Musings of a Product Manager: The Perfect Job


Kellie Jones
Product Manager, Payroll
Ultimate Software


I am a product manager for Ultimate Software. I personally believe product management is one of the coolest jobs anyone can have. In fact, I’m so passionate about it that I’m going to start posting here regularly so you can better understand the value of this role for Ultimate and its importance for solution development and customer satisfaction.

However, not every organization has product management, so in the words of Pink, I’d like to “get this party started” by talking about what a product manager does.

At my last high school reunion, I told my peers that I’m in “technology.” It was way easier than trying to explain what a product manager does. My parents know that I work for a great company and that I do something with computers, which seems to satisfy them. One would think given what I do and how long I’ve been doing it, that by now I would have a great elevator pitch that explains it…but words were never my forte. So my belief in a strong product management team and my excitement for what I do should negate the fact that I decided to take freshman English during my junior year of college.

A product manager is the voice of the customer and the market into an organization. This position is critical for an organization like Ultimate that puts people at the center of all of its decisions. I work with a team of people at Ultimate that drives the product roadmap – what’s coming next for UltiPro. We work to define what’s ahead in the evolution of our HR, payroll, and talent management solutions.

We do this by listening to our customers (both internal and external), collaborating with our customers via our Ideas portal, (a collaboration site that allows customer to submit and vote on each other’s ideas), and venturing out into our customers native habitat to watch them interact with our solution. It’s amazing what we learn from these in-person visits. We also conduct brainstorming sessions with members of our services team on the best way to solve issues.

In addition to working with customers, we also need to understand what trends could impact the business in the future and plan ahead for it. We do this by watching what’s happening in the market, interacting with the analyst community, and frequenting industry events. Some of these are technology-related trends (e.g., mobile technology adoption rates) and others are more generational, like the impending talent shortage that will result from retiring baby boomers. And this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how we gather input to drive product direction.

Now back to me.

I love my job. I can talk strategically to our customers about their challenges as well as the value they are bringing to their employees. I also get to talk “geek” with our product development team who turns solution-enhancement ideas into reality. As a product manager, I get to spend time in Excel building business cases and then flex my creative muscles with our user experience team. So in essence, it’s the perfect job for the extroverted introvert.

And Ultimate supports this because it is Ultimate’s fundamental belief that happy and engaged employees will take care of the customer. And that is what I do.

There’s a great blog post from productbeautiful.com that talks about “You might be a product manager if….”  Some of my favorites are:

  • If you stack rank your children
  • You’re an expert at herding cats
  • You make all personal decisions in Excel

I look forward to sharing more about Product Management and our philosophies at Ultimate over the upcoming year.

6 comments:

Angela F. said...

I enjoyed this! Even working at Ultimate I wasn't clear on the real role of a Product Manager. I admit that's a pretty exciting job!

Rishi Bhagwandeen said...

Insightful!

Roel said...

This is a great post on product management. How much time do you estimate is spent on external activities (i.e. working/talking to customers, interact with them on the ideas website, etc) vs. engaging and sharing the message and product vision internally in the organization (i.e. with engineering, qa, ux design, etc) ?

Kellie said...

Roel

Nice to hear from a fellow SUNY grad!

I would say for me personally not as much I would like and should do more customer interactions. A good week for me is 25-30% of my time (just flew back from a customer visit) but on average its less then that.

Thank you for reading and commenting!
Kellie

K DUD said...

"Extroverted Introvert" - perfect!

Natalie Ross said...

Your words are very inspiring. Being a product manager myself, I understand most of what you mentioned. Glad you really enjoy what you do. :)