Kirsten: Hi, I'm Kirsten Mann and I'm the VP of Product Experience at Oracle Construction and Global Business Unit. Actually, I think that's not right. It's Construction Engineering Global Business. I'll say that again.
Suzanne: You don't even have to. I mean, that's a mouthful of a title either way. What's your slang version of your title that you refer to yourself as?
Kirsten: So, its VP of Product Experience CEGBU, which is Construction Engineering Global Business Unit.
Suzanne: Now, you're at Oracle because the company that you were at for some number of years was acquired? Is that correct?
Kirsten: Yeah. So, I worked at Aconex and I was a Senior Vice President of Product and Experience there and we were acquired this year for a measly 1.6 billion dollars and became part of the Oracle family.
Suzanne: Got it. Welcome to Oracle.
Suzanne: And how are you enjoying your time so far?
Kirsten: It’s one of those things, right, you never really know what's gonna happen but as a mindset in product, we always have to be open to change. So, I kind of just took that mindset and said, "I'll go with it and see what happens" and people, great people there as a well. So, it’s actually been a really interesting transition but I think we're at a really positive stage and just realizing the sheer potential of what we have behind us now. Like, they're a pretty big company.
Suzanne: Yeah. It’s a big deal.
Suzanne: What was Aconex then?
Kirsten: So, Aconex was the world's largest platform for the building construction industry. So, we were there to basically change the way that teams work together on construction projects, so, a SAS platform. We founded out of Melbourne by two guys who had the idea over a game of squash and they managed to take the business globally, so ... an overnight success story of 17 years.
Kirsten: And Oracle had watched them for a while and kind of courted them a number of years ago. When we went, we went to IPO about three years ago and so, once you've done that, you're everybody's go, right. So, Oracle then put a bid into them in December and acquired us officially in March.
Suzanne: Got it. Is it uncommon for Australia based companies to splash out into the world? Even the way you sort of said they went global, there was almost like a glint of surprise in your eyes.
Kirsten: Yeah. Well, yes and no, in the sense that ... 'cause in Australia, you have to be a bit more scrappy already, right? We're on the other side of the world. We're in our own timezone. So, when you're thinking ... we know to really capture a market, you've got to go global but U.S. think of U.S. half the time, right? Like, oh, we're a global company. You're really only in the U.S. and that's okay. You're 10 times the size so you can get away with that. So, it is unusual. They are an Australian success story. There's really only kind of three household names. Elysium is another one of them. Aconex, and they were one of the kind of primary ones.
So, what's been fantastic to see in Australia, it's really given the whole startup community and investment community buzz 'cause people are like, "Oh my God. Okay. There are great tech companies here. Let's reinvest."
Kirsten: And so, I've just noticed the investment that's happened in Australia since then is fantastic. Like, it’s really gone through the roof.
Suzanne: Are you active in the product community here or have you been?
Kirsten: I am.
Suzanne: Tell us a little bit what it looks like and feels like.
Kirsten: So, it’s very similar to, having done similarly meetups in San Fran and other areas around the world, Australia ... I suppose the difference is because we are smaller, it’s actually more connected and so we do have a lot of meetup events. But people are very engaged. They go and attend. They go in involved. And it's a very sharing community. So, typically ... if you've got a problem or you want to bounce things off, straight away, if every day I can think of six people I can just ping and say, "Hey, how are you doing this?" And people share. So, I think that's, it's kind of a common trading product and user experience. We're typically sharers and wanting to help others but it’s probably even more amplified in Australia because you can get to people so easily. So, you can go and book in a coffee, go and see them, and it’s not considered unusual. And that's a huge plus. I think it would be more isolating in other areas.
Suzanne: Now, is it hard for you ... I want to take us kind of through your career trajectory in a moment because you've been doing this for a minute.
Suzanne: Or two.
Kirsten: Just a few minutes there.
Suzanne: Yeah. So, given that you have so many years of experience and that you're in a leadership role, is it difficult to get reciprocity through community? Do you find that you end up sort of playing the mentor role much more frequently or are you also sort of rich in collaborators at the leadership level?
