For #WorldProductDay we want to take a moment to spotlight our Chief Product Officer, Eddie Sawyers. Over the past four years Eddie and his team have had a truly profound impact on Tillo’s growth as a business. He’s also one of the kindest people you could ever have the pleasure of working with, and if you're ever in need of an icebreaker he's a walking encyclopedia of obscure historical facts.
We sat down with Eddie to reminisce about his journey so far, to get a sneak peek of his plans for the product roadmap, and to hear his top 3 tips for up and coming Product Managers.
Hi Eddie, thanks for joining me. What have you got planned for World Product Day?
To celebrate we will be watching, over lunch with Pizza, the live session of the London Product Tank (Product tank has meet-ups for Product Managers all over the world) which is titled “How to do Product Discovery whilst also delivering”. They are always great learning opportunities and a nice way to mark the day.
You recently celebrated your four year anniversary at Tillo. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey?
So it started with a chat in a local bakery back in 2017. I was faithfully informed this was absolutely, positively, categorically in no way an interview. Then Gareth pulled out his 2 page A4 list of interview questions!
When I joined as a Senior Product Manager I was just off paternity leave so it was a new job, a new baby and no sleep! It was a bit of a challenge and I have to say that bit of my journey was a bit of a blur.
Back then, Product was a team of one and I have since seen us grow as a company from all of us being in a single room in a shared office space, to two rooms but split by stairs and other companies, then a larger office all of our own and now many little remote offices in our homes. Thankfully, it looks like we’ll be able to get back to the office and collaborate in person soon.
The exciting thing about last year though was my promotion to Chief Product Officer. It has meant that I am no longer the lone product person and instead I have a new challenge of building a team.
What processes do you go through before making updates to the platform, what informs these changes and where do you gather ideas from?
Before you make updates to the product, the most important thing to have is a product vision and a product strategy. If you don’t have this, then you won’t know where you are trying to get to, and if you don’t know that, how will you know if you get there?
I won’t go into the process of how we set the strategy, but once you have one you can start to access and explore ideas that will help us achieve our objectives!
There is never a shortage of ideas, and often they are all reasonable, but you can never do them all. So we need to go through the process of deciding what to do and, importantly, what not to do. The key part of that process comes back to our product vision and strategy. This acts as our guide and allows us to make decisions on what ideas we should push forward.
Obviously, since last year we’ve all had to adapt to working remotely, are there any pieces of software that have now become invaluable to you and your team?
Where would we be without Zoom and Google Meet? I cannot imagine how we would have worked if this had happened 10-15 years ago!
The fortunate thing for us is that most of the tools we use make it very easy to be remote, so adapting was not too hard.
The one thing I have missed, though, is the good old fashioned whiteboard and post-its! There is nothing better than a session around a board with post-its all over the place coming from multiple people. This kind of collaboration session has been much harder to replicate, but we have recently started using Miro which has made it easier.
Without giving too much away, can you give us an idea of what’s on the Product Roadmap for the second half of 2021?
Flying gift cards! No, seriously we have some really exciting new products and features heading out the door.
We are going to support our customers with new forms of digital gifts which will allow them to capture a larger audience. Also, we are firm believers that data in the gift card industry is going to be a huge part of driving future success, so we will be adding a lot more in the form of actionable analytics. It is going to be an exciting second-half of the year for sure!
What product development on the Tillo platform have you been most proud of?
That is a really hard question actually, so I am going to fudge my answer a little. I am really proud of the improvements we have made over time to make it easier for our customers to manage their floats. We have come a long way from individual floats per retailer relationship to automatic float matching and approvals.
Any advice you would give to people just starting out in a Product role?
Firstly, find someone you can talk to who understands the role you are doing. Although it is an incredibly collaborative role, and you will never be short of people to talk to, it can also feel very lonely. Other teams will very rarely have a great understanding of what you do and the challenges that you face. So you need to find someone you can talk to about this - trust me, it is important! Product Tank does an excellent job in this regard, and there are meet-ups all over the world.
Secondly, keep an open mind. You are at the intersection of so many ideas and viewpoints, and some of these will challenge you and your beliefs. It would be so easy to shut down the ones that do not immediately resonate with you, but you will miss out so much if you do this.
Thirdly, keep learning Product Management. Like many roles, it is always evolving with new ideas and techniques. Keep reading, practising and evolving your skills!
Thank you so much for the chat Eddie. We hope you have a brilliant #WorldProductDay!