PODCAST #23. Maximizing Opportunities in Product Management: What We Learned from a Director of Engineering
Welcome to the Care Minds podcast! Today, our guest is Adam Jubert, Director of Engineering at Journey Clinical. We’ll cover Adam’s career, explore product design and development, and discuss the role of AI in process optimization.
Now, here’s a thought to ponder for PMs – What if the secret to groundbreaking innovation lies in identifying the right company? Let’s explore this, shall we?
Navigating Career Growth: From a Software Developer to Director of Engineering
“Taking an active role in your own career progression is the most important thing.”Adam Jubert – Director of Engineering at Journey Clinical
Mr. Adam said a proactive approach and a keen eye for new opportunities drove his career growth and progression. He emphasized the importance of having regular one-on-one meetings with his managers, during which they discussed his career goals and identified potential areas for growth. Through these conversations, he was able to take on challenging technical projects and expand his skills in project management.
As he evolved as a software engineer, Mr. Adam recognized the choice between pursuing an individual contributor track or transitioning into a management track. Opting for the latter, he began working cross-functionally and delving into project management. He actively sought opportunities to lead and demonstrated his capabilities in coordinating projects and collaborating with teams.
One key factor contributing to his growth was the feedback he received from his managers. During their one-on-one sessions, he not only sought constructive criticism but also asked his managers to identify the aspects of his work that they appreciated. This enabled him to receive recognition for his strengths and continue to build upon them.
Mr. Adam’s progression was gradual; he took small steps by managing projects that initially required one to two engineers. Over time, he gained experience handling multiple cross-functional projects simultaneously. He actively sought advice from his leadership, seeking guidance on improving his project management skills and effectively managing people.
Identifying Growth Opportunities in Early Career Choices
According to Mr. Adam, identifying companies that offer growth opportunities early on requires careful consideration during the interview process. While popular rankings and articles about top tech companies can provide a starting point, he emphasizes that many lesser-known companies can still provide a conducive environment for success.
It is essential to present yourself as a candidate and interview the company during interviews. Mr. Adam suggests asking questions about team culture and management style. One effective question he often asks managers is to describe a situation where they had to discipline or handle issues with an employee. Understanding the manager’s leadership approach makes it possible to assess if it aligns with personal preferences and career goals.
Moreover, Mr. Adam highlights the importance of gathering insights from current employees about the company culture and career progression. Asking about recent promotions and success stories within the organization can provide valuable information about growth opportunities. Exploring these cultural questions related to career progression helps in making an informed decision.
Regarding series D startups or later-stage startups, where organizational structures may be less defined, Mr. Adam suggests discussing career progression during the interview process. It is important to inquire about the frequency of promotions and how the company supports employee growth. Once in the role, maintaining open and honest communication with one’s direct manager is crucial. Clearly expressing career aspirations and goals and ensuring that expectations are aligned with the manager’s support can contribute to a successful career path within such organizations.
Mr. Adam acknowledges that navigating promotions can be challenging due to organizational structures, but having a supportive manager who advocates for employee growth is vital. Identifying such managers during the interview process and fostering a strong working relationship with them is key. By collaborating with managers, setting clear expectations, and regularly checking in, employees can enhance their chances of career advancement.
Streamlining Engineering Moves and Balancing Efficiency and Effectiveness in Multi-Sided Marketplaces
According to Mr. Adam, effectively managing a multi-sided marketplace like Journey Clinical involves understanding and acknowledging the diverse needs and perspectives of different user groups. He emphasizes the importance of tailoring the presentation of information to suit the specific requirements of each user segment. For example, doctors may prefer concise, scientifically formatted information, while patients would benefit from a user-friendly and organized experience.
In tackling problem statements within the marketplace, Mr. Adam suggests addressing the concerns of the respective user sets involved. However, it is also crucial to consider the potential ripple effects and impacts on other areas of the application. For instance, changes made in the patient portal should be consistent with and complement updates in the prescriber portal. This ensures a cohesive user experience across the entire marketplace.
Furthermore, Mr. Adam emphasizes aligning communication styles with users’ preferences. By considering not only what users are accustomed to seeing within the app but also what they generally prefer, a more engaging and effective user experience can be created.
