WiT Interview with Michelle Andhor, Director of Product Development at OneBridge.
Women in Technology WNY is here to feature women’s stories in our local community and the various technology roles they fill, traditional and non-traditional. TechBuffalo is here to highlight these women to encourage others to explore technology opportunities and take advantage of them.
Tell us about yourself in five sentences or less.
I am a former CPA turned Product Manager. My main support system comes in the form of my family, my partner-in-crime—Jake, my 2-year-old son—Leo (who also keeps me very busy), and pups—Whitney and Lulu. I live a pretty active lifestyle, I try to work out about five days a week doing CrossFit, spinning, or yoga. Working out is my outlet, both physically and mentally; what better way to decompress from a hard day than by throwing some weights around in the gym? I went to Saint Bonaventure (Go Bonnies!), love watching the Buffalo Bills (Go Bills!), and am a former rescue dog foster parent!
You went to Bonnie’s (St. Bonaventure) for accounting. What brought you to product development?
That’s a good question and hope it’ll show that you don’t have to start in technology to get here. My interest in tech started when I was an Accounting Manager at a former Employer. Part of my job was to work with the technology team to understand their development projects and assess how their projects impact the company’s financials (for all of my accountant friends out there, it was capitalizing labor cost). Software development and technology was always something that fascinated me, so it was exciting to be in front of technical leaders learning more about their jobs.
Honestly, at that point, I thought I’d be in accounting my entire life. I really do like it; I even taught a couple of semesters of accounting at a local college. The main reasons accounting is so cool is that the skills needed to be a good one are transferable—specifically, problem solving, critical thinking (assessing risk) and process orientation. Did I just use the words accounting and cool in the same sentence? Yes, yes I did!
In August 2014, I was given the opportunity to join the growing team at OneBridge. The founders reached out and were interested in having me come on board to help bring their exclusive third-party recordkeeping solution to market. They gave me a sneak peak of what they were able to build with just a handful of people and it was beyond impressive. At that point, I was ready for a new challenge – I love a good challenge. I started a few months before we went live with our first Client and helped design and test some of the functionality as well as build processes used by the Finance team who manages financial reporting within the system. I realized soon that it was process that I had a real passion for.
With my accounting background, I can speak the language of business. This means I am able to conceptualize and understand the needs of the business and properly translate it to the needs of the product. With my process orientation and attention to detail, I can see the big picture of a new feature and explain it to those both technical and non-technical. With the ability to assess risk, I can quickly determine how pervasive an issue is and the urgency to address.
Fast forward a few years, a few new products, and many challenges along the way, I now oversee the Product Development team which includes Software Engineers, Architects, Business Systems Analysts and QA Analyst.
Your favorite thing about your current job?
I embrace challenges and love solving problems. Whether it be consulting with the Client or Business owners on product functionality or working with my Team to design and develop new features, I am consistently challenged every day. I enjoy thinking through creative ways to solve problems and always seek to find the most efficient way to do things.
I always like to ask, because people may not know, what someone in product development does.
What are some essential skills?
Product Development can look different in every organization. For us at OneBridge, it can mean any individual who is be responsible for design, development, testing and/or business turnover of new features and bug fixes on our proprietary core products, related websites, and mobile app.
There are a lot of skills needed to excel, but I’d say the most important one is to effectively communicate. As I alluded before, I am constantly having conversations with all different walks of life. I talk with the CEO on the same day as I talk to a Software Engineer and a QA analyst. All different job types and perspectives. In Product, you have to be able to effectively articulate your vision to all kinds of audiences to get their support and buy in. You must translate the needs of users, having the empathy or the emotional intelligence to assess their ask, and give solutions.
As a leader in Product, you need to be both tactical and strategic. You must truly understand the value of a proposed change and be able to prioritize many different requests accordingly. You often have to think on your feet. You must be able to think high level but also understand the details, see the forest through the trees.
What’s some advice you would share to a woman starting her career?
First, strive to find a strong female leader to be your mentor; nurture and foster that relationship. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few and having the exposure and the direct relationship with these women has helped me be the leader that I am today. Aside from a direct mentor, you should also be very observant of others in the workplace. Observe what attributes they have that you want and what attributes you don’t want. That helps form your foundation.
Second, keep an open mind. Just because you started on one career path doesn’t mean you won’t take an unexpected veer! If you had asked teenage Michelle if she thought she’d be in Technology she would have laughed, but here I am! Whenever I talk to younger girls, I always tell them to try everything and anything before deciding what path they want to take. And even then, welcome new challenges as they arise! I have never taken a computer programming class, ever. I always wonder, what if?
Finally, find an outlet! Find your happy place, your place to decompress… especially after the last few years we’ve had! It needs to be something outside from your job that brings you joy. I said before, my outlet is working out. What’s yours? If you don’t know yet, make it a goal to find it!
About OneBridge Benefits
Since its founding in 2013, the Buffalo-based OneBridge Benefits has grown into one of the country’s largest administrators and technology partners for account-based health benefit plans. Having developed the first and only digital platform to include both automated claims substantiation and reconciliation, all with integrated customer service, OneBridge now manages over 210,000 participants and $2 billion in assets.
In 2021, OneBridge added a new suite of funded health benefit offerings, including the YourWay Frontier ICHRA, which allows employers to define and contribute a set amount of pre-tax funds their employers can use to obtain their own health coverage via the individual marketplace. These new product rollouts were accompanied by the launch of OneBridge’s Benefits WayFinder, which streamlines the onboarding, enrollment, and management of YourWay benefit plans. To learn more about the latest products and benefits offered by OneBridge, head to yourwaybenefits.com.