Kirsten: I think it goes both ways, a number of years ago I was doing an executive leadership course, and it was through Women in Australia, Women Leadership Australia. And I've always had a strong product and user experience network. And they got me thinking about, what's this concept of outside? You need to go further outside your network and basically look for skills and things that have nothing to do with what you're doing currently. So what I started doing a number of years ago was cultivating a broader network of leaders that went from products or think totally different areas, and so I actually use that network a lot and they’ve used me obviously too, it's like a reciprocal thing, but also in the product and UX community, there's a really strong contingent of leaders there.
I find that even mentoring, like I do mentor a lot of people, and through that you'll always learn things, like some people go ... it's not a one way street, you're always hearing what people are doing in different companies and the experiences they're having so, I think it's like that circle of life thing right like it's not just one way, mentoring people you get heaps of insight into what they're doing, but there's also really strong leaders that we can bounce ideas off as well.
Suzanne: Now, was product management your first job?
Kirsten: Kind of, right?
Suzanne: That's not typical.
Kirsten: No, it's not, and probably people go ... there's no typical degree for product management. I think I probably had the right grounding, I did double degrees in business and computing and went on and did postgraduate in what was called HCI then, which is the human computer interaction which is now user experience.
And so right from the outset, I had this kind of foundation in business and tech. And with working for Ernst & Young. And I always found that I like stringing things together. Right, so there’s two things there, stringing things together and experiences, I'd find people who had to use this stuff, and that was unusual, we'd had clients who were telling us what they wanted, and I said, well, that's not enough, I need to speak to the people who are using it.
Suzanne: You were bossy.
Kirsten: I was bossy ... well.
Suzanne: You're bossy now, but you were bossy then too?
Kirsten: I've always ... I don't know if the word's bossy, but I thought what's right? This isn't right.
Suzanne: You were passionate.
Kirsten: I was passionate. And thinking, why are we doing this? If we're not doing it for the people who are actually having to use this versus the client who has paid the big dollars, it's gonna be useless. So, I really sort to find those people, involve them, and I was hooked, right like you get to see that immediate feedback. You have the tangible evidence to go back and say, "Hey, this is not right, this is where we need to go." So partly it was stringing products together. But the other thing was covering gaps.
People would sit back and go, "Who is gonna do that? That's not my role, or who's gonna manage that?" And we just thought hey, let's do it. So quite early I started covering gaps, and stringing things together, and that led to a product management role, and back then it was called product development manager.
Suzanne: Product development manager. Because I was gonna say I mean, there's a little bit of debate about when did product management start. There was a one school of thought that's like, it started way back as brand management, and you know, do you think it's ... why is it so hot, product management? I guess it's the question, like why is it having this ... you know people talk, we're here at Leading the Product conference, talking a lot about the trends, everyone wants to get into product now, for those of us who have done a while, and have spent years with family and friends not really knowing what we do, it's like a strange moment. What's your impression of that?
Kirsten: I just think it's like most industries mature after a period of time and people see value in the role. So it was exactly the same user experience, right. Nobody, you know they thought of designers as the people who made things pretty. What we’d say, shit shining. But I think it's really that it's matured and so you have a lot of startups for example where the CEO would play the role of the product manager in all the ways and as companies get to a certain stage of growth, they mature and realize they can't do everything, you know these founders, the leaders realize they need people focused on these things. And so I really think that's where the discipline of the CEO understanding that role more than user experience for example, because they were pseudo doing the role. So I think it's kinda the growth in startup industries and everything has forged that. Also there's been a number of high profile product managers which they've kinda streamed the way, and of course Apple and everything have laid that foundation in so many areas for us .
But understanding the role of product management, so people do get it and they say, "If anything though, I think the expectation of product managers has gone to the other extreme now." And people wanting unicorns, and you know, you see it all the time. For me, that's probably the hardest thing we face as an industry at the moment. Being challenged to be the unicorn.
Suzanne: And people thinking that the job is sexier than it sometimes is.
Kirsten: Yes, and control. I see so many people go into this role because they think that they're gonna have the control and the final say on everything, and you see it in teams, we get the final say of this, right?
It's really interesting to watch that dynamic because it says to me that something is broken. If you need somebody to come in and give you that final tick, the team isn't working, basically. So it's been really interesting to see that more on the junior front, usually people think it's gonna give me the authority and the control, and as they get more senior experience they realize you don't have any control. And that's part of the beauty of it right, like you've gotta set teams up to be effective, and let them, empower them to make the decision, and with the right tools. That's usually I think the degree and and a sign of maturity in an organization.
