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.

Five Years, 300-ish Posts, and Counting...

I've been anticipating and humble-bragging that I would soon reach 300 Tridion blog posts.

But I had to double check and the truth is since joining the Tridion online community, I've already posted 311 posts, but not all have been about Tridion.

See a breakdown of my posts since 2011* across my personal blog, the official community site (previously TridionWorld and now SDL Community), and TridionDeveloper, a blog hosted by ContentBloom.

*I'm not including the cookbook, PowerTools, or my BA Toolkit code as posts. And though I started blogging and Tridion a few years before 2011, I didn't have the nerve to blog about Tridion until 2011.

After gathering my posts from the sites, I roughly categorized them into the following categories, listed in alphabetical order:
  • Blogging and Community
  • Example Code
  • Humor/Satire
  • Industry and Events
  • Personal/Career
  • Practices and Design
  • Product Features
  • Short or !Tridion (for really short posts or posts that had little to do with Tridion, its community, or my participation in the community)
  • Training/Guide
I'm sure posts could be reclassified or might have multiple categories, but I'm keeping it mostly simple.

Breakdown

I posted on a variety of topics on my own blog. But on sites with a clearer audience, I posted on fewer topics, meant for the intended audience. For TridionDeveloper I had a few technical posts on practices or design as well as example code. I also announced the Tridion Stack Exchange beta. On SDL Community or TridionWorld I shared training information or guides, product features, and a few posts on practices, industry events (Innovate), and community.



Combined, these made up my past 311 posts.


Audience-Focused by Channel... Mostly

You probably already filter your communication to the channel and audience. But if you find yourself asking what might you blog or share about, a good answer could be:
Share whatever you want, as long as its appropriate for the audience.
Below you can see I kept humorous, personal, or non-Tridion posts off both the official SDL Community sites and TridionDeveloper blog. But topics were "fair game" on CreateAndBreak.net.

Someone once made a point to me that "having an online persona without a personal website is almost like having a great party and not inviting anyone over." A personal site or blog offers those curious about you more information than just LinkedIn or Twitter. Also...
"...there’s nothing like meeting someone physically for the first time after having 'known' that person for a while online – and then sharing a beer!"
In addition to the Tridion-specific topics, I've shared some personal or career updates as well as some humorous posts, where I think I managed to piss someone off once, but promptly apologized and corrected the offending bits.

That's a lot of blah blah blogging.

Mostly Tridion

And since I had the data already (in Excel), I took another view with radial diagrams to emphasize the focus for each of these channels.

My personal blog, CreateAndBreak.net, features lots of topics, with the majority about Tridion practices and design. However, SDL Community/TridionWorld as well as TridionDeveloper are more about the audience.

I'm trying not to see a baby seal in this profile of blog topics. 

So though it's true that I've long advocated blogging and shared about the Tridion community itself, the majority (~29% or 81 posts, give or take) of my posts have been about Tridion practices and design. I somehow managed to share about a dozen snippets of code as well.

I suspect my posting velocity will drop a bit in my current role, but I'll continue to share about product features, industry news, and observations about our excellent community and developers.

Thanks so much for all of your help and community contributions along the way. Keep sharing and let us know about your own milestones.

Tridion Developer Summit 2016

Congratulations to Robert Curlette, the sponsors, and fellow presenters on another successful Tridion Developer Summit (TDS) 2016!

I want to share some quick observations as a presenter and fellow attendee as well as advice to those wanting to present or represent a vendor or partner. Oh and there'll be pictures at the end.

Context Matters, Especially for Developers

Tridionauts really love their IDEs. From DD4T to Alchemy GUI extensions to XView templating, implementers will find ways to do everything in their IDE of choice. Call our own Content Delivery API? Nope, they'll wrap it in DD4T. XML Configuration? Nope, they'll do that in a class in Alchemy (intellisense ftw!). Individual Template Building Blocks? Nope, instead maybe create a single Template Building Block (TBB) with the logic in its own MVC application in the Content Manager (TOM.NET) and call it XView.

By the way, our own DXA in Azure appeals this type of persona. As much as Tridionauts like Tridion, I see the work in these projects supporting the idea that Web developers want to develop. The product, extensions, and community work to make that easy.

Yes, I've Seen the Article. Did You Notice the Process?

"Have you seen this article in CMS Wire about SDL?"

"Why yes, you're the fourth person to mention it."

This post isn't about the content of the article or SDL's divestment news. For a good perspective on that, read a post referenced in the first article. This post is about a Linked-In feature, semantics, and possibly micro-formats.

So, how did you hear about the article? I don't see you mention the post about strategy shifts or this one about non-core units.

I suspect you heard about it through the Mentioned in the News (Linked-In) feature that promotes online news stories about people to their connections using an AI algorithm.

Here's what I (and maybe up to 500+ connections) saw. Note how the email automatically included:
  • A link to the article
  • The headline
  • A link to the connection's profile


The article, the connection's profile, and an email.

There are also two ways users can influence in the interaction:

  1. Wrong Person? In the email you can note if the person was incorrectly identified by Linked-In's algorithm
  2. Notifying connections when you're in the news. As a Linked-In user, you can opt out of this feature as seen below.



I find this fascinating in a few ways.
  1. Semantics. I'm not sure it's required to make the feature work, but the article uses microformats to mark the headline appropriately (itemprop="headline"). In addition to Google search results, this is a nice practical example of the more fuzzy term, semantics.
  2. Concrete. I suspect many are seeing the email and are interested in content labeled, "News about [your connection]." It's refreshing to see a direct connection mentioned rather than another link-bait title. This falls under the tip of using concrete details to create "sticky" messages. 
  3. Subtle AI. I also suspect few stop to notice the article doesn't actually link to your connection's Linked-In profile. An automated AI program determined the connection based on (plain) text in a news article and then grabbed the headline as well as a reasonable excerpt from the article. 
  4. Tracked. The links and images have querystring parameters likely for analytics, tracking, and/or possibly personalization features on Linked-In (which isn't really surprising).
  5. Not new. I'm late to the party. The feature was mentioned here and here.
  6. What Share Link? Despite the sharing link in the email, I ran across the article in Skype and Slack chat. Long live copy & paste!
  7. Creepiness averted. Offering user control is an important part of personalizing the customer experience.
So, what did you notice when you or someone else shared the story? Did your contact's name stand out? Did you congratulate him on being cited by an industry news source and/or discovered by Linked-In's algorithm? Or did you find this article in another way?

Maybe the content and news was compelling enough that you forgot about Linked-In?