We continue our series of blog posts about people that work at Stiltsoft, their duties, hobbies, interests, and, of course, thoughts. Keep following on our blog and find the recent information about us and our products.
Today we will have a conversation with Vadim Rutkevich, our product manager.
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your position at Stiltsoft.
I work as a product manager at Stiltsoft and manage the RnD team of the two developers. The team is small but quite experienced, so we can cope with most challenges we encounter on a regular basis.
Could you please recall how you joined Stiltsoft. What was it like?
Well, this occurred more than 6 years ago. I was finishing my labor repayment at school after graduation from the university. Stiltsoft invited me to the interview, we discussed my working experience, and I was hired.
So I started as a business analyst and worked on custom projects for Jira and Confluence.
Where did you work prior to Stiltsoft? Do you use that experience in your current work?
Prior to Stiltsoft, I worked at school as a teacher of English. At the same time, I also worked at Evogence (formerly known as Radical Computing). In the second part of the day, I worked as a technical writer. I prepared technical documentation, user’s and administrator’s guides, all sorts of diagrams. This company was my start in IT, here I got enough experience to start work as a business analyst at Stiltsoft. I got acquainted with the development process, software requirements, and a lot of other things.
What was the first task you got at Stiltsoft?
It’s quite difficult to recall the first task. As far as I remember, it was a new custom project which required the generation of a worklog report for the hierarchy of tasks with all estimates and actually logged time.
From the current experience, it was not quite hard, but I was a newbie in Jira, so it took me a while to get the idea of what is needed and for what purposes.
Describe your work in five words and explain why you use these words.
Challenge. Workaround. Idea. Solution. Satisfaction.
We encounter new challenges every day while we are working on our products. Some challenges even make it impossible to develop the solutions which we actually want. As a product manager, you should be able to handle all these challenges and gracefully cope with them.
For each challenge you encounter, you need to find some workaround. Here you should actively work with your team to identify the ways how to address this or that challenge. And it is brilliant if you have multiple workarounds
Having one or multiple workarounds, you can further ideate on them and transform into some solutions. You need to evaluate all these solutions from different perspectives: development, user experience, further maintainability, probable issues, and a lot of other factors.
Once you deliver some specific solution to customers and users, it is vital to understand that they are satisfied with it. If yes, positive feedback and reviews will satisfy you too.
What products do you work at?
My team and I work on Smart Attachments for Jira and Smart Attachments for Confluence. These are two document management solutions that allow you to have a more granular approach to handling documents, files, and assets in Atlassian products.
Right now, we are working as an RnD team on new apps for Jira and Confluence Cloud. We have already released several of them on the Atlassian Marketplace:
- Find Attachments for Jira Cloud
- Employee Ratings for Jira Cloud
- Spreadsheet Issue Editor for Jira Cloud
- User Profile Manager for Jira Cloud
- Smart Attachments for Jira Cloud
A portion of other apps is being reviewed by the Atlassian’s app release team. Hope that they will be approved soon and will appear on the Atlassian Marketplace.
What challenges do you encounter every day?
I assume that the greatest challenge is gathering customer feedback. Because customer feedback is the primary objective of each product manager. We are working in the B2B sphere, which imposes additional difficulties on gathering feedback from end users, as a lot of them do not even acknowledge that they use your app, as they sincerely believe that this is a part of the Atlassian product.
So here it is critical to identify the most effective channels to collect feedback from your customers and end users. All the other things are out of comparison. I have a wish that our customers do not ignore our emails and engage more actively in the feedback collection activities.
Is it easy to manage products and their development?
Well, this is not rocket science I think, but you need to find a working approach that can deliver results. To find the working approach is the hardest part because it depends on a great number of factors, such as your target audience, your team, feedback, product roadmap, objectives, metrics, and other things. You need to be able to adapt to the constantly changing environment, processes, solutions, product rivals, and other risks. After a couple of years, you and your team will elaborate an effective framework on how to manage products and their development.
What can you recommend to people who want to start their career in IT?
First of all, I think they need to thoroughly assess whether IT is what they really need in their lives. Since my youth, I wanted to work with computers and information systems. At the moment, there is much hype about IT, so a lot of people are assaulting IT companies and investing their resources into different training programs.
