Christian Kemsies is a Product Director at Seera Group who has been working in product for six years. Read on to hear how he got his job in product!
How did you find out about your current job and why did the role appeal to you?
When I joined the company 5 years ago, it was a startup which only recently launched its first product. And there was this atmosphere of getting stuff done and learning from everybody. It makes me happy to see, that we managed to keep this spirit alive, and as a result created my current role by the end of 2021. I really enjoy working with so many brilliant minds, helping and guiding them through the madness we call Product Management, and not to forget, learning from them.
To get into the role, I asked the CEO about the biggest challenge the team was currently facing and then showed that I had resources and was willing to put in work to help resolve that issue. I had a long discussion about the product function the product Co-founder wanted to build. We agreed to work on a project together to flesh out a foundational aspect of the product function, and I took the conversation/negotiation from there.
During my time as Product Lead, I had many discussions with our VP of Product on the challenges of keeping our teams aligned and the struggle of getting new joiners up to speed. This became the base for my newly created role, a possible solution for a very real problem that has emerged in our Product Organisation, which prevents us from further scaling. I enjoy mostly sharing part of my experience with all of the organisation to get us to the next level. I basically drink coffee and talk to people.
What professional and academic experience did you have prior to this role?
I started my career way back in 2004 as an apprentice for IT System Integration and since then worked my way up through the OSI model. So from setting up bare metal servers in a data centre to managing a virtual data centre (before cloud was a thing), to operating hundreds of client-server applications, to running IT Projects, I have done it all till I ended up in Product Management. I learned at every step something which I still use today. Be it project and stakeholder management skills or debugging complex systems.
In terms of academic qualifications, I did my A-Levels and afterwards, an Apprenticeship (I think that is specific to Germany) which was my professional entry into the Tech Industry
Why do we forget that product management is a tough career?
What are your key roles and responsibilities?
The Product Organisation is an ecosystem of interconnected and interdependent networks:
- A network of people
- A network of goals and objectives
- A network of products and technologies
- A network of processes
- A network of qualitative and quantitive data
I help to build, enable, optimize, and scale these sub-networks while improving the interconnectedness and interdependence of the larger ecosystem. I make sure the networks are engineered effectively and “greased” at the right places, create new connections where needed, and ensure the ecosystem is resilient to constant change, internal and external forces and is able to scale effectively.
I prefer an informal atmosphere where I touch base with the different Product Team members, be it the product manager, designer or tech leads. I just have a chat to see how they are currently doing and if there is anything they may need. On top of this, I run or organise learning sessions, be it for onboarding new team members or more general pieces of training for everyone.
But the heart of it all is to make sure that all teams are aligned and moving towards the same goals. I have become the guardian of a massive Miro board which shows all running “initiatives” for the quarter and their dependencies. By maintaining this, I also have the opportunity to make sure the product managers have a clear picture of how their specific work fits into the bigger picture.
Discover how others have forged their product paths in our How I got my job content series.
How is your team structured and where does that sit within the larger organisation?
The VP of Product reports directly to the CEO and has all Product and Design people below him. The product teams are all cross-functional teams consisting of Product Managers, Designers and Engineers (Backend, Frontend, QA, etc.). The VP of Product and the VP of Technology also act as role models for collaboration between the two departments.
What are your key tips on landing a role in product?
- Be curious and ask questions, In general people are happy to help and share their knowledge, as long they can feel you are making an effort to understand and learn
- State the obvious, we should never act based on assumptions and when we do, we highlight them before
- Common sense is not that common, just because something is clear and logical for you does not mean it is the same for others
How did you get your job in product?
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