Suzanne: When did you first move into a leadership role so you kind of ... you had user experience design roles, product development manager roles, you were kind of just moving along building up a career path, do you remember the first leadership job?
Kirsten: Yeah, I was really young. It was kind of what I came back to earlier where I was filling gaps, and so basically, making the ... taking that lead role without actually officially having it. So people usually, if you're solving problems, and you're doing it with the right intent, you'll be valuable. So pretty quickly it was noticed that I was willing to kind of do that and make calls and get the data required and run. And so I was actually 26 when I was running my first big team, had a lot of people who were older than me like at the time ... I'm now in my later 40s but at the time I was thinking, "Wow I've got people who are in their 50s, this is crazy."
Suzanne: Were you intimidated by that? Or have you never been intimidated?
Kirsten: No. Look, I was more concerned for them because I didn't want them to feel like here's this young person they gonna tell me what to do and everything, so it was more like trying to take the mindset of what some of these different people would be in the team. But in all honesty I had a really good group of people and at the end of it they just wanted somebody running and making calls and trying to direct things, right, so they were actually fantastic and so for me that experience kind of taught that ultimately, people, if you're invested in them, and you're doing the right things, it doesn't really matter what age or whatever you are, sex or anything like that, people will come with you on that journey.
So it was a really valuable lesson, from that point on I was really leading groups.
Suzanne: And have you historically managed groups of product managers as well as groups of designers, they both sort of ladder up to you?
Kirsten: I've done all sorts, like I've managed everything from business analysts to product managers, to designers, to marketers and each time you inherit a different discipline, I'm always conscious that people like to have somebody with a functional background and that understands. So what I'll do is, I'll get my head around the discipline, and it's not that I'm gonna be an expert in marketing, for example, but if you can actually talk the person's language, understand where they're coming from, it gives you that shared understanding, that grounding. So for me it's been really important if I've acquired disciplines in leadership roles to really understand that discipline and where they're coming from.
Suzanne: The distinction between user experience design and product management I think is interesting insofar as, I think a lot of designers perhaps some listening in wonder, should I go over to product or maybe there's circumstances where PMs think, gosh you know the work that I lean toward is here in design. What do you think about being a user experience designer and transitioning to product. Should they do it?
Kirsten: It's interesting, because the grass is always greener. So I hear product managers say,"The user experience guys have it so cool, I'd love to be doing all that great cool stuff."
Suzanne: They all get Macs, we have PCs
Kirsten: They get to go and have fun, you know, Drury parties and things.
And there was this story I remember when I first took on the senior vice president role product and experience and I had ... at Aconex and I had the products and experience team and so before then I was kind of had built up the experience group and so my guys, it was near toward the end of Christmas, and ... I'm a big person in doing activities that bond teams together, right, so they were doing kind of a tangental activity that was related to user experience and related to team bonding.
Anyways so they were in one room, and then I was in another room next door with the product managers, and we were doing an executive briefing session where we had a client come in and it was like a whole week of us just going through just every portfolio and every product and all the data, and it was dry, So I'm in this one room with the product managers, I happened to cut through the user experience room with the fun meeting and I was like," oh, so much more fun."
Suzanne: You had your own grass is always greener moment.
Kirsten: Exactly. I was like, "I miss these guys." But I've had people who've gone both ways. They've gone to product management, or they've gone from product management to user experience. And look, it's I think a lot more of this thing is you go through, there’s things that you thought were in the role and that they weren't, I do find that UXs typically make pretty good product managers if they can get their head around the commercial side. Because often they won't have to worry about that in that role.
You need to be thinking are we gonna get returns and what's the stats but you're not really thinking what's the revenue for this thing and I have to pull this if it's not working and you know the hard goals. And that's probably the hardest thing for them to get their head around, and that you have to mega focused in terms of what ... you can't go and explore this, and explore this because you know, because you can get other people to start doing that but it's not you anymore.
On the product management front going into that, it's counter to that, suddenly they have to really focus on a discipline that they've been a lot broader before, and wearing product roles, you tend to interact with all areas of the business. User experience you do but it's less degrees, you know, it's not essential for your thing, it's just a good practice to have. But often you're with that, really feeding that development team, and feeding the groups about what's gonna be done. So I think that's kind of the key differences. One is a lot more focused role, one is more broader, and also the expectations around the role.
