Year Two at the Tridion (Sites) Mothership

It's been a year since my last "Year-in-Review" post. Actually, it's been a year since my last post on my personal blog (but not on SDL Community!).

The Dutch Life

In terms of life in the Netherlands, we (BSMSO) fixed up the house with refurbished, temporary kitchen cabinets and (BSMSO) redid the backyard. We traveled a bit more in our second year here and had family visit us.

We even got annual passes to Disneyland Paris, visiting for a few trips including the May the Fourth celebration.
May the 4th Be with You

How we celebrate Star Wars in Europe 

His outfit was a hit but we're not sure if it's because he looked like a small Jedi... or a Jawa


My feet and back still hurt thinking about all the trips from carrying the kids, which probably wasn't helped by my choice of footwear, popularized in the Tridion community most prominently by this guy.
Of course, you need a Chuck II Shield Canvas in the Netherlands.
Because... rain.
And custom Chuck Taylors for the office. 
A new nickname "Al Vino" deserves a Dark Sangria Chuck Taylor.

The year wasn't all about Disneyland and cool shoes. Coincidentally, 2017 was also the year a few of my earliest "Tridion" colleagues moved to the Netherlands. And our kids get along! I'm feeling so adult.

Those were personal highlights. I also saw some changes at work this year.

New Know

One of the biggest changes was Nuno Linhares reinventing himself into a solutions guru that solves problems with tools I can almost articulate. Whatever he actually does, he's back to sharing practical expertise with things like hands-on guides on DXA .NET and Java, answers on Tridion Stack Exchange, and Tridion Developer Summit presentations.

Nuno Re-envisioned aka Nuno the Legend of the Phoenix (Wenartwork) aka the Tridion Universe Phase II III
Things worked out after a brief existential crisis. Though I lost Nuno, the boss, his return to the Netherlands means we all get Nuno the friend, mentor, and problem-solver.

Tridion Changes

Independent of New Know's new role, product development adopted a few welcome, though not always easy, improvements to our development process including a change in teams, new roles, and new people.

We shifted towards more feature teams over traditional component teams. This means a given team can work on, for example, a feature in the Content Manager Explorer UI and back-end Content Manager, which helps reduce dependencies and hand-offs.

Our various SDL Tridion Sites Feature Teams typically work on end-to-end features across one or more components.

We continued our adoption of scaled agile practices (SAFe). Dedicated Product Owners and part-to-full-time Scrum masters improved our collaboration between product management and development teams while letting some of our senior developers do more development and less paperwork.

As part of the changes, I adopted the new title/role of Product Owner (read the interview), which is very much a product job with a more internal focus (see Melissa Perri's post describing the two roles and her point that Product Owner is a role whereas Product Management is the job).

We also increased product management expertise from various backgrounds outside the company. Though we've previously boasted product management had several decades of Tridion expertise, it's nice to compliment this with several decades of product management experience at various levels.

The hardest part of this year was saying goodbye to colleagues who are hopefully enjoying new challenges and success in new roles. I hope we can make them proud and act as good stewards of the software they built and grew. Though I did tease one colleague that just to spite him, someday I'm going to brag about that one feature he really really wanted. :-)

Sharing

Having been on the inside for awhile now, or what one of my colleagues might call "living indoors," means I'm not on Tridion implementations. For better or worse, I don't live the life of an implementer.

Though I'll have a few personal blog posts in 2017, I was able to present to the community, blog on SDL Community, and connect several of our internal groups to the Tridion Sites technical community.

Presentations

This year's community presentations included:

I also posted some follow-up answers including ways to integrate separate systems with the External Content Library.

Blogs

I blogged what we worked on at the MVP retreat and offered an intro to Peter's PowerShell scripts along with some use cases you might explore yourself. I shared yet another post on (translation) context. Occasionally, I help with urgent issues that get turned into troubleshooting guides. I also thanked you for the love for SDL Web 8.5.

As mentioned in my last post, I had the opportunity to help reboot all of the SDL Ideas. Now I'm trying to be transparent and clear on what we need for enhancement requests, especially those related to integrations.

