FranklinCovey Technical Product Manager
University of Utah - David Eccles School of Business Bachelor of Science (BS), Management Information Systems, General
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How did you get to where you are today? What is your story? What incidents and experiences shaped your career path?

Summarized By: Arushi Chaudhary on Thu Feb 13 2020
I think a lot of people have a lot of different paths for becoming a product manager or getting in product management. For me, I actually started in the world of construction. I started doing going down the career path of construction management. I found myself a lot more interested in the software that was used in the industry than actually building buildings and roads. So I switched my career path to information systems. That's when I started to really dive deep into software and started trying to learn. To see how it works on the back-end and how it works in the front-end. That obviously lead to graduating in information systems. Along the way, I got a lot of different jobs that gave me experience in those areas. So I did technical support. I started doing the implementation in structure. Then I morphed into a product role at a start-up company. There we developed a sports gaming app. That was my path to where I am now that was really shaped by that first decision to focus on technology.

What are the responsibilities and decisions that you handle at work? Discuss weekly hours you spend in the office, for work travel, and working from home.

Based on experience at: Technical Product Manager, FranklinCovey
Summarized By: Arushi Chaudhary on Thu Feb 13 2020
Right now my responsibilities are really I'm over the entire education product online. So I worked for FranklinCovey and we build a product around a program called The Leader in me that helps children learn life skills. It's my job to build that online product that will not only help our internal teams go out and help schools. But it also helps external principals, teachers and all the different roles within a school. They also get materials and get training materials and trainings that they need to help them be better at their jobs. So right now, I'm over that product we just started building that new product from scratch. We're kind of sunsetting the old product. It's been a really fun time because I get to play a little bit of a startup role within a very established company.

What tools (software programs, frameworks, models, algorithms, languages) do you use at work? Do you prefer certain tools more than the others? Why?

Based on experience at: Technical Product Manager, FranklinCovey
Summarized By: Arushi Chaudhary on Thu Feb 13 2020
There are a billion tools out there. I've used mostly Ruby as far as coding language goes. I've been really engulfed into the Ruby. I guess there's a lot of Ruby connections here in Utah. I've kind of been engulfing myself in the whole Ruby language and how it works. There are some great advantages to Ruby and there are also some disadvantages, each coding language I've learned over time has both advantages and disadvantages. One thing that I like about Ruby is It's a very quick language. If you're looking for fast prototyping of a product or you need to build something a little bit faster than you might, say PHP or Java or things like that It allows you to build quicker. There are some disadvantages in that too but I'm used to using Ruby. That's what I've used over the last six years or so. Other programs that go along with that is GitHub it is a very valuable tool to learn. It's where most developers will push their code where you can get changes. You can find a lot of really good resources there. Amazon Web service is another one that to really get it and go to it. That's where most companies are hosting their websites or their applications these days. Then just getting a general knowledge of API calls is so important, at least for my job. Just the ability to transfer data from one application to another application and do integration of that data API calls is the key for me in my world.

What things do you like about your job? Were there any pleasant surprises?

Based on experience at: Technical Product Manager, FranklinCovey
Summarized By: Arushi Chaudhary on Thu Feb 13 2020
When I came to FranklinCovey, they needed to transfer away from an old product and to build a new product. So a pleasant surprise for me was, I kind of got to design and build a product from scratch. Which you don't get to do a lot of times when you're going to a more established company. It's one of the reasons why they wanted to hire me because at my previous company I worked for a sports application game. We did just that and so I had some experience in designing a product from scratch. What that looks like because there's a lot of complication in that. That was a pleasant surprise for me. I really loved building things. It's fun to work with other teams to design a product, work with the developer, build it and then see people use it. That was really rewarding for me.

What are the job titles of people you routinely work with inside and outside of your organization? What approaches do you find to be effective in working with them?

Based on experience at: Technical Product Manager, FranklinCovey
Summarized By: Arushi Chaudhary on Thu Feb 13 2020
In my position, as everybody on the education side of Franklin Covey uses our product. So I've had to work with every team in the company. So marketing directors, director of products, director of operations, director of training, director of IT and then all of the people underneath those people if that makes sense. What I'm usually doing with them is meetings with them to see what needs they need to meet from the product we're building. So it's requirements gathering in a lot of ways. Then also after you've built something, re meeting with them to make sure that you met those needs and those requirements. Maybe you couldn't build them all so now you're scoping new things that they need. It's a constant involvement of the product and you're always in touch with pretty much everybody as far as the managers of each department is in the company.

What major challenges do you face in your job and how do you handle them? Can you discuss a few accomplishments?

Based on experience at: Technical Product Manager, FranklinCovey
Summarized By: Arushi Chaudhary on Thu Feb 13 2020
One thing that I like to tell people about product management is often times when it comes to building a product you get asked many questions. Questions like can you build this? Is it possible to do this? Is it possible to do that? But I'd like to tell people those are the wrong questions. The right questions are, should you build it? Why are you going to build it? Should we build it where we're building it? What are the goals we are trying to meet by building this? Do we have data or proof that what we're going to build for you is going to work or that people are going to use it? So, really, the questions that you ask before you start building are essential to building the right product. Those were really the challenges because a lot of times, nontechnical people only see what they want to be built. They have a hard time understanding the possibilities of what can be built. Given you have the right requirements. So that's my biggest challenge, to see people coming to me and saying, Hey, can we do this and me having to take a step back and saying why or how or is that really what you need? and maybe open their eyes to other possibilities.

What qualities does your team look for while hiring? What kind of questions does your team typically ask from candidates?

