Meet Smokeball Product Manager Mary Ellen Kelleher, easily one of the smartest and funniest Smokeball employees. Mary Ellen brings humor and goofiness to a very technical and difficult role, making both clients and other Smokeball employees feel at ease while tough problems are getting solved. When she’s not helping clients or trying to visit each of the 52 U.S. National Parks, you’ll certainly find her in her garden (despite a recent poison ivy attack). I recently sat down with Mary Ellen to find out what makes her tick.
Mary Ellen came to Smokeball thanks to VP of Client Success, Heidi Williams. Heidi and Mary Ellen had previously worked together at a large financial technology company, and Heidi knew immediately upon joining Smokeball that Mary Ellen would be a great fit as well. “Heidi told me it was a great opportunity at a smaller place that really focused on customers and creating the best possible software for them,” she remembered. Since joining the team, that is still what makes her excited to come in each day. “Our sole focus as a company is to make attorneys’ lives easier. Our internal conversations always revolve around making things less painful. It’s really about changing peoples’ lives.”
Mary Ellen has worked in many tech company roles since graduating from the University of Illinois. “I started in business-to-business sales right out of college, then moved into account management and tech support.” She then became a supervisor and eventually was pulled into large problem-solving projects, where she found her passion. “I realized how much I liked deciding what changes should be made on products to help customers,” she outlined. She has now been working in product for several years in several industries and for both consumer- and business-facing products. “At Smokeball, I actually get to come in and speak to clients, talk about the struggles they face, start formulating ideas and actually deliver on them,” she said. “I love connecting the technical pieces to what needs to be done.”
“Our sole focus as a company is to make attorneys’ lives easier. Our internal conversations always revolve around making things less painful. It’s really about changing peoples’ lives.”
When she’s not at improving the best case management software for small law firms, you’re very likely to find Mary Ellen in her garden or on an adventure with her husband and young kids. “I like to show them new things and new challenges,” she said explaining her family’s love of the outdoors. She considers herself more of an urban farmer than a gardener at this point due to an extensive haul: “We bought our house due to the huge spaces for gardening, and this year I have over 30 varieties of fruits and veggies!” Mary Ellen’s goal is to see all 52 U.S. National Parks, and she’s already crossed 8 off the list. Her favorite place she’s visited is the Tetons in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. “It’s shocking in its beauty; it’s hard to believe a place like that exists, even when you’re standing there.”
Where does she go when she needs some quiet time to herself? “I have kids,” she laughed, “so I don’t have quiet time to myself.” On the rare occasion she finds some, she is in her garden or hiking in the woods, or simply down the street at the local pub having a microbrew and listening to a podcast. Mary Ellen’s family has lived in Chicago for quite a while, and her favorite restaurant in the city is one she’s been eating at since childhood: “Milano’s Pizzeria – my family has been ordering it for over 30 years, and it’s the best deep dish around. Ask for the Brown Family Special: spinach, pepperoni, and tomatoes. Delish!”
Our conversation turned back to Smokeball and why, in her opinion, all small law firm owners need to take a look at the product she works so hard on each day. “World-class support and effort to be the best at what we do shows through every part of the organization and to our clients.” Her favorite thing about the product itself is varying matter types that give lawyers robust content specific to their practice areas.
The last thing to know about Mary Ellen is how contagiously positive and funny she is. She not only brings that attitude to the Smokeball office, but volunteers as a crisis counselor as well to help people at the very worst times in their lives. Whether she’s dancing around the office or carefully working through a problem with a client, we are very lucky to have Mary Ellen as our Product Manager at Smokeball.
Keep an eye on the Smokeball Blog to learn more about our tremendous staff as we continue to add to our Smokeball Spotlight Series each month!