Michael Ordan from Career Builder talks about working with remote teams, getting user feedback and remembering while doing so that ' You are not the user'.
Tell about your current role at CareerBuilder? (What does a typical day look like or what kind of products you manage)
I started working with an international team when I first joined the company in March. The team was spread between Munich, Paris, London, and I was in Atlanta. I was working on a new standalone product called Coach by CareerBuilder, which was designed to help provide career insights and value to people not just actively looking for a job. I was the only member of the team in the US so I was constantly interviewing users and incorporating the voice of the user into the team’s product decisions. Recently, I was given a new challenge of leading discovery for the consumer side of CareerBuilder. I am working on tackling new problems jobseekers may have and am actively looking to push the needle forward for CareerBuilder while keeping a pulse on the market.
How did you get started in Product Management?
My first job out of college was as a technical recruiter in Manhattan. I was always talking to developers, designers, and product managers and became very interested in how product development came together. After learning more about product management by speaking to experienced product managers in New York City I decided I wanted to pursue it as a career path. Shortly after I made this decision, General Assembly announced their first full time Product Management Immersive program and it was a no-brainer for me to apply.
Tell us a little about your time at General Assembly. Why did you decide to attend and how did it help you?
I decided to attend because I spoke to a lot of developers and designers that graduated from General Assembly while recruiting and heard incredible things about GA. It also definitely didn’t hurt to see these new developers and designers secure fantastic new jobs upon graduating as well.
My time at General Assembly was nothing short of spectacular. The classroom environment led by two product managers from Google and Microsoft made it very easy for me to be inspired. My classmates and I also became such a tight knit family. We were 20 highly intelligent product managers that always set out to push each other to improve and learn more.
This experience, combined with collaborative projects with the UX Design students and Web Development students, proved to be a very valuable learning experience. In addition to the countless collaboration opportunities we had, we also were all assigned a startup to work for as a product manager for the final 3 weeks. This got us a taste of what it is like to really work as a product manager for an actual company and was great to speak to in the countless interviews I would eventually go on after graduating.
So when you moved to actually implementing some of the ideas that you learnt, what did you find most surprising– what struck you most?
One of the most surprising things to me was definitely how much product knowledge I was able to share with my teammates and other coworkers while not having a ton of experience. Many people fall into product management from a different role and never had the luxury of learning from two top product managers / directors from companies like Google and Microsoft. I was surprised at how prepared I really was to be a product manager in a company as exciting and well known as CareerBuilder.
You talk about being the only member of your product team in the US. What are you learning as some of the best practices of working with remote teams?
Working with remote teams can be very challenging. It is crucial to be able to actually form a real relationship with your teammates. When your team is not in the same building as you it makes it a lot more difficult. The most important piece of advice I could ever give to a remote product manager is simple. Meet your teammates as quickly as you can and get overseas for a week or two. I always spoke to them via Slack and Google Hangouts but it didn’t compare to actually meeting them in Munich and London. As a product manager relationship building is paramount. After my team was able to actually have a beer with me and talk about everything but CareerBuilder, we became much closer. Those decisions you need to help influence quickly become a lot easier to influence if they genuinely like you.
What are some of the challenges you see in product management?
One of the biggest challenges in product management is definitely the stakeholder management part of it. It’s like trying to build a house when 10 other people are telling you what they want the house to look like from 10 completely different points of view. Being able to empathize with each of them and constantly reflecting your messaging to each stakeholder with their point of view in mind is one of the toughest parts of product management. I learned this very quickly while working here at CareerBuilder and this is an incredible skill to have.
How do you then incorporate the voice of the customer into the product process?
Always talk to your users or customers. I am always interviewing users or specific types of jobseekers to make sure we design for them in mind. Interviewing users, surveying users, conducting usability tests, and creating personas to always point back to when product decisions or feature prioritization comes up is how you make sure the voice of the customer is heard throughout the product process. The last nugget of wisdom to remember during this process is one I’ll never forget. You are not your user.
Get in touch with Michael on Linkedin
ProductCamp is all about learning from the product management community and we are always looking for people from the Atlanta product management community to feature on our blog. To be featured on the ProductCamp blog contact me (Tiyash) on Linkedin.