Adventures in Product development: From poetry to software

In the middle of the craziness of getting ready to go away for a bit,and the fact I’m going to spend part of my vacation writing, I’ve been thinking about my job and what I find rewarding about it. Being a product development lead for a Yahoo! business unit is a great fit for me because it’s a role where the business requirements, the customer/user value, the strategy and ultimately the execution all intersect…and I love creating software.
When I describe my job to non-techie friends, I like to say it’s like being the executive chef in a big restaurant because as big piece of my job is deciding what to send out when, and another is to review and roll up all the possibilities and then recommend what we actually build and empower the teams that build it.
In my world, we work on applications, along with HTML content pages, and one of the great pleasures has been my ever-deepening knowledge of databases and back-end systems and platforms. This is a job where my true geekiness can take root, along with my consumer focus.
One of the other aspects of a product lead’s role which I relish is maintaining what I think of as a product portfolio. My site is huge, and there are so many things we continually work on and improve, so one of the interesting responsibilities is to help the team maintain the balance and/or sequence the work. There are continual improvements to order flow and user experience, new features we can marketing, edit and programming, and so on. Keeping the engines stoked to handle all of these is really critical…it’s a balancing act where it’s thrilling to be one of the people involved.
Also, I love the creative problem solving. Both quarter by quarter and from a year over year perspective, we need to have road maps for how product will address business and customer needs–and ideally, at least a good chunk of what we do will be deeply useful, satisfying, and sometimes, even innovative.
And of course, I dig the team. Smart, nice people–yeah. We have a great group who truly get things done and take pride in what they do…and take responsibility for their areas, actions and work. And did I mention we’re all competitive as anything and want to not only meet the biz goals, but do a great job for customers and help them be happy (and get great dates).
And finally, most importantly of all, I love that we ship what we do. Isn’t that what product teams so–build and release? Get the stuff live and out there to be used? We ship like mad, and as only people who’ve done development can understand, there’s a special pride each time we have a successful release.