But do they enjoy the experience? I think ultimately it comes down to the company too and how you're supported into those roles.
Suzanne: No, it's great and yeah, I think it's such an important reflection about product management in particular is, sometimes I think we long for the opportunity to go deeper and or we question ourselves because we're not as deep. We are, you know sort of mile wide, inch deep. It's a necessary part of it, because you have to kind of move between those disciplines and as you say, you have to rely that the other people on the team will do the work.
Suzanne: What kind of leader are you? We’re gonna query all your employees after this so, just tell the truth.
Kirsten: Do you know what? When I recruit, one of my biggest things is to speak to the people that I manage and lead. Because you have to be true, so I would say my casing is, I'm a huge fan of the Prezi model. Have you ever heard of that?
Suzanne: I don't think so.
Kirsten: And it's really about being present, listening, authenticity, but ultimately it's a reminder of what you’re there to do, it's to help people be effective and amazing in their roles. And so really I see myself as helping orchestrate things, and enabling and sure I will have to make sure that I'm doing the positioning right, to give that ground to my team to be able to do their work, but ultimately I'm a fan of things like servient leadership and everything where you're basically empowering others to get the job done and it's not about you. I think there's a great ... I love ... are you a fan of David Marquet? So David Marquet, people listening, fantastic video around Turn the Ship Around, is his book.
Online he's got various YouTube videos on this, and what's so fantastic about it is, and I remember saying this and thinking, oh my God, this is exactly what I think of when I’m doing this. So the story is he was a submarine captain, he'd been trained for a year to manage a certain submarine, and he was all set to go off and lead this and in the Navy, it's all about command and control. The top person gives all the orders and they flow down the line.
At the last minute he got switched to a submarine he'd never studied, and this is pretty serious stuff, like it's in our lands if you make a mistake usually ... on submarines if you make a mistake it's somebody's life. Right so we thought we're not saving lives, they are. So he got this submarine and then he realized his whole way of leadership which was know all, tell all style of leadership had to completely change, because suddenly he didn't know how to run this ship. And so he had to empower every level on that submarine to be in control and own their decisions because he couldn't do it.
And so it was his massive turn around. So you know Seven Habits of Highly Effective People? Marquet I think ... he became the eighth. So he had an eighth habit written about him because he was considered so amazing what he has done.
Kirsten: Yeah. So it's that you can't be a know all and tell all leader. It's really about how're you making sure that you're enabling people to make those decisions, and another concept he talks about is the leadership ladder. And you see this in organizations, I was just thinking about this yesterday actually. If you yourself or you're hearing in teams people saying "you" or "your", we're not able to do that because they haven't done this yet. Or we're waiting, they were having to do this, you know there's always these excuses, the language there has to be "we". We weren't, the minute you switch to saying "we", you start taking accountability and it's not about somebody else making the call. So I think that was a huge, it was one of those revelations for me of hearing that articulated by somebody else and thinking, hey, that's kind of how I think.
Suzanne: Now you're at point in your career where you've been in leadership for a long time-
Kirsten: Haven't always been doing it right but-
Suzanne: I appreciate you saying that, because that's really what I wanted to get at and you had eluded to earlier about taking leadership training and kind of actively pursuing on it. What for you personally has been the hardest work of like, as you continue to evolve into the leader that you wanna be. Where just like your one self is not so compatible with what that role requires. Just by default.
Kirsten: I think it's really natural to be in that situation, for me Herminia Ibarra, if you haven't read her book, Think Like a Leader Act Like a Leader, I think it is. Amazing lady and she talks about you needing to act into a leadership role long before you're doing it. And that's the only way you really change your behavior. People will say, "I'm gonna do this." And they'll think about it, her thing is just start acting it. And the other message that she's got is that what got you here is not gonna get you to the next stage. And again, a lot of other people obviously had that message too. But, that was for me one of those hard points. You come from a functional area, you are an expert in terms of either how to be a product manager or how to be a designer, you know all of that stuff and when you step up levels, it's not about you knowing all of that and being the expert and in that detail anymore. It's that how're you enabling the level below you?
