This Meet the Trulian features Sandy Thuntarug, senior product manager at Trulia. Before joining Trulia in 2017, Sandy spent four years in the travel industry at TripAdvisor Attractions and Expedia Group and four years in telecom at T-Mobile.
What’s your role at Trulia?
I’m a senior product manager focused on helping homebuyers and renters get a feel for the neighborhood and learn more about the things that matter beyond the home itself during their home search process. Since I joined Trulia, I’ve been able to work with a group of smart and passionate people to launch two features focused on helping consumers find the place they’ll love to live: Trulia Neighborhoods and What Locals Say.
As the product owner of Trulia Neighborhoods, which released nationwide on August 14th, it has been inspiring to see the collaboration, teamwork and support from all the teams who contributed to get such a great feature for our homebuyers and renters out the door. The culture at Trulia is authentic, neighborly and collaborative. We are passionate about helping homebuyers and renters get a feel for the neighborhood while learning more about key attributes that matter to them, including safety, nearby amenities and what other locals say about parking or well-lit streets. It’s just the beginning for us, and I’m excited to build upon what we’ve done so far and deliver more features that will help our consumers find a place they will love to live.
What inspired you to get into your role?
I started my career as an analyst at T-Mobile. It was in this role that I realized I wanted to be a product manager. I saw product management as a career that would give me the opportunity to work and collaborate with teams, think big, solve consumer needs, and work on projects that were constantly changing. I wanted to have ownership and the ability to impact strategy.
I have learned a lot on my path to get to where I am now, which has given me insight into how different teams work, and has provided me with a more holistic perspective of the business and its impact to product management.
What was your dream job growing up and why?
Growing up, I dreamed of being a lab coat-wearing marine biologist who swam with dolphins in the ocean. I reveled in curiosity and loved science, animals, and microscopes. I hoped to combine all three with a career in marine biology. In some ways, I held onto the dream by taking science courses for two years in college, and even working in a microbiology lab at the University of Washington Medical Center. Lab coat? Check. It was during this time that I realized my strengths and interests would be best applied in the business world and subsequently went through the undergraduate Foster Business School program at University of Washington.
If you could have drinks with one tech luminary – dead or alive – who would it be and why? And, what would your first question be?
Sheryl Sandberg. She brought women and challenges in leadership to the forefront with her book “Lean In.” The topic sparked honest conversations around the world regarding women and leadership, which I’ve seen evolve over the years to include diversity as a whole. I’m glad it’s becoming common to have open conversations around diversity and authenticity in the workplace – whether that’s through hiring practices, affinity groups, workshops, or mentorship opportunities. If I were to have drinks with Sandberg, I’d ask her about her perspective on diversity and the notion of “culture add” and its impact in the workplace.
What’s the one gadget or personal tech item you cannot live without and why?
Sadly, it’s my cell phone. As much as I like to be in the moment, it’s great to have all the information and tools I need when I’m on the go. My favorite features are the ones that help me travel without having to do too much pre-planning: easy access to flight or train tickets, downloadable maps for easy navigation in another country, shows and movies at your fingertips during long flights, and social media tools to share my experiences with friends and family.
What was the last movie you saw or book you read and what –if anything – would you change about the ending?
I watched “Ex Machina” last night for the first time and would not change anything about the ending. It was a very human ending with a non-human victory, which gives us the ability to reflect on our humanity and what makes it so special (both the good and the bad) and gives us the opportunity to question our future and our reliance on technology.
What’s your proudest accomplishment and why?
Personally, it would be figuring out my passions and skills when I was younger. I’ve had so many avenues, choices and failures along the way. It took a lot of self-reflection to figure out what makes me happy, identify what I am good at, and find a path to get me there. From a career perspective, I realized early on that I wanted to get into product management, but was unsure of the steps I needed to take to make it happen. Through a lot of trial and error, career switching, and saying “yes” to new opportunities that would help me learn new skills, I found the path to product management.
If you could master one talent or skill that you don’t have now what would it be and why?
It would probably be to sing or play a musical instrument really well. There is something about being able to just pick up a microphone or musical instrument and just rock at it. I used to play the tuba in highschool, but I don’t think belting out a bunch of whole notes really counts.
If you could have one superpower what would it be and why?
Teleportation. I’d love to be able to travel the world without having to sit on a plane, train, or car for hours. Oh, the places I’d go and the food I would try! My first stop would be in Hokkaido. I’d go snowboarding in the mountains, relax at an onsen, and top it off with a warm bowl of ramen.
If you could time travel, would you go into the future or past and why?
The future. Maybe because I just watched “Ex-Machina” last night and maybe due to my curiosity, I’d like to see what our world would look like in a couple hundred years. What parts have we lost that we were so lucky to have and didn’t appreciate enough? How has technology impacted us for both the good and bad? What other progress will we make and what were the triggers for that change?