Connecting Others


And that was the year minus these remaining few weeks. I don't know how 2018 will turn out, but I'm definitely optimistic.

2018

I initially came to the Netherlands with the idea of staying 2-to-3 years. But the chance to work on SDL Tridion Sites can be addicting on its own. And understanding the customer's challenges and the speed of change in the World means the job of prioritizing problems is never done.

So next year I'm really looking forward to the planned Tridion Sites 9 release and then working with the other teams to start transforming the UX vision (see parts 1 and 2) into reality.

How did your year go? Was it everything you expected? Did you get the Phoenix joke? Leave a comment or share your own "Year-in-Review" post. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, yo Saturnalia, and see you in the New Year.

Al Vino the Connector

While working on a "Year in Review" post, I noticed how I've changed in interacting with the community. Previously, I often shared things I was personally working on which somehow got me to over 300 Tridion-related blog posts by last year.

And as much as I've loved (and continue) sharing myself, I also enjoy encouraging others to share with the Tridion Sites technical community. Many agree it's a Great IdeaTM but some feel I have some special connection and maybe "street cred" with the community. Perhaps they mistake verbosity with credibility? :-)

Anyways, in the end, I'll often connect my colleagues or their work to the larger community. This includes:
  • Documentation
  • Education
  • SDL Community Teasers
  • Market Research

Documentation

One nice part of working at Tridion Sites HQ are all the system diagrams. It's not just the occasional BluePrint diagram seen at a client site, but diagrams on all kinds of scenarios, components, and overviews on whiteboards and in digital format.

I was quite excited to offer feedback to a re-envisioned overview diagram with Technical Writer Julie Landman and help solicit feedback on SDL Community.

Education

Having a functional consultant and business analyst background plus being in a product role means lots of questions. It's nice being a called upon as a subject matter expert, but my time and even my expertise on (lots) of topics are limited.

I followed up on a question from Education with some questions of my own on typical content organizations. If you haven't already (it's not that popular of a post for some reason), feel free to describe what you've seen in your day-to-day work or implementations. I'll share the results back with Education and UX.

SDL Community Teasers 

Fellow colleague Bart Koopman and I have been helping manage that small promotional spot on the SDL Tridion Sites group alongside our colleagues in Customer Enablement.

Content promos or teasers always look simple... on the surface.

Hey, it's a contextual editing button for our SDL Community platform (Telligent-powered).

Wait, what do you mean it's not just a list or set of embedded fields?

These call-outs are not managed with Tridion, but they're definitely managed content. We can't take credit for the nice images, though I shared a few things including the marketing survey, the 2013 SP1 Support extension, and Jan Horsman's Community Review (the posts are tagged #community).

Market Research

Working with our User Experience team, I've previously encouraged the community to participate in user research. This year I made a small post to ask for more market research in the form of the August survey from Product Marketing.

Maybe you've participated in the survey or recognize some of your own projects, but do be mindful of confidentiality especially since participants can choose to share the results of their answers at various levels of anonymity.

It's definitely nice to see how our software helps customers solve real problems.

Community Enabled and Empowered

The most refreshing thing about sharing in 2017 is the explicit support of leadership from our VP of Product to Product Management Director, leadership in Professional Services, and the official SDL Community platform. We're seeing more posts, technical webinars, and video content as we shift from our strong organic efforts to the next step in our community maturity.

Connected by Alvin

Oh, I almost forgot to explain the title of this post. By some prophetic coincidence, three of our recent Product Managers have the word "no" in their name (Nuno, Onno, and now Arno). As a joke that maybe I could work towards such a title, I'm adopting yet another nickname: Alvino, which makes a nice pun in Spanish as "Al vino" (to the wine).

Regardless of the title, there's something quite satisfying in working with the team that helps connect SDL Tridion Sites to everything as well as connecting technical writing, education, product marketing, and other groups to our technical community.

Once a Project Manager... (The Reboot of all SDL Ideas)

About a year back someone apparently liked how I helped reboot SDL Tridion Ideas and so volunteered me to help the community team reboot all of the SDL Idea sites which became an interesting exercise in Midas Rule and change management (change leadership even).

