Featured Maker: Gavin Guest

  • 26 January 2022
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Featured Maker: Gavin Guest
Userlevel 7
Badge +13

This is part of our ongoing 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 @gavin who’s the Vice President of Product Management at Govenda, a boards of directors relationship and compliance management platform.

Starting in Product Management

How'd you get started making products that matter?

I started building websites with Notepad before Netscape 2.0 was released. At that point, I got hooked on making things that are useful to humans. I eventually spent a short time in college learning to be a computer engineer and learned that was not my path. I then moved to Visual Communications/Graphic Design where I had more fun, but ultimately wasn’t a great graphic designer either. After spending several years working as a web designer, I got a job at a small software company. There, I had the opportunity to design a new piece of software from the ground up and discovered that Product Management was a career path and where I really belong.

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

Execution is far more important than ideas. As a young, new product designer, it seemed like everyone else in the world was making bad products because they simply didn’t have good ideas. Eventually, I realized that most companies in the same industry have many of the same ideas or even similar roadmaps. Ideas only matter when you and your team can execute them, refine the details and bring them to market. Building teams who can execute is far more impactful to the business than building a team of “idea people”. 

Product management today

What do you like the most about your work?

Overall, the thing I love most about Product is learning about people, their problems and their world. It's fascinating to learn about the millions of little subcultures out there and the nuances between their points of view. At Govenda, our products help boards of directors and corporate secretaries do their jobs better and easier. Generally speaking, corporate governance is a pretty dry topic. The fun part is talking to the humans in this world, learning how their world works from the inside, and finding ways to drastically improve their quality of life at work. 

What do you like the least about your work?

When you just have to trash an 'innovative' idea when it flops in the market. I once had a startup in the human genomics space. The basic idea was instead of spending money on individual genetic tests, like BRCA1 and BRCA2, we would sequence your entire genome for a slightly higher price. Then, your health care provider would be able to look up your genetic markers for everything they wanted, including future discoveries without paying high prices for the hottest new test. I spent considerable time and energy only to discover that my target audience didn’t care enough to pay and doctors passionately hated the idea for numerous legitimate reasons. At first, I thought they simply didn’t understand. But over time, I realized that they absolutely understood and still rejected the potential offering. 

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

The people I'm working with are fantastic. Our team alignment is in a great place and we’re equipped with the tools we need to make 2022 an outstanding year. 

Our leadership team spent energy examining the opportunity we have and helping the entire company understand who our market is. This has helped make a lot of previously difficult choices quite easy to make. It’s also making it easy for the different departments to stay on the same page and share relevant information with each other. Our teams have adopted tools that are all working together to have a shared sense of data-backed truth. 

For example, Gong, Zendesk, Slack and Azure DevOps are all connected to Productboard. Combined with Pendo, this helps anyone who wants to understand the “why” behind what we’re doing and enables them to dig in and find the information they want. It also makes it supremely easy to research new ideas and find users who might be interested in talking with us. As a side note, I believe everyone should have a tool like Gong.io  

Tell us about something you shipped/launched recently…

We're proud of a minor change to our product that allows for non-account users to directly contribute to our core users process. This saves our core users loads of time. We did this based on feedback gathered from multiple teams and the solution was very collaborative. And while this was a 'quick win' it increased adoption of this tool and is used by 100% of target customers.

We also just launched a redesigned experience for the heart of our software, building an agenda for meetings. Our team put in the work to truly understand our users' lives and didn’t compromise on the final output. We’ve received a lot of positive feedback since the launch, and it’s provided even more opportunities to connect with our customers.

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

At Govenda, we’re still a relatively small team. Therefore, every department is heavily involved in bringing great things to market. At the leadership level, we review the 18-month roadmap quarterly to make sure that changes made during the quarter are still in line with our strategy. Between these times, we are validating near-term roadmap items with incoming data points from Sales and Customer Success. We speak with these teams weekly about the details of roadmap items and plans. Our development team is awesome and they always keep the end goal in mind and we have ad-hoc meetings to touch on fine details and decisions daily.  

Our newly formed customer advisory board meets twice per year. The advisory board has been great at helping us understand what industry buzz is just noise, and what is actually important to them.

How does Productboard help you in your role?

The Insights board has completely transformed how I run our product and make decisions. Having all the data points from a dozen sources in one place and properly associated with ideas and features has removed a lot of guesswork and confirmation bias from our decision-making process. It keeps us focused on the customer and our product vision and strategy informed by ongoing customer feedback. Now with the new segmentation capabilities in Productboard, linking that data with Salesforce data adds another layer of critical data that helps us make great decisions about what to build. 

Other tools I’ve used in the past have been far too difficult to maintain, leaving me to rely more on anecdotal evidence, limited data points or bumping priorities to satisfy a sales request. Productboard’s integrations drastically reduce the time it takes for us to validate ideas and find which market segments have particular problems.

