Tag Archives: trust

Vidya Dinamani: Connecting with Product Managers



Joanie interviews Vidya Dinamani, founder of Product Rebels.  Vidya uses her impressive experience in product management to teach others how to do it.  She calls herself a fully qualified nerd, having started her career coding, with a physics degree in her pocket.  Vidya is quite articulate and has really nailed how developers and product managers can work together successfully.  She doesn’t go with the canned messages, but rather has her own that will no doubt resonate with you.

Highlights:

Q: What kinds of nerds do you work with?

“I have been very lucky to work with some really awesome nerds, some really smart people. I worked at Intuit for ten years. Intuit attracts great people—engineers, designers, researchers, product managers.  There really isn’t a dud among them. At Mitchell, I worked with product design teams.  I’ve worked with and coached hundreds of product managers.  We always extend to working with engineers as well.  You can’t have one without the other; it’s symbiotic.”

Q: What do you mean by product management and design being like a marriage?

“Think about it.  You spend more time together than you probably do with your spouse.  It’s like a marriage whether you like it or not.  When I think about a great relationship, a great marriage, I think about having someone on your side, someone who’s got your back.”

Q: What kind of challenges tend to arise in this relationship from the product management perspective?

“A product manager is the representative of the customer at the table.  People who are good product managers take that very seriously.  They take the solutions to make sure they really work for the customer.  When you get deep into your customer’s shoes and see the solutions, you jump into the ‘how.’”

“We’re all problem solvers, as nerds.  This is why we do what we do. We often throw solutions at problems.  That gets us into trouble when we don’t step back.  You’ve got to think about a problem in a way that whether you and your elegant product existed or not, the customer still has the problem.  That’s really hard to do.”

Q: How do you help customers understand they may not know what their problem is?

“A lot of time, asking the customer what they want isn’t the way to do it.  You have to watch the customer in their natural habitat.  You turn these observations into fully formed sentences.  Then the magic of product management happens.  You get “ahas.”  You create hypotheses.  Product managers spend a lot of time testing their hypotheses and then go to the engineers when they’ve figured out the problem. Then they talk through solutions.”

Q: How does trust break down between development and product management?

“It can feel like high-level business speak to say, ‘we’re all on the same team.’  It can feel like something different when you’re trying to get a product out.  The developer is trying to get the best, most elegant solution.  The trust breaks down when they’re being told what to do.  When the trust breaks down, the product manager feels like the only thing to do is to tell them exactly what to do.”

Q: How do you reduce barriers to trust?

“I like decision matrices.  I invite you into my world, but I am the decision-maker.  When it’s my world, I make the decision.  When it’s your world, I can contribute, but the engineer makes the decision.”

To hear more about respecting boundaries, setting roles, and trusting others, and much much more, listen to the episode.

Words of Wisdom:

“Share the pen.”

“You’ve got to be okay with others being wrong and turn it into a learning mindset.”

“You’ve got to be bold to try things you’re going to be surprised with.”

“Ask ‘why’ next time in a meeting.”

Contact Vidya Dinamani:

Website: productrebels.com

Email: vidya@productrebels.com

Twitter: @vdinamani


Slava Khristich: Communicating with Global Teams



Joanie interviews Slava Khristich, CEO of Tateeda. Tateeda provides clients with software development resources in the USA and internationally to extend teams, complete complex projects and solve challenging tasks.  Their model provides, among other things, improved communications between technical and non-technical people.  You can see why he’s a perfect guest for Reinventing Nerds.

Highlights:

Q: What is your background?

“My education is in economics and mechanical engineering. I got to the US in 1991 and I was heavily involved in the biotech field.  I used to work at the Salk Institute, in the research facility, and this is where I got introduced to computers. I started writing small code here and there and learned how computers operated and communicated. I fell in love and have been doing this for twenty years.”

Q: Where are you from originally?

“I am from Ukraine.  I came over with my family during the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

Q: Where do you have offices and what’s the advantage of being international?

“We have resources in San Diego and in Ukraine. Instead of trying to stretch time, we try to shrink time and squeeze in as much productivity as possible in a single day instead of stretching it across multiple days.”

Q: What communication challenges do you run into?

“When you’re dealing with technical people, you’re speaking the same language.  When you’re dealing with business people, there’s a gap in communication and expectations of what the final product should be. We have constant communication daily with the client and with the team. That way we can address any question or any issue that is discovered daily.”

Q: How do you assemble a team of people who have communication skills?

“We tend to hire senior people who have experience.  We have them go through a series of interviews—technical and personality.  We do everything possible to keep our people.  Our turnover is really low.”

Q: What challenges come up with cross-cultural communication?

“Usually it’s a misunderstanding.  When a client gives us too much freedom, we try to do as much work as we think is relative to the problem, and sometimes we think it’s our way but it’s really a different way.  Those are due to cultural differences and experiences.”

Q: How did you decide to be a leader of programmers instead of writing the code yourself?

“I couldn’t scale what I wanted to do and that was my passion.  In being a developer or team lead, I could only work with a little team and one client at a time.  I wanted to introduce it to many, to almost make a movement.  When you outsource something, the outsource professional should be doing it better than you can.  When I hire a lawyer, I want to assume he’s doing a great job.  It’s the same with software.”

For Slava’s best tips on global communication and words of inspiration to entrepreneurs, listen to the episode…

Words of Wisdom:

“Poor communication leads to poor responses, poor performance, and a lot of money wasted.”

“It all comes back to communication.”

“If you cannot trust us, you cannot work with us.”

Contact Slava Khristich:

Website: Tateeda.com

Phone:      619-630-7568