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 career started in higher education, where we were struggling to tell our institution's story around community-university partnerships. I jumped to the private sector through a tech transfer agreement, have been a part of every SaaS function over the last 6 years, and am now overseeing all R&D for our product.
What's one piece of advice you wish you'd had when you started working in product?
There is no such thing as "formal training." This would have helped alleviate the imposter syndrome I felt starting out and encouraged me that building the plane in flight is pretty much the status quo when you're first entering a product role.
📌 Product management today
What do you like the most about your work?
My role blends the best of both worlds - I get to conduct research alongside academic colleagues to identify data-driven trends and best practices in higher education community engagement, then put on my product hat and make sure those are reflected in our platform. We really do remain "for higher ed, by higher ed", and I get to maintain my identity as a scholar and colleague when speaking with institutions.
What do you like the least about your work?
I often spend my days running from fire to fire, which leaves little in my control. As they say... I plan, and the universe laughs! I try to plan my days strategically and allocate time for certain projects, but I (rightfully) have to shift my focus to the immediate needs of the team or the product. The chaos and pace can be energizing, but also exhausting, and I worry that I’ll become a bottleneck for the development team or institutional success if I prioritize incorrectly.
What has you excited about the year ahead and your product?
We are entering a growth phase! Our theory of change is strong and our product-market fit is outstanding... and our CEO has invested the trust and resources in our team to really begin ramping up feature development. He has also supported our commitment to open access, and this year we will be growing our open dataset. This will help higher education more broadly articulate and leverage the value of community-university partnership data, which we hope will in turn encourage adoption of Collaboratory.
Tell us about something you shipped/launched recently…
We recently launched a brand new search feature, which our team built from the ground up. It offers a relational view - either in a list or geographic form - of community-university partnerships. This has helped our customers better tell the story of their engagement and advocate for additional data collection and use and has helped individual faculty, staff, and community partners identify relationships and potential synergies they were previously unaware of.
Who do you most often collaborate with when planning, executing, and bringing new things to market? What does that collaboration look like?
Of course, I spend a lot of time with our development team, but I cherish my relationship with our institutional success team. We work together closely, diving into the research together and proofing new ideas before a single requirement is ever written. Their ability to represent not just the voice of the customer, but also the voice of the field is unparalleled.
How does Productboard help you in your role?
Productboard is critical to how we keep track of and quantify our customer's voice. Our team is very small, and there are a lot of perspectives to keep up with - Productboard helps us ensure that what we hear is truly what's being shared. We just launched a Product Portal via Productboard, and are collecting feedback not just on features and functions, but on best practices we should be integrating into our forms based on the information our customers need to know.
👋 A bit about Kristin outside of product management
I do my best thinking when…
First thing in the morning, alone with a cup of coffee and some loud music.
The facepalm! 🤦♀️ I use it almost daily and appreciate its ability to illustrate failing fast.
What product would you absolutely love to work on?
My heart is with products that help higher education be more impactful. As a founder and now continuing to help guide the direction of Collaboratory, there's really nowhere else I'd rather be!
What's a product you'd love to fix and make better?
Every product has its ups and downs... but there are definitely some aspects of Asana I'd love to inform, like their new dashboard and reports.
Who’s a person that you admire and why?
When I first transitioned into product work, Jenny Walsh was a dear friend and mentor who helped me realize the role wasn't as big and scary as I had made it out to be in my mind. She exemplifies collaboration, friendship, and rigor, and continues to be a friend and colleague even though our roles have parted ways.
Outside of work you'll find me…
Hanging out with my 3- and 5-year-old daughters, probably dancing in our kitchen to "Space Unicorn" and "Pancake Robot" while we cook together. (if you haven't heard these and have young kids, you're missing out!)
🌟 Insights on the Product Makers Community
How has the Product Makers community helped you thus far?
I joined the Meet a Maker program, and have really enjoyed connecting with a fellow female PM who is sharing some fantastic strategies and concrete templates with me! I also really appreciate the Womxn in Product group, and have just registered for the Product Makers Summit, which I’m really excited to attend.
What do you get the most value from in the community?
I really appreciate reading about the journey of other makers. When I was five, I never said "I want to be a product manager when I grow up!" - so hearing how others got into similar roles and what they see their professional development and peer communities to be is immensely helpful and reifying in my own work and network.
👉 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.