Caitlin Chrisman

MBA '15

Product Manager, Artificial Intelligence
Bank of America

What do you do professionally?


I am in my 11th year at Bank of America. At BOA, I work as a Product Manager on its mobile virtual assistant known as Erica, housed in the Bank of America mobile app. A key part of my team’s focus is to build and refine features in Erica's conversation so that when a customer asks something like "How much did I spend last month” Erica will answer with precision.  


People in lobby of building

I also run competitively at a semi-elite level for Brooks and Peninsula Distance Club in Palo Alto, CA. My current training focus is on the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, which will be hosted in Atlanta, Georgia, on Leap Day 2020. Frankly, it is a long shot to make the Olympic team, but it’s certainly a lifetime experience to toe the line for the third time with the professional athletes who do make that cut.  I like to describe my running career over the last decade as consistently above-average in the sub-elite field.


Marathon runners

What is the most enjoyable part of your job?


I love being challenged. Every single day there is a new problem to solve, a new relationship to understand, or a partner who needs support. The most joy is the rich interactions made possible by the diversity within our broader organization. My teammates help me identify flaws in the design that I missed, challenge me to approach problems differently, and give me honest feedback that helps me fine-tune my leadership style. Any professional growth that I've experienced over the last four years could not have been made without the help of such a strong network of coworkers.


What is the biggest challenge you face?


Every day I'm getting pulled in one hundred different directions. One feature is in sprint, another one is just being built, and another is going through a legal review. It's most difficult for me to still provide a high quality of work output when I've got so much going on. The way that I handle it? I am honest with my team and give them a heads up that I might be running behind and work together to find a solution that works for all parties involved to ensure everything can still be delivered in a reasonable timeframe.  Other times, I ask for help from another teammate so that the work can be done better, together.


What sorts of interesting places has your position taken you to? Do you have a favorite?


For Bank of America, I travel to the booming metropolis of Plano, TX, with occasional stints in Charlotte, NC. However, running has led me to major cities in the U.S. and Canada, including New York City, Boston, Seattle, Vancouver, and many more. I love any city that has easily accessible running paths and yummy vegan food.


What is the best professional advice you've received?


Toe the start line with the calm confidence that you deserve to be there, and execute with a steadfast belief—all the way to the finish line. 


Early in my career, my boss noticed something in the way I worked. He explained the behavior using the analogy of a start line, which I found quite fitting, considering my background. He observed that I toe the start line and then take a step back right before the gun goes off. He encouraged me to take a leap of faith and trust that it would work out. But what about failure? Just get right back up again, learn from the mistakes, and try something new.


In this case, the start line was probably a workshop with executives where I had the choice to step up and lead. But, my boss found that I would do all the heavy lifting and work to get there, and then take a step back and let someone else take the reins. 


Since that key piece of advice, I’ve learned that it’s better to have calm confidence and to trust that I’ve got the skills necessary to get the job done.


People in Geneen Auditorium

Aside from your current role, what is your dream job?


It would be a dream come true to work on a product that inspires people to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle—both through fitness and nutrition. This would form a perfect intersection between my mobile app experience and my lifelong passion to help runners achieve their fitness goals as a coach.


Professionally or personally, what are you excited about right now?


The Olympic Trials Marathon! This race just gives me an excuse to run alongside at least 20 of the runner friends I've gotten to know over the past decade. Collectively, our goals will merge to be one and together we'll achieve a lifelong dream of finishing one of the most competitive races in history.


Runners crossing finish line

What do you like to do outside of work?


At its simplest, I like to build communities. Connecting people with shared interests brings me so much joy that I keep doing it in every city I've ever lived. I build communities on a foundation of inclusivity and kindness and welcome people into my home for game nights, dinner parties, or for a much-needed lemonade after a grueling long run. Surrounding myself with people who share similar values is inspiring and exciting.


What is the most important thing you learned during your time at Fuqua?


Beyond the academics, Fuqua taught me the science behind a successful team. I really appreciated the amount of time that was spent providing the cohort with extensive data both for teams as a whole and for the individual teammates. Understanding the intricacies of the MBTI within teams and learning about Thomas-Kilmann management strategies equipped me with powerful knowledge that has allowed me to change my work style depending on the personality mix of my teams. Ultimately, Fuqua taught me that the key to success is to unlock the power of each of your teammates.


People in front of storefront

Who was your favorite professor?


Every single professor at Fuqua has an impressive resume in their own right. I connected with our econ professor, Leslie Marx, because she is a brilliant professor, savvy consultant, and talented athlete. During a run on our residency in Shanghai, I learned that she competed at the Olympics for Team U.S.A. fencing team while she was defending her dissertation. I admired her ability to juggle multiple passions at one time without sacrificing quality of her work or teaching.


What does team Fuqua mean to you?


Team Fuqua means inclusivity and finding creative ways for every person you interact with to have a chance to share their voice. It means collaborating across all borders, between differences, and throughout hardships. Team Fuqua is celebrating success together and building each other up when down. While Team Fuqua may be cultivated most easily on Duke's campus, it stays as a core part of every Fuqua graduate’s repertoire and continues to have a positive impact on the lives of everyone around you, both professionally and personally.


People eating watermelon