I've heard "Product Management" described as a role with all of the responsibilities but none of the authority. But I'll argue that project management, especially cross-functional project management, is even more challenging.

Credit for the implementation, technical integrations, and managing the actual requests go to the community team and respective product groups. I'm just proud and lucky enough to play the role of "connector" or maybe minor facilitator in the SDL Ideas reboot. Anyways, remembering the mission, being flexible in the details, and sharing ownership while respecting the Midas Rule seemed to work.

Deceptively simple: align public ideas across all SDL product lines. Credit goes to John Backx and Lennert for the reboot. I had the job of poster child saying, "yeah, sure we rebooted SDL Tridion Ideas and it was all good. Sure, sure they don't bite."
The next phase of this project is getting more people to use SDL Ideas while doing my part to respond to ideas that apply to my own projects.

A Year Or So in Product Management

After joining SDL and making an intrastate move from San Diego to San Jose five years ago, I posted what the first month was like.

Now I take a look back at the past year or so that started with an international move from San Diego to Nieuwegein, a city in Utrecht in "Holland" aka The Netherlands, near the end of 2015. After finding an unfinished rental, BSMSO did much of the work to fix up the place with paint, laminate flooring, and a yard complete with a small picket fence. The kids helped a bit too.

Can you dig it?

It's small, but it's still a picket fence.


Going Dutch 

We're loving our new home. Local stores are just around the corner along a wooded path and interesting places are a relatively quick drive or train ride away.

A walk to the local market which includes an Albert Heijn, of course.
To enjoy Dutch culture you can do things like visit Gouda. Yes, it's a place. And yes, it has cheese.

There are beaches here, just like back in California. Sort of.
I sometimes forget I'm in Europe, especially at home or when driving the A2, where big flat fields and livestock remind me I'm not in California.

Other details give a parallel universe vibe where traffic lights are on the near side of the street instead of across the street. "Aluminum" soda cans attract magnets. And snuggles isn't Snuggles, but rather Robijntje.

I'm not partial to fabric softener, but this bear stood out as one of many things that have been localized to this market. So much is familiar, yet different.

They have Renaissance fairs just like back home. But with castles.

Learning Dutch

Though I've entertained the idea of learning Dutch I haven't tried in earnest beyond the occasional lesson on Duolingo, Somehow I'm picking up the odd phrase or word through osmosis with phrases like:

  • "Ik ben" is "I am."
  • "Korting" means sale a discount. Like in the US there's always a sale, so it doesn't mean much except that you're looking at some type of advertisement.
  • "Alle-" means "all," as prefixed as an adjective in front of another word
  • "Lekker" is useful when ordering food or eating out.
  • "Met" is with, "of" is or, and "van" is from.
  • And "-je" is a way to make something diminutive, similar to the "-ito" in Spanish.
I've heard (from this guy) that learning an additional language might interfere with whatever other (secondary) language you already know. For Brits that might mean Dutch interfering with the French they may have learned in school. For a San Diegan that might be Spanish. I had an odd moment at a local Chilean Independence Festival, I was wondering how I could actually read a sign until I realized it was in Spanish rather than Dutch.

Cross-Cultural Observations

I've had Dutch colleagues and met a few of my current coworkers before moving here. The thing about Dutch (or any) stereotypes are that there may be some truth in them, but they definitely don't apply to everyone. Make assumptions at your own peril.

And as an international technology and services company focused on content and language, a good number of my colleagues have origin stories that started elsewhere. The thing to notice isn't the short-sighted fear that people grow and move on to other roles and companies. It's in how they come together from different backgrounds (work, culture, nationality, you name it) to further the mission. Where you're from doesn't matter as much as where we're headed.

