Just back from vacation and also some work travel and want to get back to blogging so expect a few posts over the next couple weeks.
During my absence I posted a couple new episodes of Bothsides TV recently. I’ll try to get write-ups shortly but for now here is an overview of my interview with Nanea Reeves – President and COO of textPlus. I could have listened to her for hours as many of her lessons were ones I hadn’t heard before such as how she used online gaming when she was younger as a way of both teaching herself tech as well as learning to lead remote teams.
Just so you know I work directly with Nanea and her arrival last year at TextPlus as President & COO has been transformational for the company. I’m sure I would speak for the entire board and management team in asserting this. I’ll try to do a future blog post on some of my insights in watching Nanea enter the role and how the founders enabled her success. It has been awesome to watch what most would have thought impossible.
Nanea Reeves has a storied career in senior leadership roles at technology companies. Check out these amazing credentials before concluding why you should watch this episode or at least some of the powerful clips. Nanea help leadership roles at EA (SVP, COO Global Online), Gaikai (Chief Product Officer, Chief Strategy Officer), JAMDAT (SVP), Machinma (COO) and currently textPlus (President & COO – including leading engineering and product). In our video we discussed leadership topics such as managing product and engineering teams, communication and company organization.
Here are some things we discussed:
Product management can often become a battle of competing interests – business goals and user experience. If this is the case, Nanea stresses that it is critically important to prioritize user experience. In the four episodes I’ve filmed, this has already become a recurring theme. If you watched episode 1, this was something what Amit Kapur attributed as one of the primary causes of the downfall of Myspace. In this short clip below, Nanea emphasizes this important point – if you create a product customers love, it will ultimately be a good business decision as well.
I asked Nanea about how she differentiates between managing engineers and product managers across her organization. Instead of breaking up teams amongst their disciplines, she describes “feature teams” she’s deployed across textPlus wherein teams are multidisciplinary and assigned to single features of the product. Benefits of this are:
- Team members from all disciplines are exposed to the overall business goals of the product and company
- Ownership and accountability on feature releases
In the clip below we spoke about the benefits of sending product team members (including engineers) to meet customers as well as all hands taking part in customer service calls. We’ve both found that having everyone on the same page with regard to customer needs and pain points translates to a team that is on the same page with regard to company goals.
I personally recommend this to every team with whom I work. There is a tangible understand that comes from engineers talking with real customers that simply can’t be gleaned from intuition or staring at computer screens.
In this clip we discuss why Nanea is a proponent of a lean startup and data driven development methodology. She combines gathering:
- Quantitative data – data hook implementation, click tracking, A/B testing
- Qualitative data – user interviews, focus groups
These are just a few clips I pulled out, we delve into a range of other topics including:
- Taking over a team that has been directed by other people
- Office politics – including Nanea’s experience being a woman in technology. In a way I had thought to avoid this topic since Nanea’s success has come from strict leadership skills & instincts that are truly gender neutral. But as Nanea seemed interested in engaging in the topic we went there and I hope that both men & women can learn from hearing her views.
- We also explored the communication styles of men vs women including our experiences that men are quick to take credit for successes and to try and one-up their colleagues competitively whereas often women are not as assertive in claiming credit even when it’s due. Have a listen and see for yourself. I would of course welcome your feedback in the comments on the blog to add to this conversation or to disagree with any conclusions we may have had.