What it’s like to be ‘Mother of Dragons’ at Sprout Social?

Arnita Hayden, 30, senior product manager of publishing at Sprout Social

Sprout Social is social media management. A lot of brands and businesses today, they have profiles for every social media network, and it becomes cumbersome, because they have to log in to all these places. With Sprout, they can just connect all their profiles through our platform and then manage everything from there.

Publishing is the area I’m over. It’s essentially all outbound content: tweets, messages and things you want to send out. I define the strategy for the team, for our publishing suite and where we should be going. I work with the CEO (Justyn Howard) really closely. He tells me our overall business objectives, and I take that and instill them into the strategy for my specific area.

I was born in the south suburbs of Chicago, in Richton Park. My dad’s an engineer, so when I was younger, you know, he used to have me sitting on his lap, coding with him. I didn’t want to play with toys or anything like that. I wanted to fix our VCR or take apart the cable box. I would get in trouble all the time because my mom would come into the house, and our telephone would be apart. I wanted to see how it worked.

I took all of these technical classes in high school, at Rich South. I took Visual Basic and Cisco, like networking, routers and servers. I was in advanced calculus because I loved math. Basically, it was no question. I knew I was going to do computer engineering and computer science in undergrad.

I went to Howard University in Washington, D.C. I knew I wanted to go to an HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) because it’s really important as a people, especially being African-American, to really understand where you’re from and your history, and there’s no other better moment to do that in life than in undergrad.

I always knew I wanted to end up doing product eventually, but I wanted to learn more about finance because that was my weak point. After Howard, I decided to go to Morgan Stanley. So I moved to New York, and I also lived in London for a while.

I ended up going to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) for two years for my MBA and my master’s in engineering, and then, I came back to Chicago because my fiancé (now husband), had just gotten a job at a hedge fund here.

Microsoft was having Techweek, and I ended up going there and meeting Molly, who’s on our human resources team at Sprout. We ended up having coffee after that, and one thing just led to another, and I ended up at Sprout.

We’re a fun, close-knit team. We talk to each other a lot. We joke a lot. Once you get on this floor, the floor is where the fun is. We have Music Fridays. We have a speaker, and we put on a Spotify playlist and people can add their songs on it. Or we’ll put on Spotify TGIF and rock out to that.

We have a hack week at the end of every year where people can just build whatever they want. My team spent a week building out a product called Landscape, but we weren’t quite finished at the end of the week. We decided we didn’t want to stop. So I actually talked to the CEO, and we ended up getting an Airbnb to finish it there over a weekend.

Most tech companies get snacks, but I love that we have healthy snacks like trail mix. We have fruits. And we get avocados. We get free lunch, and that’s really convenient, especially for someone in my position who’s in meetings nonstop, all day.

Almost everyone here is a “Game of Thrones” fan. That is absolutely my favorite show. I love that I get to talk about it all day with my co-workers. My co-workers gave me a nickname, “Mother of Dragons,” a character on the show. My nameplate used to say “senior product manager.” I come in one day, and it just says “Mother of Dragons.”

I still don’t know, to this day, who put that there. Nobody will tell me. Some other people have joke names, too. I think mine’s the coolest.

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As told to freelance reporter Erin Chan Ding. Stories are edited for length and clarity.

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