Thank you to lucidLIFT for underwriting our new Product Leadership interview series!
What does Product Management Leadership mean to you?
Product management always starts with understanding your market, prospects, and customers. You need to deeply understand their world, challenges, goals, and business. Armed with this information you and your technology team need to solve these problems, and provide value in a unique way. What separates great product managers is their ability to really understand these problems and come up with scalable solutions that solve the whole problem in a way that works for the entire market you are trying to serve.
When and how did you get into this aspect of technology?
I first moved into a product management role in 2010. At a previous company we didn’t have product management, but a new senior leader brought it in and convinced me to change roles and move into product. As I learned more about the critical role product plays at the intersection of the market, engineering team, and the business I couldn’t pass it up. It was the best career move I ever made. Although I didn’t quite know what I was getting into at the time, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Why do you do it, what inspires you?
Product roles have the ability to have a real impact on a business and you leave every day feeling like you’ve moved the needle. Once you’ve understood a market and their challenges, created a vision for how to solve those problems, delivered a working solution that people are paying for, and watch the impact it has on them, it’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.
I also really enjoy teaching and mentoring new product managers. Being able to share knowledge and experience to help others is extremely rewarding.
Do your technology teams use agile software development methods, or another approach?
We exclusively use agile methods. It’s a mix between scrum and kanban depending on the team and project. I’m a big believer in leveraging different frameworks depending on the task at hand, and we are nimble enough to make this work. I started my career doing waterfall which I couldn’t image going back to, and for anyone out there still doing it – it’s time to make the switch.
How do you ensure that your efforts and objectives are aligned with tangible business outcomes?
We try to make this as clear as possible for the team members and organization as a whole. We have corporate initiatives that we tie roadmap items back to so that it’s very clear how the roadmap and work of the team impacts the company. We’ve even color coded each item so it’s easy to map each item to a business goal. For any revenue generating items, we work with sales to come up with the commitment and then track it throughout the year which is extremely helpful as well. The technology teams get energized when they know how they contribute to our growth and success.
Do you use any software tools or how does does technology come into play around your objectives?
We leverage Jira, Confluence and Slack for day to day tracking and communication with engineering. We are still at a size where we use Excel to do the heavy lifting for creating roadmaps. As we grow, I would imagine implementing additional tools where appropriate.
I am always cautious when introducing new tools. There is work and overhead for every tool, so you need to make sure the investment in capital and time are well spent, and that you are getting a solid ROI. Technologists are curious people and love new tools, so you need to be careful you don’t overinvest and over rotate just to say you are using the latest thing on the market. There are lots of companies out there spending a ton of resources just keeping dashboards up to date instead of delivering value.
How do you see product management changing over time? What are some of the challenges and opportunities ahead?
I see more and more specialization as companies realize the benefits of agile software development, the role of product and the impact it can have. It’s not uncommon to see Product Managers, Product Owners, Product Marketers, Technical Product Managers/Owners, Product Ops as examples. It wasn’t long ago that a product manager was wearing all those hats and trying to be successful which is extremely difficult.
A current challenge that many organizations face is that they haven’t realized the full potential of what product management can do for them. Although they have product teams, they don’t have the latitude to apply the right practices and add the value they are capable of. The opportunity is to ensure you have solid leadership, trust the team, the processes, and reap the rewards great product management can bring.
What advice would you have for someone who wants to get into Product Management?
Sometimes it can be hard to fully understand the role of product in an organization, and many organizations define product differently which can add to the confusion. I highly recommend meeting with some product managers across multiple companies and industries to really get an understanding of what it’s like. There are also a lot of great books out there as well as blogs and websites dedicated to product. If you are curious, driven, like to solve problems, and don’t mind a little stress, product is extremely rewarding.
What excites and or concerns you about where business and technology are heading?
The pace of change and innovation continue to accelerate. As a technologist this is extremely exciting, and how this innovation impacts fields like medicine could lead to a lot of really great outcomes. On the flip side, there are a lot of industries and companies that could get turned upside down overnight as automation, autonomous machines (vehicles), and AI continue to gain traction. Millions of people could have their jobs drastically altered very quickly and we will need to figure out how to deal with this as a society. Organizations that lead and adapt quickly will reap great rewards.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
My wife and I love to travel and do it as often as time and budget allow. We also recently got a new puppy (my first) so getting him trained and keeping him entertained is a lot of fun. I am also an avid reader and try to stay up on the latest business and technology news and trends. On my good days I consider myself a runner but don’t get out as often as I’d like.