Preparing for Product Success: Essential Steps Before Embarking on Component-Driven Development
Adam believes companies must take certain steps before diving into product development. While the instinct might be to start solving problems immediately, he advises against skipping the process of first digitizing and operationalizing the solution. By incorporating the solution into the product design engineering flow, valuable time can be saved, and important lessons can be learned.
“Being lean, being a startup, your goal is to make guesses, make hypotheses, run experiments, see if those experiences were true, see if the hypothesis was true, and then iterate on it.”Adam Jubert – Director of Engineering at Journey Clinical
Being lean and agile is essential for startups, and their goal should be to make hypotheses, run experiments, validate those hypotheses, and iterate based on the results. Mr. Adam emphasizes the importance of operationalizing things, which involves using tools that facilitate the creation of prototypes or minimal viable products. These tools can range from simple ones like Google Sheets and Forms to more complex automation processes and scheduling software. By leveraging these tools, companies can quickly create hypotheses, test them, and iterate accordingly.
The advantage of operationalizing hypotheses before entering the full product design cycle is to avoid spending excessive time and effort on developing a product that may not align with user expectations. By validating hypotheses early on, companies can gather feedback and make informed decisions about the direction of their product development.
Balancing Speed and Quality and Navigating Pushback between Technical and Product Departments
“Having a culture on the team of having open conversations around tradeoffs is super important.”Adam Jubert – Director of Engineering at Journey Clinical
According to Mr. Adam, one of the difficulties that technical and product departments in startups frequently face is striking a balance between speed and quality. The need for rapid progress often clashes with the desire for a polished and aesthetically pleasing product. In the startup environment, speed is crucial, and the focus is on delivering a functional solution rather than a perfect user experience.
Creating a culture of open discussions around trade-offs is vital to addressing this challenge. Mr. Adam emphasizes the importance of conversations involving engineering leadership, product managers, and other stakeholders. It is crucial to openly discuss the trade-offs between delivering a shiny, feature-rich product in a longer timeframe versus delivering a functional product quickly for testing and iteration.
In Mr. Adam’s experience, most product managers in startups prioritize functionality over aesthetics during the early stages. They opt for delivering a minimum viable product quickly and gathering user feedback before investing time and resources in refining the user experience. The decision-making process regarding trade-offs is typically non-emotional, focusing on what is best for the business and the users.
As a director of engineering, Mr. Adam aims to ensure the business’s success and the users’ satisfaction. He emphasizes that no matter which trade-off is chosen, his team can still work on interesting projects and contribute valuable code. The level of attention to product and design quality increases as the user base grows. However, in the early stages of startups, having a functional product is generally deemed more important than a flawless user interface.
Mr. Adam cites examples of successful startups that initially operated with simple tools like Google Sheets or manual email processes. These companies scaled their user base significantly before investing heavily in refining the user experience. This illustrates that perfection in UX or UI is not essential at the early stages of a startup.
Essential Solutions and Strategies for Fast-tracking Efficient Go-to-Market
“When researching third party tools, cost is also important, as well as their ability to integrate and provide a seamless user experience.”Adam Jubert – Director of Engineering at Journey Clinical
According to Mr. Adam, there are several key factors to consider when selecting software solutions for different industries. In the healthcare sector, HIPAA compliance is a must-have requirement. Similarly, in finance, there may be specific regulations like Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance to consider. Mr. Adam emphasizes that they can ensure HIPAA compliance if they build the software in-house. However, HIPAA compliance and cost become crucial when exploring third-party options.
During discussions about problem statements, Mr. Adam applies a cost-benefit analysis. He first considers whether existing companies offer solutions for the specific problem statement, estimating that approximately 80% of problems already have existing solutions. He examines the available companies and their solutions, evaluating factors such as their ability to address the problem statement, ease of integration, and the presence of APIs, which are essential for seamless integration with existing systems. Mr. Adam highlights the importance of integrating the third-party solution in a way that appears seamless to the user, avoiding a disjointed experience.
Furthermore, Mr. Adam considers the resources within his team, particularly focusing on product design and engineering. He evaluates the number of engineers available, the time required to build a custom solution, the scalability of the custom solution, and the need for additional features. If a company has sufficient engineers, building an in-house solution to keep everything internal may make sense. However, with limited engineering resources, integrating with third-party tools becomes a more viable option, allowing the engineers to focus on other tasks.