I worked for this great CFO a number of years ago. And he said, "When you're thinking of building your teams and the people you're working with, you have to be thinking the person that you're putting into that role below you is gonna have to be able to do your job in 18 months to two years time." And it was so true, so I started thinking, has this person go the potential for that next level? Goes that's where they need to be.
It's really about having that mindset of saying," Okay, I've got to be able to adapt and go with what's required at this point in time." And not just be set in what I've always done. And I think if you're feeling a bit uncomfortable, and anxious, it's a good sign. It's like you're in a place where you're being stretched, if you're feeling like, hey, I know everything, I've got this in the bag, and I'm down on my skills here, change. You need to change. Whether be your level, your organization, you're comfortable, and it's you need that kind of feeling of ... I'm not sure I can do this, to really constantly be stretched, depending on the type of person you are.
That for me is learning to embrace that anxiety and that, I don't think I know quite how to do this. Because if you just chip away, break it down, you get to the other side and then you think well, six months ago if you said I was gonna be doing this, I would have said you were crazy, and then you look and you think wow, we got to the other side, then you can go on and do the next thing. So really embrace that feeling of, "I'm not sure about this", because that's probably the right thing to do.
Suzanne: That's that growth moment. How big was your team at Aconex? The product team that you managed? Product and design.
Kirsten: With product and experience we got to about 65 globally.
Suzanne: Did that ratchet up when you made the-
Kirsten: So what's interesting is and this is the other thing, I really didn't know when we go acquired. You don't know what's gonna happen, right. But what is fantastic about the group that acquired us is they know construction engineering as well and supporting that space. I don't know if you've heard of the tool Primavera? It’s a project management tool that's used in the industry and been around for many years.
So they had been doing that, and they were acquired by Oracle. So they understand software development and that's a huge thing. Like, I've been in acquisitions before where the people who acquired us didn't understand software development and it was horrible, it was just crazy because suddenly you get these executives saying, giving how they think design and product management should work and it's like you really haven't been in this industry, right, but they're looking at costs and things. Maybe this could all be done by an outsource group.
So what was great about Oracle, the construction engineering global business unit that acquired us was the guy who heads that Mike Sicilia knows the industry back to front and knows what's required to do good software and things. We were assessed, like they went through, we had top present all of those things, and in the end, they said you know what? We want these guys to run it.
Suzanne: That's a great compliment.
Kirsten: Very unusual. So we've inherited in the end Rob Phillpot who is the co founder of Aconex and was kind of the original product person there, he's now running product across the global business unit, and I'm running product experience across the global business unit. And inherited teams on both sides. So it's been a very interesting experience.
Suzanne: Is your team bigger now?
Kirsten: We're just going through that transition now, and change on the their side as well. So suddenly you know, there's a group of people who have come in that they don't know either so we're all kind of working out our way through and getting to know one another.
Suzanne: What do you think changes about product management at these enterprise level organizations? Because we talk a lot about lean startups, people working businesses where there’s 50 people, 80 people or 100 or even 300 people, but when you're into the thousands, tens of thousands, like, what's fundamentally different? Give us just like a couple of the bits.
Kirsten: Right, so it's a completely different game. And I always look at sometimes consumers software and think, oh it's a lot easier in that space. So a couple key differences, the size of the deals you're dealing with it's not a couple hundred dollar exchange, or a couple thousand dollars, it's millions often, right, so as a client paying that, I have a certain expectation that comes with that right, so people go, "Oh, you know in enterprise, they shouldn't be listening to clients at all." If I'm paid a couple million dollars, I’d want you to kind of listen to me, right.
So straight away there's a different expectation with managing clients, doesn't mean that you do everything that clients want, but you have to prepared that you're gonna be having those conversations and balance why that's not important or why you're not doing what your client wants. So the size of the deal and the client's involvement is one of those key differences.
The other thing is the time, so for example, with Aconex we can do features and typically a construction project will run for three years. So you can do features, they're often not gonna adopt them if they're halfway through a project, they'll do them on another project in our company, so you can do things and they're not getting adopted because they're not gonna change their practices halfway through a mega project.
