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
Starting in Product Management
How'd you get started making products that matter?
My product career started after working a few years in more customer-facing roles. When I graduated college, I worked as a software support specialist for 2.5 years and followed that with a role in software consulting and project management for another 2.5 years. Growing my career from the perspective of the user has provided insights into what makes the user happy!
What's one piece of advice you wish you'd had when you started working in product?
There have been many insights that I've uncovered or received while growing my career. I think the most powerful advice I have ever received was something I got early in my career as a software support specialist: "You don't know what you don't know." This phrase had let me know that I didn't need to know the answers all the time. However, I could search and discover the answer and that was okay. In college, knowing the answer(s) was something that was celebrated where not knowing an answer was criticized. So challenging this mindset resonated with me and has carried into my product career from the discovery/ideation process all the way to delivery of products that matter.
Product management today
What do you like the most about your work?
What I find great about being in Product is it combines two areas that engage me: creative problem-solving and making people happy. When I start the ideation process, I begin by understanding the pain points of the user; often summarized in a series of problem statements. These problem statements become the foundation for any initiative that I may add to my Roadmap. The challenge, for me, is to identify which of these problems to address first and how to phase them out. In many cases, I think from the user’s perspective and where they could benefit the most. I attempt to validate these assumptions prior to kicking off any initiative project and iterate my problem statements as needed. This stage is the part that I enjoy the most - identifying those top problems to solve and then collaborating with engineers, stakeholders, etc. to solve these problems.
What do you like the least about your work?
I am not sure if there is a specific theme that I like least. While some may cause frustration and stress in the short term, those frustrations tend to be short-lived for me. Team personalities or organization/business strategy changes that affect my roadmap are a few examples. Good product plans typically carry me through those short-lived frustrations, however.
What has you excited about the year ahead and your product?
There are many great features in my product, however I felt the user’s experience could be improved upon through connecting the product’s feature areas. With this identification, I surveyed customers, stakeholders and validated my assumptions with usage metrics. This validation led to my 2022 Roadmap’s main theme of "improving usability". What gets me excited about this theme validation is it outlines directional clarity and surfaces the initiatives that will provide the most value to my customers.
Tell us about something you shipped/launched recently…
My product focuses on data tracking for EHS Compliance (Environmental, Health, and Safety); part of that focus requires employee data uploads. This has been a challenge for my clients and the product. Recently we launched a new feature that allows the option for clients to upload their employee data straight from their preferred payroll provider. This reduces the overhead of data matching between systems and allows the client to shift more of a focus on promoting employee compliance tasks, such as anti-harassment training or tracking OSHA reportable accidents.
Who do you most often collaborate with when planning, executing, and bringing new things to market? What does that collaboration look like?
I think this depends on the size and focus of the organization but for me (mid-size software company):
Development Leads - I try to bring this individual or individuals in early on the process. Understanding what is technically possible early on help me to identify the MVP.
Client Success/Support/Sales Leads/Customers - If an idea originates internally or externally, I will bring in a stakeholder from more of the customer-facing role. This allows me to ask questions and pull data connecting ARR or introducing me to the client (if needed). This helps me uncover the MVP and also later phases of a project and also helps to gather internal or external evangelists early on in the process.
Marketing - Early on in the project, I will involve my Marketing team. This involves go-to-market plans and gathering marketing collateral for Sales. While some of these collaborative items happen later on in the process, I found that having the conversations early has been valuable.
Executive/Board - This is very high-level, however, I present the what and the why and the benefit of a project.
A bit about Adam outside of product management
I do my best thinking when…
After work hours. I am an early riser and tend to finish my busy work early in the day. This leaves me a lot of time later in the day for my brain to loosen up and creatively think. I do a lot of note jotting in the early evening.
Either 📣 or 💯. Sometimes I'll throw 🌮 in as well.
What product would you absolutely love to work on?
A big hobby of mine is blockchain technology, so a product that I would love to work on is one that does not exist: the metaverse. I believe that digitizing our personalities and protecting our personal profiles will be crucial to adoption success. That would expand exponentially the potential for the metaverse.
What's a product you'd love to fix and make better?
Airplanes. These have been around since the 1910s and modern airplane technology has not been truly innovated since the 1960s/70s. I'd like to see fully electric airplanes capable of supporting public travel along with the ability to hover land/takeoff similar to helicopters.
Who's a person that you most admire and why?
One person who comes to mind is Charles Darwin. He recognized that there were questions about humanity that were accepted without proof. It takes a strong person with a strong character to ask the question and take action on figuring out the answer. Ultimately, Darwin's work shifted the collective mindset of human society and exposed the world to the importance of biological sciences.
Outside of work you'll find me…
Rock climbing, snowboarding, getting out into the mountains and nature. Product can be a high-stress job because of all the balancing that needs to happen outside of the general job requirements, so I tend to focus on activities that bring me and my mind into the present.
Insights on the Product Makers Community
How has the Product Makers community helped you thus far?
I think providing a vehicle for focused discussion is fantastic! While I'm not a direct user of Productboard, I am active in Product and can both share my knowledge/experience or learn from others some new tactic/mindset/experience.
What do you get the most value from in the community?
The conversations. I lean on Carol Dweck's growth mindset and it is very difficult to grow without having external conversations. External meaning outside of my "self".
Is there anything you would like to see happen next in the community?
I think digital coffee chats would be a great idea. Giving product people more exposure to one another will only aid conversations and learning. (Editor note: come check out our new Meet a Maker program!)
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