Featured Maker: Mike McClain

Featured Maker: Mike McClain
Userlevel 7
Badge +12

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 @Mmcclain, a Product Manager at Prime Technologies.


📣  Starting in Product Management

How'd you get started making products that matter?

Our company started a new architectural initiative and I was the acting Engineering Manager doing code. There was a role called "product owner" and a title they thought of as "product manager" and right there I was hooked!

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

(a haiku) 

One piece of advice? 

That there will always be more 

Pieces that you need.

📌 Product management today

What do you like the most about your work?

(another one) 

Variety is 

A joy of both work and life. 

Something new each day!

What do you like the least about your work?

(Ok maybe the last one but I can't make promises) 

Hippos and Rhinos 

Might thrash about, breaking down 

Great Plains of Visions! 

Ok struggled with the syllables on that one! Basically - there are always things to disrupt your vision but you’ve got to deal with them gracefully.

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

We are finally going live with the new product this year which will eventually replace our current flagship which is probably two iterations of architecture old. This will really be a "rubber meets the road" moment to see if the bets we've been making are valid, despite all the engineering setbacks we've had for the past few years.

Tell us about something you shipped/launched recently…

Our team just launched a tool that allows for communication between a web-based SaaS database and a locally-connected device called a "documenting process calibrator." Basically, it's a handheld industrial device that can capture data, but it's built to use REALLY old-fashioned tech. So we just wrapped it in web tech and there you go! It wasn't an easy road to get here. We had numerous technical rewrites and false starts. And even now, it's hard to know if the usage of it will take off. But it is a key strategic piece for us, as well as satisfying a current large client (is there a Product Management animal for that?). The most interesting thing about it is that the core need, interacting with these devices over the web, hasn't changed since we envisioned it around I don't know 5-6 years ago. Those are the best kinds of problems.

Who do you most often collaborate with when planning, executing, and bringing new things to market? What does that collaboration look like?

The executive team just tells me what to do and I write it up full stop. OK j/k. 

I have the luxury of having this legacy B2B industrial application with at least a few user segments who are willing to talk about their needs and wants for next generation product, as well as some internal insights on what works well and what doesn't. So for us, a lot of it starts with where we were. 

We start with Customer Success and Support and get customer problems out on the table and see where we can find the most commonalities. Next, I discuss topical meetings with Sales and Marketing. The items with the greatest consensus are validated (as best we can at this stage) against whatever insights I have in Productboard. The other core piece is Engineering and the development team. First, we check for feasibility; then we try to find the most efficient solution. In the end, we can roughly plan out how much we can get done. All this is kind of all over the place - collaboration happens in meetings, in documentation, in Productboard, in our Azure DevOps AKA TFS, and in Slack conversations. And then we throw it out and build what the CEO wants. Just kidding again! Ha, gotcha!

How does Productboard help you in your role?

Productboard is an organization tool for my prospective features, ideas, and insights like I've never had before. But maybe most importantly, it allows me to keep the backlog tool as clean as humanly possible. We used to have all our "ideas" in the same place as "all the things we have to do" and it was just a mess. Now I can make, rework, reorganize, and restate ideas until they are ready for the backlog.

👋 A bit about Mike outside of product management

I do my best thinking when…

Sadly - at night when I should be sleeping. Late-night Slack messages to myself are common! Second best is when we're in heated internal debates but sometimes those are harder to capture unless you record everything like I do.

Favourite emoji?

I'm a Xennial am I even allowed to have a favorite? I'll pick 😬

It’s the perfect combination of allowing a humorous reveal of anxiety and self-deprecation but without the pure panic of 😱. 

What product would you absolutely love to work on?

Depends on the day! Mondays - the one that makes the most money! Tuesday through Wednesday - Ones that do the most for social good or the environment. My son is on the autism spectrum and is doing really well but I always wonder what systems his ABA teachers use... 🤔 By Thursday through Friday - Just literally anything different than what I am actually working on ☕... The Weekend - An app that makes me stop thinking about software and spend more time focusing on my family. Oh and Something Something Blockchain.

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

Due to being a complete cheapskate, we use Amazon Music instead of Spotify or the others - saves us a few bucks a month. But the interface is a mess. Like - I don't want podcasts here. Why do you force me into car mode - I'm not driving! My daughter put on some song with 💩 in the title and now it thinks I'm all about that! I thought Amazon knew everything about me but it goes to show they do not! 😊

Who’s a person that you admire and why?

Wow, I don't know. I guess I just think as PMs our job is to enable others to be admired? Like I admire the tenacity of our users more than most people in product I can think of. Plus I'm bad with names.

Outside of work you'll find me…

Somewhere between daycare, school, a dance studio for my daughter, the local trampoline park, and outside with the dogs. Or on a roller coaster at a Disney park, preferably.

🌟 Insights on the Product Makers Community

How has the Product Makers community helped you thus far?

It's a great place to be inspired by the objectives and use cases of others. These folks are working hard at enabling their organizations to work smarter. You never know what aspect you needed to look at a little more deeply than you did just before!

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

Whenever an approach to a PM problem I think I am going to take gets validated by someone I can tell has more experience, or whenever an approach I think has validity is invalidated by those same people. It's a great guardrail to keep yourself moving in the right direction.

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

Haiku contest!

A big thanks to @Mmcclain for taking the time to answer these questions and for all that he contributes to the community!

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

4 replies

Userlevel 3
Badge +1

Yo everyone, drop your 5-7-5s here!


It’s priority:

Mix our wildest dreams with a

touch of sanity!


Userlevel 7
Badge +12

Without a doubt fun

Laughed, smiled, loved the joy in this

Keep building great stuff

Thanks for this @Mmcclain 

Userlevel 3
Badge +2

I enjoyed the read

Lots of cool things to discuss

It is nice to meet

Userlevel 6
Badge +10

Life's great summary is

Much more than one interview

Great Minds think alike


Great responses, @Mmcclain!
Loved the comedic twist to things, the insights, and everything in-between. 😎