So the adoption curves are a lot slower in enterprise land. And so you kind of need to almost break that down and say what's the first behavior I'd be looking for if we were releasing this feature, versus the beautiful entwined behavior. So the adoption rates is one, also the entwined customer experience is really important because, it's not and it is anyway in consumer of course too but if you have churn in enterprise, it is a bad, bad thing because it's costed so much more to acquire that customer.
So looking at churn and things like that, you deal with having ... in consumer, losing a couple of customers and things isn't a big deal, enterprise land it is. So it's really about watching some of those things that and I think for probably the final thing, on the Aconex front and I say this with designers and things, we need to have two personas and that's what we gonna focus on.
In a construction project, you have so many different roles and so many different personas, so saying, "We already got a design for these two people, would wipe out half of your project community.
So you have to be prepared that you're gonna be creating a software that's for lots of different people, with lots of different motivations, and lot’s their different needs and how do you kind of simulate that and put it all together, and for us it's thinking more on activity based versus individual personas. So really, what's kind of the activity in the goal, versus individual people because often you get people who play similar roles they've just got completely different titles.
Suzanne: I love that last one in particular because there's a major negotiation, you can listen to the good folks at base camp and they have this sort of laser focus around vision but you can afford to do that when your users are a little bit more streamlined for sure.
You're doing a talk here at Leading the Product, what's your talk called?
Kirsten: Love Like a Leader. They wanted ... I had very different titles originally but I think you've been through this as well, they wanted something more catchy. So that kind of came through leadership, love and that side. Look it's something that I believe in and it's not just about treating people as I generally really like, enough to love the people who work with me and so it's kind of translating some of those lessons into a bite sized package for people.
Suzanne: Is there one nugget from your talk for our listeners who won't have the advantage of being here in Sydney and listening in?
Kirsten: So I go through ten tenets to ... which behaviors or mindsets or principles that you want to adopt, and really one of they key ones for me is, leaders facilitate, they don't dictate, so really have that mindset and look at how you enable people to do their roles, versus dictating and telling them how to do their roles. That's probably one of they key ones, and towards the end it's also going to how you build strong teams, but also about being a decent human being.
How many people have met a lot of people who are decent human beings? And look, this is a very small industry, people think we are global ... I could tell you now having been in this industry a long time, people come back, right, and if you don't do the right thing by people, it would typically come back and haunt you.
Suzanne: Okay. Got it. Looking forward to hearing that and we’ll share more details about it in the listener notes. We do a segment at the end of every episode, it's called "Get the Job, Learn the Job, Love the Job." And you spoke a little bit earlier about growing into a leader, you talked about just being someone who is willing to kind of take on tasks, you talked about being uncomfortable long before you get called up, is there any other sort of more specific advice you might offer to someone listening in who's maybe been doing product for a few years, intermediate or senior level and has kind of done the work of thinking, yeah, this is what I wanna do, how do they get there?
Kirsten: I think it's looking for that opportunity, and often people will leave their organization to do that. There's always conflicting views on this but I think if you're proven in where you are, and you're showing that you're actually starting to extend yourself in other ways, you're kind of primed to take that next step, because you're given, you're already a proven unit.
The challenge there is if you already have certain connotations associated with you. So, I also say to people, look for those tangental opportunities in where you're proven already versus just leaping outside, if you've already got certain associations and you can't break that, then sure, you need to leave and seek those opportunities elsewhere. But I'd give the organization where you are a chance if you are already proven in that space and I think too many people used to say, " oh, I'm gonna jump." And not giving their organization an opportunity to help them on that leadership journey.
Suzanne: I like the expression, having certain connotations and it's a nice setup for this question about learning the job. So where, either for yourself personally in your career or for the product managers that you've led over the last number of years, where do you see people get stuck in the role or make the most mistakes?
Kirsten: Yeah. I think there's really two things here, it's they don't know probably the most useful phrase in our language toolbox, and that's "I don't know" right, admit you don't know, it's okay, so people are afraid to be vulnerable, and think that they have to have all the answers, and they have to you know direct and lead all of these things. And you get so much more engagement even if you do know. It's all go into things, I'll go, you know what, I don't know.
I have some fair idea, right. But, that's the one you engage people in the discussion, because people love solving problems and helping, if they're enlisted in that. But if you're getting somebody who says, this is it, this is it. What do you think? Are you really gonna be engaged in that type of conversation? So that phrase "I don't know" is probably the most powerful thing I think a product manager can have for engagement of people along that journey.