Roadmaps help us see and review the high-level plan at the leadership level as well as with our board of directors. And linking features and dependencies help people understand why a particular feature can’t be done tomorrow. 

We use the portal exclusively with our customer advisory board. It provides touchpoints with membership between meetings and helps provide them with a feeling of being ‘inside’ our processes a bit more by seeing mockups, ideas and updates.

A bit about Gavin outside of product management

I do my best thinking when…

I have a busy role so I do my best thinking when I’m away from the computer, without a notebook or anything that leads me to execute a thought. Usually, I'm listening to music or doing something unrelated to my day-to-day work. Currently, Black Pumas, Magic City Hippies, Louis Cole and Gary Clark Jr. are in heavy rotation while I play pinball and think.

Favourite emojis?

🏆 (trophy)  and Finger Pointing Up 👆are pretty efficient ways to agree with someone and signal which point you think is the best when you don’t have time for commentary or it’s not really needed. In my circles, the trophy isn’t used often, so it also serves as a nice pattern interrupt with a positive connotation. 

What product would you absolutely love to work on?

I've admired Hudl for a long time. What they've built for sports is incredible in how it can help elevate team performance with video and analytics data and drive improved sports performance. One of my passions is marching percussion; I’ve spent several seasons volunteering as a drumline instructor. It’s fun to imagine how technology like Hudl could be applied in the performing arts. 

In fact, the killer combo would be a blend of Hudl and Ultimate Drill Book that helps improve the quality of performance of a team of people while also empowering those who are doing the work to be active in how best to tackle the problem.

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

Touch-screens in cars need to improve significantly. I’d love to find a way to have the “no look” ability to adjust the AC with a slider or stereo volume with a dial while still having the flexibility and display capabilities of the giant screens being introduced into more and more vehicles. 

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

One person who I admire is Tom Morello. Not only has he honed his craft over decades, but he also views his instrument differently from most other musicians. This allows him to be creative and innovative, but also commercially viable. I enjoy learning more about people like Tom Morello who provide analogues to product management.

Outside of work you'll find me…

Spending time with my family, cooking and watching videos of the Santa Clara Vanguard drumline. SCV always has incredible writing, incredible performers and I never seem to tire of watching and hearing Vanguard play. 

I think Scott should cook _______ for my team

Shrimp Biryani because it’s delicious and I’ve yet to learn to make it myself!

Insights on the Product Makers Community

How has the Product Makers community helped you thus far?

I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to learn and see what challenges others in similar positions have. It’s interesting seeing folks early in their career encounter similar, but different challenges today and eye-opening to see how different teams work at organizations of various sizes. Seeing the extreme range of generalization to hyper-specialization among my peers in the community provides significant opportunities to learn and view problems through different lenses. Challenges around prioritization, dealing with difficult stakeholders and questioning stakeholders are all common topics in the community. Reading diverse perspectives from around the world often gives me new perspectives that I haven’t previously considered.

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

Seeing the questions the community asks is surprisingly valuable to me. I enjoy jumping in on topics when I have the time and sharing my career experiences and how our team is tackling certain things. I tend to tilt more towards replies than new topics, but with my 20+ year career in product, it’s important that product leaders take the time to share their talent and experience with others.

There are times too when I find myself reflecting on how I might answer a particular question or deal with a similar situation. And when I realize that I don't have a good answer, it’s a good reminder for me that the role of product management is one of lifelong learning and having communities like this can be helpful as a sounding board and source of collective support for one another.

The blend of perspectives combined with the chance to both help others and learn from them keeps me coming back to the ProductBoard community.

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

The Product Makers community is off to a great start. I got involved early on, participated in the pre-launch community beta, and was one of the original joiners. 

The community is so broad geographically and spans a lot of different roles and products so it can be sometimes hard to see the clearest path to become a cohesive community.

I’d like to see the community gather around specific topics for discussion on a weekly / monthly basis. While I’m very happy with the process we have with Gong, Productboard, Pendo, Zendesk and Salesforce, I’d love to hear the nitty-gritty details about how other people are managing their stack. There are endless specific topics to discuss: How do small teams work? How do larger teams with specialists work? How do you get an audience with a difficult-to-reach market? How do you identify talent in other departments and recruit them? I could go on endlessly with these questions.

👉 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.


2 replies

Userlevel 7
Badge +13

Thanks for sharing your story with us @gavin -- was great to hear about your product journey and success with Productboard. Really great to have you in our community and sharing knowledge.

Userlevel 3
Badge +2

I’d like to see the community gather around specific topics for discussion on a weekly / monthly basis. While I’m very happy with the process we have with Gong, Productboard, Pendo, Zendesk and Salesforce, I’d love to hear the nitty-gritty details about how other people are managing their stack.

 

I’d love to hear more about this too @gavin ! Great interview 👏 

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