I’m Ilana Walder-Biesanz, a product manager, writer, and performer currently based in San Francisco.
I work as an Senior Product Manager at Yahoo, where I am on the Gemini advertising team. I was previously at Microsoft as a Program Manager Intern on Office. I earned my undergraduate degree in Systems Engineering with a particular emphasis on software and user-oriented design, which led me to product and program management. As a PM, I get to draw on my technical background but focus on user experience and the larger business case for products. Like most engineers, I sometimes spend my free time working on technical projects of varying usefulness.
While I have now returned to the tech world, my academic journey didn’t end there. I’ve done research in psychology and philosophy, and I earned a Master’s degree in European Literature and Culture at the University of Cambridge. I followed that with a Fulbright year of opera and theater studies in Germany, which I blogged about here. My areas of research span Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, and England from the 1500s to the present and touch on philosophy, history, poetry, plays, novels, and opera. I’ve written about some of these topics for both academic and popular audiences.
As a perfomer, I sing opera and musical theater, act in plays, direct, and sometimes even teach Brits how to sound like Americans. I’ve performed in parks around Portland with the Original Practice Shakespeare Festival and on the history-filled stage of the ADC Theatre in Cambridge, England. I’m a classically trained lyric mezzo-soprano. In addition to performing on theatrical stages, I’ve sung in churches and synagogues as a chorister and chanted the Kol Nidre and other High Holy Days prayers as a soloist.
I spend my free time solving puzzles, traveling the world, reading melodramatic nineteenth-century fiction, learning new languages, fighting with swords, and dancing all night (sometimes in historical ballgowns).
You can reach me via the social media links at the bottom of this page or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Most e-mails I get from strangers compliment or insult my taste in opera, but I’m also happy to answer questions about Olin College, prestigious fellowships, and product management.