And, I see that's the difference, you see that in going from kind of this mid to senior people, it's the ones that don't feel like they have to know everything and for everybody else to know that they know everything that are able to really effectively make that transition.
Suzanne: What do you love about product management?
Kirsten: For me it's always been about getting your product into the hands of people and seeing the difference that you can make in their lives. We always say ... when you're having debates over some work flow or battered or whatever, it's so easy to be removed from that reality, but when you go, we do a lot of going and seeing people on site for example. And I remember really distinctly we had done our first mobile app many years ago, and I went on site, it was a massive construction site and it was, and there were all ... the Australian accent was very common there, and there was this guy and he was a site manager, and he said, "have you done this? Are you that mobile chick?" And I said "oh, okay, so are using the mobile app?" And he said, " do you know what, you guys have no idea, you were saving us about 10,000 dollars a day with this thing." And I was like, really? We're not charging 10,000 dollars a day for that app, I think that was part of the platform. And he explained he said, " I used to have to go back to our site office to get the authorization for basically these instructions." they've got massive cranes and machinery on site, which needs permits, and so he would have to walk back a K, he wasn't the most fittest guy on site.
Suzanne: He'd been on the job site for some time?
Kirsten: It was helping him, it was helping him, but he'd have to walk back there, go to the office, get distracted all the rest, but that would be hours that machinery were stopped on site. Now he was getting all of his permits and everything instantaneously on his phone. Now what's interesting here is a saw a massive behavioral change associated with that.
When we did our first iPhone app, everybody was on Blackberries, the thing's nice, but they were never using that fancy pansy phone that's never coming on the construction sites, it would never last, same with iPads. And what was really interesting, it was the workers that actually started to push phones and iPhones might have their personal phones, they'd use that for our applications, and then push that on to their leadership group and say ... they were doing the sales for us. And saying, " this is making a huge productivity change."
So for me it was one of those real examples of the difference we were making in somebody's lives. And they were articulating it back to us, and that's one example of thousands I've heard from over the years. So that's what makes the gig great.
Suzanne: I love that. I love that. You mentioned a couple of great resources earlier, are the any other sort of favorite books, blogs, podcasts, obviously besides this one that you would absolutely recommend for folks listening in?
Kirsten: Yes, just lock it on this podcast, I'm a huge podcast listener, and so do you know one of the ones I love is Jeanne Bliss, Human Duct Tape Show. And she's like the grandmother of customer experience, and just has some fantastic insights around, stringing things together, but also mindsets and behaviors of leadership and everything comes through that, as well. So lots of different podcasts, I love Rich Mironov’s blog posts and writings, I'm a big fan of Rich. And Gib as well, I've watched him for a long time.
Kirsten: Gibbo as he's now called after this conference, and on the UX side, [Jess Brown 00:38:58], he's just prolific in terms of of the writings he's done over the years, and also Paul Bryan who's done UX STRAT, started that globally, it's a really fantastic thought leadership conference and you get a lot of UX and product paper with that. But what they do which is different and I love is all about case studies, so if you're presenting now, it has to be around, this was it's not just ... "hey, we're doing this we're fantastic."
Suzanne: Here's 10 principles about your loving leader. Four principles of communicating better. So we can't talk at those conferences, that's what you're saying.
Kirsten: It was actually, I presented once there, and it was a great experience because you're actually having to talk about the whole journey of creating something. So for me, that would be a conference I’d check out if you’re here in the States.
Suzanne: Amazing. Last question for you, is there a personal mantra, quote, principle, something that you use to guide your life out in the world, or out of the office or both?
Kirsten: It's the karma thing, do the right thing by people, they'll typically do the right thing by you. Without expectation. People go, "I've done this for such and such and they didn't." Don't have any expectation, just wanna help people, and typically it will come back and in different ways that you know, whether it be the learning, or whether it'll be the output for that person, but put yourself out there ... and if everybody always says they haven't got the time, I say rubbish, you got the time you're just not prioritizing it. So really trying to if somebody asks you for help, if somebody asks you to go and do a presentation, embrace it, go and do it even though you might be scared, and you'll be amazed what will come back.
Suzanne: Kirsten Mann thank you so much for being part of our show.
Kirsten: Thank you for having me.