Featured Maker: Darren Smith

  • 4 October 2021
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Featured Maker: Darren Smith
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This is part of our bi-weekly series profiling some of our community members at Product Makers. If you’re interested in reading others, check out our previous Featured Makers.

This week we’re featuring @darren.smith who’s the Head of Product Management at Blue Chip Customer Engineering.

Starting in Product Management

How'd you get started making products that matter?

I have had a varied career working in IT-related jobs primarily in the back office and later moved into designing IT systems for various business sectors. I realized that merging business opportunities with technical requirements was something I really enjoyed so I pitched product management to the owner of the business and he agreed it would help drive the business forward and ensure our services delivered the value our customers required.

What's one piece of advice you wish you'd had when you started working in product?

Develop your people skills. Product management is as much about soft people skills as knowing the data.

Product management today

What do you like the most about your work?

I love how varied it is, from data analysis to strategic thinking, to working with Marketing for product launches. There really are very few jobs like it.

What do you like the least about your work?

Having to continually explain to people what product management is, and that I am NOT a project manager. (Editor: maybe this article can help Darren? Product manager vs. project manager: What’s the difference?)

What has you excited about the year ahead and your product?

What has me excited is growing our team. I’m also excited to improve on our ability to show through actual data which of our 30-ish services are working for our business and which should be sunsetted. It’s a big shift in how we think about our business and our products.

Tell us about something you shipped/launched recently…

We recently launched a third-party maintenance service that has been adopted fantastically by our sales team. We laid out a clear definition of what the service provides and the benefits, provided the tools they need to show why the service works for our customers and provided them with the training they needed. It’s been really rewarding seeing this come to life and see the team’s excitement in bringing it to the market.

Who do you most often collaborate with when planning, executing and bringing new things to market?

I have a good close working relationship with our Commercial Manager. I use him as a sounding board to ensure we are hitting the price points our customers want, but more than that our conversations enable me to evolve my thinking and look at things in a different light. He’s also fantastic at stakeholder management and has helped me grow immensely in this area.

How does Productboard help you in your role?

I am fairly new to Productboard and have been trying a few different ways to incorporate our services within the tool. I have now come across a nice blend of jobs-to-be-done alongside drivers and objectives that allows me to clearly prioritize work and communicate that to stakeholders within the business. Having the ability to prioritize in the features board and simply produce different roadmaps for different stakeholders has been a huge win!

A bit about Darren outside of product management

Favourite emoji?

🤣 (rolling on the floor)

What product would you absolutely love to work on?

I would love to work on a new form of automobile. I believe with the technology available today car manufacturers are too stuck on the idea of what a car is now compared to what a car could actually be.

What's a product you'd love to fix and make better?

Without a doubt, Microsoft Powerpoint. It has lots of hidden features that are super useful but you never know that they are there.

Who's a person that you most admire and why?

Simon Sinek. He has an amazing view of the world and helps me think in a different way.

Outside of work you'll find me…

Following sports — mainly football (this one ⚽️not this one 🏈) and F1. I’m also renovating my home and enabling it to be a smart house.

Insights on the Product Makers Community

How has the Product Makers community helped you thus far?

I find it extremely helpful, the insights from other product managers helped me rethink the drivers I’ve been using and has given me the insight to treat product management like any new product in my company.

What do you get the most value from in the community?

Being able to get insights from other product managers. The community has a wealth of knowledge from many different markets and levels within product management and provides different perspectives from software delivery to physical products. Personally, I find these differing perspectives invaluable as they help me to drive different initiatives within my team.

Is there anything you would like to see happen next in the community?

I’d love to have some roundtable discussions and conversations where people can come together in real-time and talk about their product management practices.

👉 Interested in being a Featured Maker? Check out all the details and apply and you could be selected as one of our upcoming featured makers.

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