative outputs tend to come from multiple perspectives colliding together to fill in blind spots and present differing ways of considering challenges and solutions. Diversity can be diversity of gender and race, but it also can be diversity of thought, personality and experience. As hiring managers, it’s typically human nature to want to hire carbon copies of ourselves.

But being aware that clones of us will only create echo chambers is important, so that we can intentionally invite other voices to the table. In addition to bringing in fresh voices from outside the organization, it’s so fulfilling to nurture the many talented employees who are already within the organization. Impel is in hyper-growth mode, so there are promotions almost every other week at this point and exciting upward advancements.  

In the rapidly evolving field of AI, how do you stay ahead of the latest industry trends to ensure you maintain a competitive edge in your role?

Thankfully, at Impel, we have plenty of smart people, including an entire Research & Development function whose main focus is to stay ahead of the latest innovations and bring groundbreaking AI research and experimentation back to the broader teams. As a product leader helping to drive vision and strategy, a big part of my role is to help build roads between “the nerdy stuff” and “the business stuff.” Product-market fit happens when you deeply understand customers’ problems and needs, as well as the latest technology and what it’s capable of.

Also, for any AI business leaders out there, you should follow Allie K. Miller on social media. Allie used to be the Global Head of Machine Learning Business Development at Amazon (AWS), and she creates a lot of excellent content oriented toward scaling businesses with artificial intelligence.   

Can you share a personal mantra or philosophy that has guided you in your career and life?

I’m a staunch proponent of the “trust, but verify” approach, and it’s a core part of my leadership style. I think “trust, but verify” strikes the perfect balance between the extreme ends of blind, reckless trust and invasive micromanagement. A perfect partnership between trust and accountability! Teams need some level of autonomy to feel comfortable enough to take risks, innovate and share ideas freely. However, there should be verification mechanisms in place to ensure that high standards and expectations are met, that solid, ethical decision-making is in practice and that everyone knows that they’re accountable for the end results.

Looking ahead, what goals or aspirations do you have for your career, and how do you plan on achieving them?

What I’ve learned, especially over the past couple of years, is that it’s okay to be unapologetically ambitious and have big aspirations for yourself. As a woman, it can be especially hard and demoralizing to show your ambition without feeling shamed. Joining Impel’s executive team as a VP has been so illuminating and challenged me to think and work in different ways. My next goal is to continue to develop my executive leadership and business/financial literacy with the hopes of one day being invited to the C-Suite. However, something else I’ve learned in my tenure at Impel is that it’s important to keep an open mind and say yes to opportunities as they arise. Professional development is not always linear. 

What is your proudest non-professional accomplishment, and how does it contribute to your overall sense of fulfillment?

Without any hesitation, my proudest non-professional accomplishment is being an amazing mother to an amazing 18-month-old little boy – Roman. For many years, I held off on having children because I think being a parent is the most important job in the world, and I wanted to ensure that I was “ready” to be a remarkable mother. I wanted to have the emotional maturity, wisdom and selflessness to help guide a new little human up through adulthood. I reached a point where I was finally up to the task, and it has changed absolutely everything. Being a mom has crystallized my values and priorities and given me access to a strength, resiliency and love that I never knew humans were capable of.

As a working mother, how do you navigate and celebrate important family milestones while managing your career responsibilities?

After becoming a mom myself, I am in awe of mothers. Somebody needs to remake Marvel superhero comics, so that all of the heroes – Iron Man, Captain America, Black Panther – are just variations of working moms making things happen day after day. I’d read that. 

This is not going to be popular, but I don’t think you can have it all. Life is about choices – choosing what’s most important at any given moment. I choose to prioritize my son and my family first and my work/livelihood second. Almost all of my energy goes into those two buckets, which means both categories are thriving. However, that also means that I’m putting little to no energy into other buckets – my social life is almost nonexistent and intellectual pursuits are basically on a three-year sabbatical. I think the common refrain of “you can have it all!” as a working mom creates a lot of guilt and shame in mothers who are struggling – feeling like they’re barely keeping the plates spinning. It’s ok to put a few plates down and just focus on spinning the plates that absolutely cannot be broken. When I get home from work, I’m wholly and fully present with my son and husband. If there’s more work to do, it waits until after Roman is asleep for the night. I don’t want to be the distracted mom staring at her laptop or phone while her toddler vies for her attention – and I make that choice every single day.

Tell us about your favorite activities or hobbies that help you unwind and recharge.

I’m a Type A Leo with obsessive perfectionism and an insane work ethic (thanks, Dad <3). So, needless to say, I am in constant need of relaxation. My brain is dialed up most hours of the day, so for me, “self-care” is all about shutting off the neural networks and getting back into my body and physicality. Here’s my short list of ways that I take care of myself and keep the wheels on the apple cart:

  1. HIIT workouts. 30 minutes of interval training and you’ll be drenched in sweat and so focused on the sound of your heartbeat in your eardrums that you’ll have forgotten that cringey email you sent. Burpees have a way of bringing on amnesia. 
  2. Epsom salt baths. Get a bag of Dr. Teal’s epsom salts – I’m partial to the lavender-scented salts. Fill your tub and soak. If you’re feeling extra weird, light a candle, turn the bathroom lights off and play a soundtrack of Gregorian monks chanting. You’ll achieve nirvana after being creeped out. 
  3. Deep-tissue massages with vibroacoustic therapy. Hunching over at a computer for 9 hours straight has a way of jacking up your neck and shoulders. 
  4. Infrared sauna sessions. My husband and I bought a little one-seater sauna for our house a few years ago, and it’s the best investment we’ve ever made. In the depths of seasonal depression and harsh CNY winters, I can close my eyes and pretend I’m in a tropical climate. 
  5. Reading. I tend to go on author binges, and right now, I’m on a Barbara Kingsolver streak after reading The Poisonwood Bible years ago. I just finished Demon Copperhead and Unsheltered, and now I’m onto The Lacuna. If you find an author whose style you adore, stick with them. 

Britt, Impel’s first-ever Heart of the Company Award winner in 2021, embodies Impel’s core values and is a perfect example of what’s possible in creating your own career path. She’s a key leader on our internal Lean In committee and serves as a mentor to others.