Here are a few that have served similar roles at work, from the Floridian-New Yorker originally from Portugal to... I better not guess (actually I know most, but 1. don't want to leave anyone out and 2. give away personal info they haven't shared themselves). They all somehow found their way to the Amsterdam office at some point coming with various backgrounds, cultures, and nationalities. All have a passion for technical products and services.
One of the strangest personal adjustments is meeting Filipinos abroad. As a Filipino-American born and raised in Southern California, most Filipino-speaking people I've known are either family members or are in the US through the US Navy (through service or marriage). When I hear Tagalog or meet people speaking English with a Filipino accent, it's surreal sharing part of my cultural heritage but not the American part. What do you mean you're not a Filipino American? I'm hoping my children's status as "third culture kids" will be to their benefit in the long run.

At work and in my public interactions, though, I guess I represent America more than the Philippines. Speaking of work...

Work

New role. New shoes, of course.

After getting proper footwear, I focused on the new job which included much of the past role of knowing, explaining, and sharing about the software plus:
  • Customer meetings, events, and online/in-person presentations
  • Research, including meetings, emails, online searches, surveys, customer meetings, and more
  • Internal meetings including backlog grooming sessions, acceptance meetings, stand-ups (for now), and the big go- no-go meetings.
Occasionally we have to solve interesting problems.

The engineers either identified an interesting solution or an interesting problem. 

Not all problems are of the software variety.

Prioritizing prioritization.


Changes

Within the year, I've also had slight adjustments to the role:
  1. We dropped technical from the title. It's product manager, without a qualification.
  2. I started working with Translation Manager and External Content Libraries as "my" products.
  3. Most recently, I'm now working with Experience Optimization and Audience Manager as part of an integrated, well integrations team.
Someone joked I'm the new "previous-product-manager's-name," I asked if I should grow out my hair to match hers. ;-) Hopefully I'll live up to the expectations but my Facebook pics will never rival hers.

Actually, I did have long hair in a past life. This is a slide from my SDL Connect presentation. Some change is good.

I'm still helping a bit on usability and user experience, representing and bringing the customer's voice in grooming and design sessions. We made some changes for editors this year and there's of course more changes to make.

Releases

I've almost forgotten what it was like when you had to wait over a year for a Tridion release. Since moving to the Netherlands, I saw the team release Web 8, then helped a bit as they followed up with a Web 8 cumulative update (8.1.1). Then we had the Web 8 mid-year cloud release and my colleague Onno shared a Preview of Web 8.3 and Web 8.5 before we had the actual Web 8.5 release this month. Even better is the fact the SDL Web Cloud docs reflect the latest changes. In terms of cloud you should reference dates rather than versions.

Community

Along the way I rebooted SDL Tridion Ideas while my other colleague Bart released DXA several times (I'm losing count) and started moving extensions to the official SDL App Store with the help of Mark. See an example for a sneak peak before we release the rest of the extensions.

Change is coming.

As an even bigger initiative, we're working on reinforcing this cadence by adopting similar practices used by colleagues in Language (SAFe), which I should share about as we go along.

Sharing

From wide-eyed MVP winner, I've found I could encourage others to share and then encourage and recognize others that create sharers. For example, after joining the Amsterdam office, at least five colleagues started blogging (two in UX, two architects, and a fellow PM). ;-) I'm working on management next.

And speaking of community, I've posted much (much) less on CreateandBreak (Disruptive Innovator) while finding my new Product Manager voice on SDL Community. See:

Bring on 2017

Let me end 2016 by revisiting Nuno's Staying True to (Y)our Legacy post. The context may be different but the advice remains for organizations and individuals alike. I'm paraphrasing his list of facts into 6 points:
  1. Focus in order to grow.
  2. Recognize your legacy, user your strengths and let go of what isn't working.
  3. Help customers to be relevant to their customers.
  4. Be a good steward and let others shine. 
  5. Play nice with others. Don't try to be all things for everyone.
  6. Embrace what others love in you.
Through choice and aptitude, as shaped by our environments, we often have certain skills and abilities that make us a best fit to solve certain problems.

For me, that means bringing the right people and technology together to solve the right problems. Though "connect" was a theme for SDL this year, I've used the phrase SDL Connected before and believe connection is the perfect focus point for SDL Web's integrations. A good part of my past roles have been about connecting systems while bringing developers and the business closer together, which makes my current role a perfect fit.

That doesn't mean it'll necessarily be easy. Bring on Product Management Year Two.