Rachel Rothman is the chief technologist for the Good Housekeeping Institute and director of the Institute’s Engineering Department. Rachel has had the opportunity to evaluate thousands of products at Good Housekeeping. She has appeared as a brand ambassador on the Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox Business, MSNBC, and Anderson Live, among other live appearances. Rachel holds a BSE in Mechanical Engineering, Applied Mechanics, and Mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania, and previously had roles in public relations for Sony Pictures Entertainment and its affiliate agency Allied Advertising.
Rachel Rothman, Chief Technologist at Good Housekeeping
How did you end up at Good Housekeeping? What was your career path?
My journey to Good Housekeeping is one of being in the right place at the right time, doing the right things academically and professionally. I wish I could say I had a master plan to find this dream job, but in truth, I had no idea such a job existed until my advisor at University of Pennsylvania told me about the opening.
Good Housekeeping was looking for a highly communicative mechanical engineer who loved consumer electronics – so basically a job tailor-made for me! Prior to Good Housekeeping, I had a stint in public relations for Sony Pictures Entertainment and its affiliate agency, Allied Advertising. Coupled with my family’s background in consumer electronics (we had a three-generation electronics distribution company), my education, work experience, and passions all aligned perfectly for this job.
What is a day as Rachel like? Please walk me through a day!
No two days are alike — one of my favorite parts of the job! That means the requirements range tremendously. On any given day I may be meeting with CTOs, CEOs or product leads across the consumer product and B2B spectrum, speaking at industry conferences like CES (a massive tech trade show), acting as a brand spokesperson on national television shows like “Good Morning America”, test-driving cars with Car and Driver (a Hearst brother publication), evaluating the latest drone on the market, writing a newsy blog post, updating our consumer panel database, or most likely, some combination of these tasks and others.
What are your responsibilities as chief technologist at Good Housekeeping?
I oversee consumer product testing methodology, implementation and reporting for the six labs at the Institute, and manage the Good Housekeeping Seal and Green Good Housekeeping Seal. I’m also responsible for all consumer tech, home improvement, auto and toy coverage in Good Housekeeping and various brand extensions. As someone with a 360 view of our product tests and expertise, I also get to work on strategy for broadening the understanding and reach of the Institute.
You studied mechanical engineering, applied mechanics, and mathematics what advice do you have for other people in the STEM field?
There isn’t one specific path you have to follow to find a fulfilling career and future in our industry. STEM is far-reaching and encompasses so much, that it doesn’t mean you need to become a computer programmer or engineer to succeed. Find a way to capitalize on your passions and strengths, not fit the perfect mold you envision.
What is your favorite thing about working in tech?
The rapid acceleration of new technology means things are never boring. A professor once said, “Technology is accelerating at an exponential rate, in which the exponent itself is increasing exponentially.” And I believe that continues to hold more and more truth each day. This is what excites me the most – that as much as I can forecast technology, I’m continually impressed by its rapid acceleration and adoption.
What advice do you have for other people who hope to work in the tech?
Let’s get more women involved! Technology touches nearly every facet of life today. There is no escaping it. Women are more tech-savvy than many marketers and manufacturers are giving them credit for. They’re the chief decision makers, yet often aren’t the ones manufacturers and marketers are addressing. Take automobiles – nearly 80% of auto purchases are influenced by women, yet they aren’t addressed in the same way men are. If women become part of the overall process, from inception through the production of new products and services, companies can better serve our needs.
What are the most important characteristics someone needs to have to be successful in your role?
The ability to juggle dozens of projects simultaneously is critical to my job success. For me, efficiency is a game that I love to optimize, so it’s a challenge I welcome — and actually enjoy! It’s also important for someone in my position to be versatile and ready to accept and excel at new challenges. I’d classify myself as a T-shaped person – I’m highly trained in consumer product testing, but also proficient in coding, marketing, content packaging, and more. This also affords me the ability to work on many interdisciplinary teams since I can speak with fluency, even if I lack a deep knowledge of the sphere.
You participated in the Women in Innovation Forum in NY; why do you think it is important to share your experience?
I want to share my experience to help create a more empowering and engaging way for women to excel. It’s been shown that getting women engaged from a young age, and continuing to support and nurture them, is critical to success later in life. It’s also important to show a wide range of possibilities, and I think my job showcases something most people may not even know exists! Anytime I can get my hands on a megaphone – whether within the pages of Good Housekeeping or at a conference, I try to capitalize on it to magnify this message.
What has been your proudest moment from your career so far?
There isn’t one particular moment that I feel most proud of, but rather the sum total of the work I get to do. Good Housekeeping is celebrating its 130th year and helping to continue the legacy of such a beloved institution is a privilege. We’ve managed stay current while the underpinnings of trust and reliability still underscore everything we do. As an institution, we’re able to take steps to make things easier, safer and healthier for our readers, and serve as an advocate for them. I’m impressed how the management of Hearst Magazines has found a way to not just stay relevant, but also thrive in the face of a rapidly changing and digitalizing media environment.
What is your advice for someone who hopes to work at Good Housekeeping?
Great advice for any job is to be prepared for the interview! I’ve had people come in for interviews and not know the first thing about the company or the details of the position. Do your homework! Come in excited and with passion, showcasing not only the skills and energy you have for the
Come in excited and with passion, showcasing not only the skills and energy you have for the job but also the contributions you’ll bring to the overall work environment. I also think candidates should be authentic and talk about the things that excite them most right now. They should come prepared to back it up with blogs they’ve written, research they’ve done, or by teaching me something new and exciting.
What is one thing that you wish you had known when you were starting out your career?
That it’s okay to reach out for advice and mentorship. I was afraid I would be bothering someone who was more important than me, but in truth, I’ve learned along the way that creating a supportive network is beneficial for all parties involved.
What is on your desk right now?
Two computers (one PC, one Mac), my physical to-do list (I love lists!), endless notebooks filled with copious meeting and idea notes (I process things better with pencil to paper, as techy as I am), rows of folders with current projects, a handful of the latest gadgets that just came my way (a lot in the IoT space), and discretely placed snacks. Plus plenty of pictures of my husband and my family!
What are you reading right now?
I love a good brain book. (If you love math, read Here’s Looking at Euclid. It holds sentimental value as my husband bought it for me when we were dating on our first Valentines Day! Talk about nailing it!). But I have to admit that cheesy romance novels are my guilty passion and anyone I work with would know I was lying if I said anything else! So I guess I’m busted! Blame it on working for a magazine that has an endless supply of books sent its way – my literary tastes were learned early on by my colleagues.
What is your morning routine?
I have to have time to digest emails in a meaningful way in the morning, so I take 10-15 minutes to catch up on what I may have missed since I put my phone into Do Not Disturb Mode the night before. I find reading emails on the fly distracting and less efficient than when I can take a chunk of time to appropriately handle them. If I have time I’ll play catch up on my social media feeds, as it’s particularly important working at a media company. And then breakfast. Breakfast is a must for me. I’m lucky and my husband makes me a delightful homemade breakfast every morning. Today I had banana superfood (chia, flax, coconut) pancakes with a generous coating of almond butter.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Take in all the advice and suggestions people throw your way, but in the end, listen to your gut. No one else is in your shoes or has the sum total of experiences you have, so you need to make the decision that is best for you. (Thank, Mom!)
What is your career advice for other young professional women?
Network like crazy!
Image courtesy of Rachel Rothman.