As a teen growing up in Toledo, Ohio, Alana Smith took an interest in computers and began working on a Compaq Presario she had at home. She wanted to know everything – how computers worked, how the Internet worked and more. Once she found W3Schools online, she began teaching herself how to code. 

“I was never really great at it, but loved the possibility around it and how you could unlock and create anything you wanted,” says Alana, who graduated Summa Cum Laude from Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies in 2008 and now works as a principal product manager at LinkedIn in New York City.

Alana quickly became the de facto computer person in her family and at school. Teachers began pulling her out of class to help with software projects and to answer students’ questions on tech. 

“This was not a cool thing in 2001 to 2004. It was very nerdy, so I got made fun of a lot for it. But, I just kept going,” she says. 

Alana didn’t know anyone who worked in technology, but soon found support from a friend’s father who worked as a systems manager for the local air force base in Toledo, Ohio. He answered her questions, showed her hardware and software and, most importantly, encouraged her curiosity. 

“Because of my interest in technology, I always thought I’d study computer science, and that that was my only option,” says Alana. 

After enrolling at Syracuse University in 2004, she quickly learned that wasn’t so. 

‘The iSchool Felt Like Home’

During an “Admitted Students Day” event at Syracuse, Alana learned about the iSchool and how a computer science degree wasn’t her only option. The iSchool was an instant fit. 

“The amazing staff at the iSchool seamlessly transferred me, set me up with a great slate of classes, and the rest is history,” says Alana. “The iSchool felt like home.”

At Syracuse, she worked in undergraduate research with Professor Jeffrey Stanton and on special projects with Professor Jeff Rubin.

“With Rubin, I managed the student gate at sporting events. This taught me how to deal with conflict, leading a team, following up, and also how consistency is critical and a key part of responsibility,” says Alana. “Plus, I realized how a key piece of a leader’s job is making a work environment fun and unblocking team members.”

Working with Stanton on the research side taught her how much curiosity, opinions and expertise are a critical part of work and how relationships and asking for help is a huge part of success.  

“I also learned so much about teamwork – how everyone’s opinion has a place, and how to bring inclusivity of thought into a team,” she says. 

Product Management Journey

After graduating from Syracuse with her bachelors in Information Management and Technology and Marketing in 2008, Alana held key product management roles at several well-known companies, including leading multimedia products at Bloomberg, leading the financials within the mobile app at American Express and working to launch the first mobile app for clients at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. 

Since joining Linkedin in 2019, she has held several product manager roles, including her current job as principal product manager for LinkedIn’s global news and editorial organization on the content engagement team. In her current role, she focuses on member and editor experiences for LinkedIn News and how content displays and flows on the site. Previously, Alana led live video, images and video formats, where she focused on the sharing and engagement sides of the ecosystem. 

“In my career, I have always wanted to be in the center of building and creating things,” says Alana. “I knew that when I was 15 playing on that Compaq Presario. That has always been my dream.”