Out Of Office With Pinterest Product Manager Sarah Tavel

Sarah talks about her career switch, her quantified self, and how her life might be different if she’d broken into the “nerdy boy” realm.

Out Of Office With Pinterest Product Manager Sarah Tavel
[Photo: Flickr user Igor]

Before heading out for the weekend, we chat with industry leaders for a glimpse of their lives outside of the office–and what got them where they are today.


Three years ago, Sarah Tavel saw where she wanted to work from afar.

While working at a venture capital firm, she met the founders of a then-fledgeling startup, Pinterest, and co-led their funding deal with the firm. A year later, in 2012, their contagious excitement drew her to call them up for a job–she could be more useful on the inside, she decided. She’s now a Pinterest product manager.

“[In venture capital], you’re always on the outside: You’re meeting with a lot of people, trying to invest in companies, but it’s very much a solo sport,” Sarah says. “As a product manager, you’re working with a team, driving toward a goal of building something . . . I loved both, but I’m definitely having fun here.”

Launching into new territory led Sarah to a fulfilling, unexpected job–but it still comes with hard work. We asked her about life outside of Pinterest: How she unplugs, unwinds, and stays energized.

What’s your ideal vacation look like?

Somewhere in nature with no cell phone or Wi-Fi reception. It’s amazing how restorative it can feel to go off the grid for even a couple days. I love going on a weekend to a place like a hot spring in northern California, where you have no Wi-Fi, no cell phone, beautiful scenery. It’s so important to disconnect.


What’s one of your wackiest habits?

I’ve been wearing a Misfit Wearable religiously. It’s a sensor you wear on your wrist like a watch, and tracks things like the number of steps you take or how well you sleep. Even though I know I’m a poor sleeper, every morning I review how well I slept the previous evening. I guess I’m hoping for a miracle–one day when I magically get a long block of restful sleep. Still waiting for that miracle.

What’s your go-to method for decompressing after a long work day?

If I have time, I love to go for a swim or catch up on my stack of New Yorkers. But the truth is, most times I “decompress” after a long work day by collapsing into bed.

If you could go back in time and change one moment in your career, what would it be?

If anything, I’d return to high school. I went to a competitive math and science high school, where I excelled in math and took multiple elective math classes. Yet I distinctly remember walking by the computer science lab and not even considering taking a class. It was where the nerdy boys hung out.


Sure, I was a nerdy girl and loved writing little Basic programs when I was little, but it still didn’t feel like something I should do, and it most certainly wasn’t something any of my friends were doing. Looking back, I wish instead of walking by, I had poked my head in and given it a try. I think I would have liked it quite a bit.

It speaks to how the interventions getting women in tech have to happen so much earlier in the pipeline. It’s happening a lot already, which is great, but I see myself as someone who would have been excited to learn about computer science.

About the author

Freelance tech, science and culture writer. Find Sam on the Internet: @samleecole.