A Space Talent Spotlight Series Interview with Chelsea Goddard, Senior Strategy Consultant at Apex Haus, Formerly Solutions Architect & Product Lead at MapBox
What is your background?
In undergrad I studied pre-law at UC Berkeley and interdisciplinary studies that centered around the built environment. I was interested in criminal justice and how climate change would impact cities. My senior year I wrote a thesis on the influence of gentrification on gang injunction placement. The project required a ton of data, which I leveraged multiple sources including the FBI, census, etc. This moment changed my perspective on how data and maps could result in real change and visualize meaningful insights. Specifically, I was amazed by the power of a map to be universally understandable and it felt like I had unlocked a powerful tool to communicate across many different stakeholders.
After finishing senior year, I received an internship at Esri and had the opportunity to present my senior thesis at the company. This opened the door for me to share my findings with Jack Dangermond, Founder and CEO at Esri, and helped me land a full-time job at the company. My role focused on Product Strategy where I was evaluating competitive products, marketing strategy, and working to integrate best practices into Esri’s products. When I found MapBox, I was impressed by the truly innovative product suite. Specifically, the way they were leveraging GL (rendering library) technology and their open source infrastructure. I started to teach myself to code on nights and weekends; my first project was breaking open a vector tile. After a few weeks tinkering with the MapBox platform, I realized just how much they were pushing the boundaries of geospatial innovation and I wanted to be a part of that.
Given my deep understanding of the competitive landscape, I found an opportunity to join the sales team focusing on strategic business development. I spent a lot of time understanding when a product would be a good fit with MapBox, and more importantly, when it would not. This approach was very effective at driving sales and I was promoted to an operations and strategy role to productize the strategic sales process I’d developed. My work began to intersect with product marketing to develop messaging strategies to engage and re-engage customers. This put me on the radar of the product team and I started working closely to help them launch new products.
After Mapbox I joined Weights & Bias focused on growth. While this was a short stint, it was a stepping stone to starting my own business. We accomplished a lot in 6 months, including launching a new product, growing sign-ups 4x, and improving WAU 2x. I realized that I really enjoyed working with early-stage companies that have product market fit and the power of going to market at the right time, which led me to where I am today.
Currently, I partner with first-time founders to streamline their product roadmap and business operations through my consulting firm, Apex Haus. This primarily focuses on high-growth startups building developer tools, data platforms, and deep learning infrastructure. My passion is working with founders solving hard problems, like new paradigms of computing or climate change.
What have been your top three career accomplishments so far?
My biggest career accomplishment so far has been starting my own business. As a self-employed consultant, I have the opportunity to work with a variety of clients in various industries across technology. I have partnered with teams building recruiting solutions for healthcare, founders launching products to reduce methane emissions, and supported Chief Fellowship Officers helping scientists productize their research into commercial applications.
While the work is diverse, it can also be challenging to navigate cultural nuances when you aren’t a full-time employee. One takeaway is to observe and listen before offering input and ideas. As a consultant it can be tempting to start "solving problems" right away but it is important to know how to balance problem-solving with active listening. This helps the team trust that you have their best intentions in mind as you begin to work together and that you are considering the work they have already accomplished before you got there.
What were the critical steps/choices that helped you get ahead?
Seeking out opportunities to learn on the job and finding new projects for myself within and outside my full-time role. One example was my effort to crossover into product at MapBox. I worked on four different product launches that required me to learn SQL and the technical architecture of our SDKs. This pushed me to learn Mapbox specific best practices to support external teams and ultimately helped me identify an opportunity to join the solutions architect team.
What part of your education had the most impact on your career?
Going to a 4-year college was a transformative experience for me. While I recognize there are two types of education (in the classroom and out of the classroom), for me it was important to experience both. In the classroom, l took several architecture/environmental design courses as an undergraduate and they were helpful in developing my appreciation for symmetry and design thinking. Outside of the classroom, I sought to apply my technical skills to understand big tough questions. This led me to work with big data sets, develop an understanding of maps, and ultimately a job at Esri.
What about your career have you enjoyed the most and least?
It has been great to work in so many different industries and learn about the problems employees and people face all over the world. My least favorite aspect has been the internal politics that exist within organizations. I think if someone shows up and does a great job that should be the determining factor in whether or not they succeed.
Where do you see the most promising career opportunities in the future?
There are two big transformational technologies coming down the pipe, from my perspective. These are the opportunities that will have a big influence on our day to day lives:
What advice/resources would you share with the next generation following a similar career path?
I wrote an in-depth post on career advice on the Elpha platform. A quick summary is provided below:
Lesson 1: Don’t use feeling uncomfortable as an excuse to not show up for yourself.
Lesson 2: Always ask for more. Chances are you will get it.
Lesson 3: Leverage gaps in leadership as a way to carve out an aggressive career path.
Lesson 4: Critically think about the company values and if they are reflected in your direct manager.
Lesson 5: When presented with an opportunity to explore a new career path, take it.
Lesson 6: Refusing to let the fear of rejection drive you will power your resilience.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
It’s super important to understand a company’s product and determine whether the market can use/adopt the solution in a venture scalable way.
I assess market readiness in two ways:
For those of you interested in getting into a product role, there are two takeaways from my experiences that may be relevant:
The Space Talent Spotlight is our blog series focused on the leaders and builders at the intersection of space and tech.The Space Talent Spotlight is our blog series focused on the leaders and builders at the intersection of space and tech.