(NOTE: Everything below is 100% true except as of April 2014 I no longer work at the company mentioned in the post. I did my part. We built things. I moved on.)
Since I quit my job in June, I spent a few months alternating between taking a break (good) and stressing out about not having an income (bad), taking the time to finish up a long-overdue book edition, and doing some consulting for a few fine folks. I went on the annual family beach vacation, went camping a lot but not nearly enough, and generally tried to figure out what I was going to do next.
Because of existing NDAs, I couldn’t legally/ethically use my skillset to create products that I would very much like to build, so I had to cast a wide net. Then I pulled that net back (a lot) when I realized that if you cast a wide net in the Washington DC area, you’re going to catch a lot of intelligence, surveillance, and defense work. That’s not me. I didn’t know that the healthcare industry was “me”, either, but that’s where I’ve landed—partially because nothing I’ll do for my new company even comes close to any products I’ve made or thought about (which is good, because they’re covered by NDA for another 18 months), but partially because this company’s products fill a specific need, what we build directly affects the happiness of real people every day, and keeping healthcare workers happy means better patient care. Also, yay, happy people.
My new job is “Senior Technical Product Manager” at a company called Kit Check—a start-up focused on providing tools for hospital pharmacy kit automation (there’s a lot more to it than that, but even that is a pretty big thing). The company was in the 4th Rock Health class (one of my favorite accelerators, and yes, I do have “favorite accelerators”), and secured $10M in funding a few months ago. I really like the co-founders—they’re doing good things with their money while building a good team and good products. I plan to hang out here and help them do that, and see where the company goes (Hint: it’s going to go somewhere big. You can take that comment with a grain of salt, though, since I used to own both Webvan and Pets.com stock, but I think I’m right this time.)
Some of you may say “wait, ‘Senior Technical Product Manager’ doesn’t sound like ‘building a development team, managing developers, and architecting solutions'”…that’s true. It doesn’t. I’m not building a development team myself—but I’m helping the CTO do that. I’m not managing developers—it’s a fairly flat organization and there’s not a lot of “management”, period, but of course I’m offering advice and such where I can. I’m not responsible for architecting solutions, but I do it anyway because we’re all doing it together. I’m doing a lot of what I’ve done my whole career—some technical stuff, some management stuff, some UX-y stuff—and this is the closest title we could come up with to encompass All The Things. I’m happy with it, and I sure am busy at work (I’ve been working here on a contract basis for the last two months).
I will take this opportunity to link to a great blog post I read a few months ago: “A Product Manager’s Job”, by Josh Elman. Now, you can search for “what does a technical product manager do” and come up with a gazillion bits of info about product management, all which sound pretty generic and boring, but I can promise you that generic and boring isn’t what I’m about (and isn’t what I do). I like Elman’s description: “The job of a product manager is to help your team (and company) ship the right product to your users.”
That’s what I’m up to. Oh, and if you’re a Ruby on Rails developer or knows someone who is, we’re hiring some. Join us! We’ll be the happy folks making good products in DC’s Chinatown district.