There comes a point in the growth of a startup where you need to hire someone to run Product Management – and we hit that inflection point at the end of 2012. We’re excited to welcome Tracy Ruggles, our new Director of Product Management. We put together a Q and A with Tracy so you can get to know him too.
Well, I tell my mom that I collaborate with designers and engineers to build the stuff she sees out on that thing called the internet. These days I do less of the actual building and more of the directing and managing of all the various pieces, making sure schedules are lining up, thinking about dependencies across the organization, adding gym creative input, researching our competitors, looking at other companies doing similar things in different realms and enjoying the ride.
I embraced the world of agile development early on and have worked for start-ups most of my career so I was never part of the practice of building giant PRDs and throwing it over the wall to engineering. What has changed are all the tools for testing, prototyping, reporting and collaborating. It’s an exciting time to be a product manager with all of these services that help me communicate these ideas rumbling around in my head.
Smile! I’m still relatively new here and I’m really excited to be thinking about, designing and working on building a fabulous photo storage, management and sharing service. In particular, though, we’ve been untangling how to present faceted search in a simple way so that it combines the power of facets with the fun of exploration.
Wow, lots of things, but I think in general I’m always wondering and looking at the nature of perception, identity and media. So much of our being and fundamental nature depends and grows out of how we communicate and collaborate with each other. The rise of social media and kids growing up not knowing what it was like before the internet is creating some really fascinating changes on the entire planet. And, now that everyone can take photos (and I’d argue we are all photographers), how is that changing how we communicate and maintain connections with more and more people.
What does it mean to “share”? A lot of the great successes of recent social networking sites have capitalized on a very open model of sharing, but we’ve seen the need for a more limited model of sharing among smaller, tighter networks. Most recently, a lot of interesting start-ups have appeared addressing the need for group photo albums. I’m watching how these evolve and thinking how that applies to the people using our service to help families stay connected regardless of geographical distances.
In general, a good process doesn’t constrict you but rather liberates you to be creative and stay in the flow… There are always going to be things you don’t know that you don’t know and a good process should not blind you to the learnings you get when those are uncovered.
For product management, a process should always put the user and their experiences within the product front and foremost. The freedom to experiment and fail are key ingredients, too.
And, the team! Product management is nothing without the creative and technical minds of everyone who is contributing to the evolving product. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts in a good collaborative environment.
I get my inspiration outside the fields of product management and software design. It’s important to me to keep in touch with other creative pursuits. Being a musician, performer, writer and avid photographer I get my inspiration from the music, poetry and art I experience. Though, I have to say, 37signals’ “Getting Real” was a huge influence on me early on.
Recently, I’ve really been inspired by the work that Amanda Palmer has been doing in turning her love of music into a real career because of the intimate connections she makes with her fans and the vulnerability she’s willing to step into to get there. (See her recent TED talk for an introduction to what she does). That connection and intimacy she seeks out can be a model for how we develop a photo sharing platform. We’re not just building a tool for people to use, but an experience that should help create and enhance those intimate moments with your friends and family. I’m contemplating how the web and the user interfaces we create can fade into the background so that it’s just you and your loved ones and the images that tell the stories of your lives.
information aesthetics – a wonderful blog about exciting information visualization projects
codrops - super cool experiments and techniques in web design
Techmeme – for staying on top of the tech and start-up worlds
Pitchfork – new music reviews, primarily interested in the indie and experimental music scenes
UbuWeb - the most invaluable collection of avant-garde works anywhere in the world. Any time you want to bust of conventional thinking, go there and explore the fascinating (and sometimes challenging) works of art.
Smashing Magazine – great articles on various aspects of web design & development
UX Magazine – another great set of articles focused on user experience disciplines
Behance - some really great designers have great portfolios there. A great place to go for design inspiration.
Also, I have a collection of poetry (in print, yikes!) that I read in small, potent doses. Some of my favorite go-to poets who help keep my mind limber: Walt Whitman, Gertrude Stein, Clark Coolidge, Leslie Scalapino, Jack Kerouac, Diane di Prima, Hannah Weiner, Jack Spicer, Robert Duncan, Charles Olson, Allen Ginsberg.
The people here are great! I love the creativity here. Everyone is great at what they do. Oh, and the lunches here are magnificent. I haven’t eaten this well in years.
Wow, not sure… I have various groups of friends from different areas of life who wouldn’t be surprised about anything I can come up with here. But, here are a few short things: I want to go (and maybe live) in Iceland; I had a former life as a performance artist; when I drive I listen to music really loud and never blink an eye when my playlist jumps from Deadmau5 to Townes van Zandt to The Dead Weather to Air Supply; I have a favorite word: chthonic.
Direct Insight: so I can escape the limitations of my own thoughts. Mu! comments powered by Disqus