I’m a product leader and coach in San Francisco.
The whole story
I’m Diana Berlin: reader, writer, collaborator, leader, coach, artist, product manager, podcaster, and partner. I share my life online because talking about what’s true for me brings me closer to the world I want: a world where expression wakes us up.
Going back to the beginning: I was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Soon after, my family moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Books were my first love, which was no accident; when I was eleven months old, my mom wrote to a friend: “Her favorite activity with a parent is reading books (of course, there is a strong possibility we conditioned her to do this).”
In high school, I wrote poems; joined a band; did Science Olympiad. Then, I graduated and moved back to where it all began. At Harvard, I studied 20th-century U.S. history, with a focus on world’s fairs. While there, some friends and I started an internet culture conference called ROFLCon. What the history of world’s fairs made clear to me was that technology is always the future; what ROFLCon made clear to me was that the future so far is complicated and fun. Pairing that clarity with my lifelong love of computers, I decided to be a part of building what would come next.
I decided to be a part of building what would come next.
With a history degree, I found it tough to break into technology. Most companies wanted to see a computer science degree before even talking to me. Microsoft, though, was willing to hire liberal arts grads into program management roles and set them up for success, so I spent a summer in Seattle and then a few years in Silicon Valley working as a program manager for Office Graphics and then PowerPoint. After Microsoft, I spent two years at Harvard Business School broadening my perspective; in the middle, I joined Kickstarter for a summer. From there, I moved to Berlin to join SoundCloud, where I joke that I ended up “designing my own rotational program.” What that really means: as a generalist at a high-growth startup, I worked with my managers to continuously revisit my responsibilities and point them toward impact and learning.
After a while, I took a step back and realized that I missed rolling my sleeves up. I moved into a product role at SoundCloud, and eventually realized that I was ready to return to the U.S. Looking for my next role, I found Quip — a startup led by product thinkers I admired, seizing the opportunity to redefine productivity. I jumped at the chance to shape a product still in its early days, and joined the team in January 2016. Seven months later, in August 2016, Salesforce acquired Quip, creating the opportunity to see an acquisition up close. This whole arc—getting to witness and shape the process of taking a bold decision and figuring out everything it can mean—has already proven to be one of the great learning experiences of my life. And as I write this, we’re only a year in; there’s so much more to do, and so much more to learn.
Convinced that product management was one right career for me, I started getting curious about what other right careers might be out there. I arrived at the idea of coaching, and my excitement grew as I realized how well the practice of coaching mapped to strengths I had, skills I craved, and role models I admired. Whenever I develop a strong hypothesis, my next impulse is to prove or disprove it as quickly as possible. So with Quip’s support, I started training to become a leadership coach alongside my weekday work as a product manager, and completed my coursework at the Coaches Training Institute in March 2017. Today, I have the proof I was after: coaching will be key to my life’s work. And already, it’s part of the flow of life, as my side-business, Should We Studios, has grown from a podcast into a coaching practice.
With time, I want to explore every facet of life. I want to burrow into every nook and cranny and share what’s clear from every point of view. For now, though, there’s this: the story of who I am right now, and what I’m here to do.
Portraits by Helena Price