They have a little biased perception of the entire IT sphere. A lot of people think that IT specialists drink smoothies and play kicker all the time for this they get high wages. Actually, this is not so. You need to work more than 8 hours a day, besides this, you need to learn something new every day, try new things, work in the constantly changing context, and so on. So here you need to clearly understand what you want to achieve in IT, though it will not become a disgusting routine for you.
What qualities should a successful product manager have?
Ok. A successful product manager should be open-minded, attentive to details, have excellent imagination, and ready to use non-standard approaches. Additionally, I assume that such a person should be a visionary with ambitions to become an evangelist.
Could you please describe your working day?
Ahaha, every working day of mine is unique. If to take the aggregated view, so my working day includes the following:
- management of user feedback
- elaboration of new ideas and solutions for products
- work with the development team
- communication with existing and potential customers
- prototyping of solutions and their validation
I usually try to have a plan for each day and stick to it. But the list of actions to complete greatly varies and depends mostly on what product phase we are.
Is it easy to communicate with developers? Any tricks?
Communication with developers can be a pain if you do not want to follow their rules Well, here is no magic or sacred approach to make it ideal. First of all, you need to get acquainted with them, find what they like and dislike, engage in everyday communication, use their terms, and very soon you will communicate with them in a productive way. Don’t try to make them follow your rules, you need to work out the communication principles that will satisfy all your teammates. Before you got to this point, you will have to try new different methods and approaches. A lot of them will fail, but the rest will work. Just take them and optimize them to your team’s needs.
If you have an opportunity to go back to the past and tell something to yourself, what would it be?
A hardball question. Ok, I think I would tell myself to tolerate and value the opinions of other people. It’s always difficult to accept the opinions of other people, but being a product manager, you need to empathize with users of your products. As it always happens, your customers use your products in a radically different way than you initially expected. Use these insights to improve your products and tailor them to the actual needs of your users. It takes some time to understand this and accept it.
Name three things that you like working at Stiltsoft for?
Independence. Challenges. Teammates.
My team is quite independent in making decisions and implementing them in real life. We do not have to consult and discuss every thing with the company leadership all the time. All we need is to stick to the company strategy, the main objective is the result. How you achieve this is at your discretion. And this is very good, as we do not work under limitations and can take all the bold decisions we want.
Without challenges, you cannot progress as a professional. In Stiltsoft you will have enough challenges every day
Your teammates is a key to productive and effective work. You should forget about ‘I’ and switch to ‘we’. Work on the product implies work of the entire team, so your team is your advisors, work with them on ideas and solutions, and together you will cope with any challenges and issues.
What was the greatest fuckup in your work?
It is a pain to admit that you can make mistakes too. As a product manager, you make them on a regular basis, there is no silver bullet against mistakes and fuckups. I prefer to consider this as experience Without fuckups you cannot also progress as a professional, of course, it is better to re-use ‘bad experience’ of other people, but this is not always possible.
The greatest fuckup, I think, was with the onboarding in Smart Attachments for Jira. We created a simple form to notify customers of new features in the product. It appeared automatically, and this was our first mistake. Then we added a button that closed the form and stopped showing the onboarding form. But the problem was that the form was also closed when you clicked it, but this did not track that the onboarding was completed. We received quite much feedback on the continuous appearance of the onboarding form to users. Since then, we use the least invasive ways to inform customers.
Do you have any hobbies? What are they?
I like traveling and music festivals. If I can combine them together, this is really fantastic. Last year I visited 4 or 5 music fests that were held in my country. I also like cycling, try to go on a bike trip during weekends.
How do you combine your work with personal life?
I have a family, so I have to combine my work with my personal life. We have flexible working time, so you can adjust your schedule to do all things on time. Of course, sometimes overlaps occur, but you can usually handle them with ease.
What would you like to do in 5 years?
Well, it is difficult to say. I do not know. I have a long-term objective which I want to achieve, but in our quickly changing world, everything can change in a moment. Probably, I will be mastering some new job of the future that does not exist yet
Thanks Vadim for your answers. We hope that our blog readers will better know our team and people who make decisions about our products.
We will continue posting new interviews with people who work at Stiltsoft. Keep following us!