Mr. Adam acknowledges the tradeoffs between building in-house and buying third-party solutions. While it’s tempting to have most of the solution be internal intellectual property (IP), third-party tools’ practical considerations and advantages should not be overlooked. He suggests that companies carefully assess the benefits and drawbacks of each approach.
“Tools like Github Copilot and Chat GPT can save a ton of time and be useful for tasks like code autocomplete and writing unit tests.”Adam Jubert – Director of Engineering at Journey Clinical
Shifting gears to AI technology, Mr. Adam shares his enthusiasm for tools like GitHub Copilot. This tool provides code autocomplete suggestions based on the user’s codebase and the vast amount of code available on GitHub. It significantly saves time and is particularly adept at suggesting proper conventions, which is crucial when using frameworks like Ruby on Rails.
Additionally, Mr. Adam mentions the usefulness of chatbot AI tools for writing unit tests. Unit testing and code quality are paramount to him and his team. Tools like Chat GPT enable developers to generate unit tests quickly by providing suggestions and reducing the time spent on manual test writing.
The Ideal Product Manager and Quality Traits Engineers Love to Work With
“Some of the product managers that I’ve really loved working with in the past are proactive and get a full sense of the stakeholders’ needs and problems beforehand.”Adam Jubert – Director of Engineering at Journey Clinical
According to Mr. Adam, effective product managers are proactive and thoroughly understand stakeholders’ needs and problems before involving the engineering and design teams. He appreciates the use of comprehensive documentation, citing companies like Stripe as an example, where they prioritize documentation and even have documentation about their documentation. Mr. Adam believes writing things down and incorporating visuals when possible is essential for clarity and understanding.
“Making sure that the problem statements and potential solutions align with what already exists in the current context of the application.”Adam Jubert – Director of Engineering at Journey Clinical
Moreover, Mr. Adam emphasizes the importance of considering the current context of the application being worked on. It is crucial to ensure that problem statements and potential solutions align with the existing framework.
When wireframing and discussing the flow of data elements, he emphasizes the need to know where each data element originates. For example, if a user’s phone number is required to send them a text, it is necessary to consider what happens if the phone number is unavailable. Understanding the data sources and their interaction with different application parts is vital for maintaining a coherent and functional system.
Key Considerations for Enhancing Collaboration between Product Managers and Engineering Teams
“Having blameless postmortems when there are big issues and taking the focus off of who did the wrong thing onto what happened and how to improve it in the future.”Adam Jubert – Director of Engineering at Journey Clinical
Effective product managers should communicate the problem statement to the engineering team and provide insights into the user’s journey. Sharing user feedback and recordings of user interviews can give engineers a sense of purpose and intrinsic motivation. Data-driven communication, such as highlighting the percentage of users experiencing a specific problem and expressing their frustration, resonates well with engineers who value empirical evidence.
Furthermore, Mr. Adam emphasizes creating a shared experience within a fully remote team. He suggests starting meetings with a few minutes of casual conversation to foster a sense of camaraderie. Writing high-quality code, including tests, conducting pull requests, and conducting code reviews, is essential for a high-performance engineering team.
As a manager, Mr. Adam believes in the significance of regular one-on-one meetings with direct reports to support their progress toward their goals. Additionally, he recognizes the value of occasional skip-level one-on-ones to maintain an understanding of the broader team dynamics. Encouraging a blameless culture is crucial when addressing bugs or issues.
Mr. Adam promotes blameless postmortems to focus on process improvement rather than assigning individual blame. By referring to code issues as “our code” and conducting blameless postmortems, the team takes collective responsibility for their work and focuses on learning from mistakes.
Summing it Up…
The journey of Mr. Adam provides valuable insights for navigating career growth in the tech industry. Through his experiences and perspectives, we can distill the following major lessons:
- Proactively seeking new opportunities and engaging in regular one-on-one meetings with managers serve as a platform to discuss career goals and identify growth areas.
- As one’s career progresses, pursuing an individual contributor or management track demonstrates one’s capabilities. It also expands one’s skills beyond technical expertise.
- Seeking feedback from managers helps identify areas for improvement while acknowledging strengths and leveraging them to build upon success.
- Making informed career choices and identifying growth opportunities early in one’s career requires careful consideration.
- Balancing efficiency and effectiveness is very important, especially in startups. Also, prioritizing functionality over aesthetics in the early stages is key.
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