A Product Manager lives at the intersection of Sales, Marketing, Support, and Engineering Teams. Being in this intersection at Recharge is hard, at times scary, and the most fulfilling role I have ever taken.
Working remotely with team members spread across the country means there isn’t an official start or end time; I’m not expected to walk into an office or clock in or out. Instead, I choose the hours, and the place where I can be at my best, and contribute the most.
Last week I went to work in my home office in Boulder, Colorado. I heard from a friend that the fishing is great in Montana this year, so now I’m in a hotel in Bozeman with my fly rod ready to go. Finding a balance between my personal needs and the needs of my role has never been so easy. This week my evenings will be spent on the river, and my mornings will start like they normally do, with a cup of coffee and a simple question: What can we do better?
Discovering our opportunities
Recharge is filled with diverse contributors, dedicated to supporting merchants as they learn, innovate, and grow their businesses. I have the opportunity to directly connect with these contributors every day, then we all gather weekly for a Product Sync meeting. Connecting with a team member throughout the day is about as simple as walking up to their desk in an office setting. We use Slack and Zoom chats liberally, so it’s not hard to get some facetime and work through an idea together. Product managers in any organization tend to spend a lot of time in meetings, but the ability to fill voids with unscheduled chats allows me to get more done than I ever thought possible.
At the Product Sync, we shamelessly discuss our challenges, gaps, and outright problems; each is an opportunity. A meeting to “talk about the bad” sounds disheartening, but the strong dose of empathy and alignment consistently leaves me feeling clear, focused, and motivated. Opening the curtains and being vulnerable as a team shines a very bright light on what we can do better; this is where the fun really starts.
Defining our solutions
Creative, collaborative problem solving is the simplest definition of product management. Innovative merchants, meticulous testers, and a vast, evolving market ensure that there is always work to be done. Before designing a solution, we define our opportunity. How can we better enable our users, what is or isn’t working, how does that make people feel? With a clear vision of where we are, we turn our focus to where we want to be.
Solutions don’t start with specification, they start with conversation. I love to work with Recharge engineers because they want the context. Our team takes every opportunity to have these conversations, sometimes in our daily morning Stand Up meetings, and weekly in grooming sessions. We talk about how a merchant feels, how they want to grow, what the root of our goal is, then we work forward. Grooming is where we drive for technical specification, refining a concept into a set of executable tasks, which lead us to our solution.
For a Product Manager, grooming can get a little scary; I’m not the person in the room with the deepest knowledge of how our code (or any code) works. My team has become very familiar with answering “Help me understand…” They teach me directly, and empower me with resources to dig deeper where I have technical gaps. If you are a Product Manager who loves to learn, technical grooming serves as your syllabus. Every time I meet with my team we have our video turned on, and I have a note open, ready to jot down any concept or to-do that I’ll revisit. This allows me to stay engaged in the moment, overcoming one of the biggest challenges to remote work: distraction.
Increasing our value
With a strong understanding of what we want to build, and how we want to build it, the development begins, and the collaboration continues. As the Engineering Team executes, they will find the edge cases and gaps in specification that are bound to exist. We don’t shy away from these, we keep the conversation going. Throughout each day, in messages and meetings, the team asks “but what if the user does ….” Sometimes the answer is that a user won’t do that. Others, the answer is a complex tree of use cases, validations, and error handling. This ensures that we deliver strong solutions, and the entire team has a deep understanding of what we’ve built and how it works.
Teaching our value
This microscopic understanding helps inform the way we talk about a new solution across Recharge, and with our users. Every two weeks I have the opportunity to present our work to the entire Recharge team in a Product Demo; this is my favorite part of the job. All of Recharge joins in, so I use one monitor for my presentation deck, and the other is crammed with as many faces as Zoom will allow.
I love to take a technical concept like webhooks and reframe it so that anyone can feel the value. Because I work on the API team, and our work is primarily encompassed in the backend, I use story-telling, flowcharts, and analogies to show off what the engineers built, and why it matters. Giving a presentation on cursor-based pagination may not sound thrilling, but for those ten minutes I am Steve Jobs unveiling “one more thing”. Developing APIs isn’t everyone’s passion, but presenting the results of intense collaboration, planning and execution always reminds me that it’s one of mine.
After sharing a new feature or improvement with the Recharge Team, we band together to get the solution to our merchants. With wide marketing launches, 1:1 sessions with merchants, and collaboration with partners, we evangelize the value of the work and relentlessly seek feedback.
This feedback is our reminder that the work is never done, and we get to start the cycle again. We take the feedback, define our opportunities, specify solutions, and keep on improving. Being a Product Manager at Recharge is dynamic, fast, and shows no sign of slowing down as we grow. In fact, we are moving faster than ever, and this Product Manager couldn’t have it any other way.