Leaving Intel on a (commuter transit vehicle?) – New Relic here I come!

Good news. Hell, great news!!  I’ve accepted a role as Product Manager at New Relic (a very cool, local Portland-based software company). I’ll be joining them later in July – wild adventures await!

So with that simple admission comes a little Story Time: you know me, and you know I’ve grown into a well-oiled Product Owner and Interaction Designer in my work at Intel (for basically the same organization for my eight years there).  

Working for them allowed me to grow into these skills while delivering a suite of business applications, a Security Conference website and as little paperwork as I could get away with.  

[None of those fully-stocked portfolios of art pieces for me – I stopped trying to “build my portfolio” when I realized it was a textbook example of the Waste that gets in the way of thoroughly agile development.]

Using those skills, I birthed the core application out of conversations I had with team members in 2008, and shepherded it through:

  • its underground “you shouldn’t spend any time on this Mike” phase
  • a series of dev teams (man, when I was first delegated “half an engineer”, what a momentous achievement that was!)
  • many competing ‘visions’ of what it should be when it grew up, and
  • over 100 sprints of delivery – short, long, successful, abject failure, research, tech debt, “spike” (aka “we have no idea what we’re doing”), breakneck, misdirected and surprising

Recently I took on an exciting and challenging volunteer assignment with an IT team who are responsible for internal collaboration tools.  Which was both a rewarding and fast-moving learning experience – it’s incredible how much planning goes on when you have a 4:1 ratio of non-doers to doers, and it’s amazing to see how much good dev work actually happens despite that.

A little while later, a friend recommended me to a hiring manager at New Relic, who reached out for a coffee to talk about a ridiculously challenging role they’ve designed to assist their Agents teams. That conversation continued through three rounds of interviews (and a heavy-duty homework assignment!) and blew my mind by manifesting into an offer I patently couldn’t refuse.

This new PM role is both incredibly suited to my talents and brings a range of new challenges for me to tackle – I’ll be contributing to product direction for six teams in a fast-growing, revenue-focused organization with a heavy engineering bent and a lot of new customers and technologies to learn. I couldn’t be more excited about this.

So hey, if you happen to be looking for new features in the New Relic product stack, drop me a line come end of July and I’ll see if I can’t connect you to the right players (it might even be me!).  I will use my newfound powers with utmost gravity…

You Get Invited When You Add Believable Value

I’m constantly amazed and amused at this kind of “but *I* deserve to be invited too” thinking:
All too often folks don’t want to bring everyone in on Day 1.
And that’s the real problem.
They don’t want to relinquish the (illusion of) control. They want the freedom to make many of the decisions without participating in this crucial collaborative work. Well, guess what? That’s a very costly move: The later everyone is brought in the greater the overall project risk.
In my career, I’ve heard this from the Operations folks, the Support team, the Security high priests, and most recently from the UX zealots.
This usually takes the form of “but if only they’d included us too in the conversation at the beginning, we wouldn’t be in this mess” fantasy.  The longer I watch these folks argue from the sidelines [and one of the things I used to do], the less sympathy I feel.
Telling us on the development & delivery side of the organization that we need to include you too feels a little like telling a kid they have to watch all the good movies with their parents in the room.  I’m sorry, what exactly about that sounds like an incentive?
“Oh, well if you found that security flaw in architecture instead of during test, it would’ve been orders of magnitude cheaper.”  As if it’s a pure win-win scenario – and not, as reality suggests from talking to the folks actually doing the real work, that rather than *prevent* every statistical possibility, often times we’d rather get the product out in front of people and find out which things *actually* bit them/us on the butt, and only spend time fixing *those* things.  Get product out there capturing revenue months earlier, plus reduce your investment on the long tail of an infinite number of possible issues that would cost schedule and profits to fix up front (and turn out to be non-issues)?  Yeah, you don’t need an MBA to make that kind of call.
[Not to mention, “fixing something in architecture is cheaper” assumes (1) that the architecture is communicated, interpreted and implemented carefully and successfully, (2) that new bugs aren’t introduced at every translation layer because the architects abandon their responsibility to follow-through, and (3) that they anticipated and addressed every implementation issue.]
“But if you just invited the UX designers/researchers before starting to talk about product features and ideas, you’ll have a much wider palette of well-designed ideas to work from.”  Yes, that’s potentially true – if your designers have a clear idea what the target users need – or if the researchers can turn around actionable findings in a short timeframe – or your UX bigots don’t throw cold water on every speculative idea and colour the conversation with “how crappy everyone but me is”.  That dude is real fun at parties.
We love working with that guy
Are you one of these people I’m picking on?  Are you sufficiently pissed off yet?  OK, good – then we’re getting close to a defensive wound we’re all still harbouring.  Which is the right time to clarify: I absolutely appreciate working with folks who are aligned to our business priorities, and work to get us actionable results in a timely manner that are relevant to the business problem we’re facing.  I’ve spent decades now working with security and usability geeks, and some I’ve found to be extremely helpful.  Some I’ve found less so.  Guess which ones I’ve heard complain like this?
Here’s the pitch from a Product Manager to everyone who’s vying to get a seat at the table: I don’t have enough room at the table to entertain everyone’s ego.  You ever try to drive an effective decision-making body when the room (or conference bridge) is stuffed so bad, it looks like a clown car?
It's a fun ride until you can't breathe
It’s a fun ride until you can’t breathe
Those who I invite to the table are effective collaborators.  If you have a concern, make sure it’s the most important thing on your plate, make sure it’s something I can understand, and make damn sure it’s something that’s going to have an impact on our business results.  Every time you spend your precious ante on “but what if…” and not “here’s a problem and here are all the possible/feasible/useful solutions, depending on your priorities”, your invitation to the next conversation fades like Marty McFly’s family in that photo.

The “-ity” Echo Chamber

What Kicked Off This Rant

I watch a blog at work that lectures about all the reasons why they’re wrong about this blogger’s pet subjects – design, UX, research, many of the secondary aspects of quality of a piece of software (much like security and privacy are secondary quality characteristics of technology projects). Overlong weekly screeds with tons of footnoted research to “prove” the points.


Like a dozen per post.

No, seriously.

Then the fawning praise comes in from the people in the same field who all already agree with the points being made, and feel like their voice is being amplified and broadcast.

Only it ain’t. When your readership is the Echo Choir, I’m sure the adulation and affirmation that you’re “right” feels great, but does any of that advocacy translate into changing the minds of the folks who actually hold the power to implement (or ignore) your demands?

Echo Chamber

Continue reading “The “-ity” Echo Chamber”

See me speak at PDMA on UX for Product Managers (May 15th)

By the way, this Thursday I’ll be joining a panel of UX geeks talking at the Product Managers Association of Portland on “User Experience – What’s the Big Deal?”  I’m going in as the resident hybrid – UX geek and Product Owner, giving me the superpower to empathize with both halves of my brain when I do a crappy job for each of them. 🙂

Here’s a twist: I finally found a use for those “view this email in a browser”, because for some reason the PDMA doesn’t have a URL-able web page describing the logistics for this event:


Hey, it’s a low-cost gathering of PO’s and PM’s getting together at the Lucky Lab for beer, food and some interesting conversation.  How bad could it be?