Based on experience at: Technical Product Manager, FranklinCovey
Summarized By: Arushi Chaudhary on Thu Feb 13 2020
The questions that we typically are asking are questions that are leading around are you good at working by yourself or are you good at getting a direction and running with that direction without being told what to do. I'm trying to think of a good example there but basically if I came to somebody and said, Hey, I need you to go and do some research with some of our principles on this feature. I need that person to go and figure that out and come up with their own plan on how to execute and then come back to me with the results. That's the kind of person that we are typically looking for, that Franklin Covey is typically working for. It’s not always what every company's working for but it's a really great skill to have and accountability along the way is always key.  

What was the hiring process like for your job? What were the roles of people who interviewed you? What kind of questions were asked?

Based on experience at: Technical Product Manager, FranklinCovey
Summarized By: Arushi Chaudhary on Thu Feb 13 2020
FranklinCovey really likes to have you meet almost everybody in the company before you're hired on so I originally met with our director of the product who is my boss and once we talked and he felt like I was a good fit I went and met with the director of marketing and the director of IT and a few other people in the company just for them to get a sense of the skills that I had. It was probably about five to six different interviews that I held along the way, coming back and forth to the office but I think that's pretty typical these days. When I worked at infrastructure I think I had four interviews with twenty different people, not all separately they were group interviews, but that's typical. More and more these days is to interview with quite a few different people to gauge your personality, to gauge your fit with the culture of the company and then to gauge your experience and how well you would jump into a role.  

What are some future career path(s) for you? What skills, certificates, or experiences do you plan on acquiring?

Based on experience at: Technical Product Manager, FranklinCovey
Summarized By: Arushi Chaudhary on Thu Feb 13 2020
My end goal is to one day I want to be a CTO or a director of product over an entire product to help, and make the decisions in the end, the decisions that will help with the business needs currently my boss does that. We work closely together and I help certainly help in each of those areas but the skills that I still need to learn to get there, there are quite a few product management type certifications I couldn’t get. I certainly have thought about going back and getting my masters and information systems that could certainly help but continuing to go down the path of learning from different product managers and their style, that's kind of my career path.  

What are different entry-level jobs and subsequent job pathways that can lead students to a position such as yours?

Based on experience at: Technical Product Manager, FranklinCovey
Summarized By: Arushi Chaudhary on Thu Feb 13 2020
There's a lot of different paths like I've met product managers that have come into the role from a lot of different ways from the development side and I know product managers that actually got their CS degree, I know product managers that had a degree in communications but I think the things that helped to me the most is I actually went down the path of project management and technical project management and so I took roles as technical implementation consultants or technical product project manager at Pearson Education. Then the one that helped me the most was I took a junior product manager job at a startupcompany, this is the sports app I talked about in the previous questions and that one helped me the most. In a startup, you wear a ton of different hats, you're a lot less confined to one department with a big corporation so I grew tenfold in that job. I mostly work directly with the developers, scoping new products directly with our design team, designing new features and new pages on the app. I think any of those positions is great because it gets you into the product and into a position where you're seeing how it's being used but also how it's being built. Any position that could get you that double lens will help you if one of your goals is to be a product manager or a technical product project manager anywhere 

What were the responsibilities and decisions that you handled at work? What major challenges did you face in your job?

Based on experience at: Project/Product Manager, United Games
Summarized By: Arushi Chaudhary on Thu Feb 13 2020
United games was the startup I was talking about. I interfaced with our marketing and sales team and our development and ourdesigners. A lot of times I was working with our marketing and sales team to understand if the product wasn't working or features that may need to be built to make it better and then going back to our development and design team and work on ways to accomplish those goals. The major challenge of that is a lot of times the goals of both those departments are very different and as the people in your class start to get into the business world and a lot of times sales and marketing clashes with development and design. It's finding what we call at FranklinCovey a win-win solution for everybody that can give marketingcells what they need but also build fun or not fun in the case of United Games, it was a game so building features that kept our users engaged and that's one major challenge that I've seen in every company is the balance between marketing, sales and development and design.

How did the program prepare you for your career? Think about faculty, resources, alumni, exposure & networking. What were the best parts?

Based on experience at: Bachelor of Science (BS), Management Information Systems, General, University of Utah - David Eccles School of Business
Summarized By: Arushi Chaudhary on Thu Feb 13 2020
For me, what the information system program did was help me pick a focus I think, one thing information system does well is kind of get your hands into every type of product in a way. I really liked the technical side and so my favorite parts and what I focused most on was really the technical side so in your class wrote when it was PHP I don't know what it's called now but I got really excited to learn that because I dove deeper than the class required. Not only did I build a PHP app that would work with the database, I learned how the front end of that work so I tied in CSS in HTML and that actually helped me get a job somewhere and it helped me pick a focus. I knew that I wanted to go down this like project product manager path after a lot of the courses that I took, I knew I didn't really want to be a full-fledged developer because I really liked the human interaction part of the job and sometimes as a developer you don't get that so it was great for me to understand the technical aspects of a product would also understand the business decisions behind it so that's really where helped me.  

Would you like to share something that is not on your resume? This may include your passions, facing setbacks or adversities, a unique experience, or an unexpected help.

Summarized By: Arushi Chaudhary on Thu Feb 13 2020
The one thing I would share was kind of a piggyback on the last question a little bit but networking within the University of Utah was really helpful for me. I met a lot of people at the U that actually helped me get jobs later down the road and then I still keep in touch with today. So the friends that you make around you right now can be really beneficial to growing your career later down the road. That's what I would say.