The Mindset of a Champion

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Hailing from California, Donnie Keller is a skilled and intelligent product and program manager. He started his journey by studying business law at San Jose State University and University of Texas at Arlington. His experience covers over 20 years of global product and program management, partner readiness, business development, marketing, and service & operations in digital media, games, and artificial intelligence. He has served in roles ranging from Operations Manager to Vice President of Marketing at Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft, Verizon, as well as a few start-ups. Donnie has been a part of some amazing teams that have produced great results including being awarded two U.S. patents and Under 30 industry awards.

Donnie is a Bay Area sports fan and an incredible athlete himself. Donnie was inducted into his High School Hall of Fame for three sports (swimming, water polo, wrestling), was a 2x All-American in college, and competed in the Paralympics earning himself two gold, one silver, and one bronze medal. Donnie loves the outdoors, running, biking, and spending time with his wife Laura and daughter Jillian.

 

Describe a day in the life of a Project Management Office Director. 

My days typically start with a review of the day/week priorities, planning & organizing action items, and working across partner groups to ensure the right actions are happening at the right time. There’s typically issues or gaps that need resolution at any given time, so there is a lot of follow-up, clarity and coordination that’s usually happening in-between. Beyond that it is all about tracking the details and over-communicating with stakeholders.

 

What is the most challenging part about your job? 

The most challenging part of the job is probably the ramp-up when taking on a new technology or product launch and then staying up-to-date on all the changes that impact the work I do to support partner teams. The business moves fast so you have to move fast with it!

 

Can you tell us a little about your days as a swimmer and competing in the 1992 Summer Paralympics?

It was a huge honor to represent the United States at the Paralympic Games in Barcelona. Prior to that I had no experience competing outside the U.S. and had never even been outside the country. So, there I was, 17 years old, the U.S. National Champion and record holder for six events…and I’ve now qualified for the Paralympics! After a few weeks at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado to finish up my training, I was on my way. In a word it was ‘overwhelming’. Surrounded by past/current champions I was excited but intimidated for sure. In the end I brought home two Gold, one Silver, and one Bronze. Both Gold medals were also World & Paralympic Records. Truly a defining moment in my life and an experience I pull from even today.

 

What inspires you? 

A lot of different things but primarily it’s competition and what I call “the challenge”. Whether it be the ‘never been done before’, the thing others say cannot be done, exceeding the expectation, basically anything that has a barrier that can be challenged. When I see others doing these things, it really motivates me and makes me want to take it to another level.

 

What is the best advice you have received? 

The single best piece of advice I’ve received came from the first professional mentor I had out of college. She told me two things: you attract more bees with honey and be emotionally disciplined, don’t operate out of judgement as your first instinct instead seek-to-understand in all situations. So, in short, be someone others want to be around and always be listening & learning.

 

Do you have a favorite podcast? 

At the top of the list is the Joe Rogan Experience. He has an incredibly diverse group of guests that come on his show, from MMA Fighters to Astrophysicists and everything in-between. Check him out!