Q&A with Expert Product Managers: Dane Eppler from Concur
Welcome to the eighth installation of our product management interview series, where successful product managers across various verticals share where the PM industry is going, how to overcome challenges, and general advice. If you missed our last interview with Lauren Chan from StubHub, we recommend giving it a read, as well!
As mobile engagement continues to increase, companies across all industries have shifted product strategy to push their mobile experience toward the top. The product management world has gone mobile, and PMs have had to adjust to strategic changes big and small.
To explore what’s changed and what’s next for product managers, we’re bringing you the best minds in product management to share their thoughts on what’s top-of-mind, and where the industry is going.
Today, we’re excited to bring you thoughts from Dane Eppler, Product Manager at Concur. Here’s what Dane had to say!
Q: How did you get into product management?
My first “real world” job was working for a small, rapidly growing company in Salt Lake called HealthEquity where I was focused on business and operations analysis. As the company grew, I found a niche working with the software development teams to deliver new features and implement processes that clients were demanding. As the company expanded, I continued to grow and strengthen my PM acumen which allowed me to eventually become one of the inaugural Product Owners. I’ve been in love with the role ever since.
Q: How do you think mobile product managers’ roles in the organization are changing?
The longer that Agile practices and other development methodologies are around and in use, the better organizations are becoming at defining how they expect their product managers to create value. To me, this means that the PM role is increasingly able to rely on their supporting teams and focus on streamlining the complex conversations necessary to build great products. A shared lexicon and expectations of roles and responsibilities helps my teams and I make development and strategy decisions faster so that we can spend more time working on a better product.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face as a mobile PM? How do you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges as a mobile PM is, and always will be, trying to maximize how end users use your product on their mobile device. Mobile technology continues pushing the envelope around these devices that we keep on us 24/7, and mobile PMs have to work through how our product fits into people’s lifecycles and patterns.
Striking the balance of function, education, and delight is a tricky act, but it’s always something I’m aiming for. To accomplish this, I do a lot of user feedback studies, metrics reviews, experimentation and good old-fashioned homework. I don’t ever see this challenge going away, but I do see myself getting better at continually finding the slight edge that will wow our users.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to give to other mobile PMs?
Always stay curious.
Being a PM means you have the unique opportunity to meaningfully interact with and influence any number of other roles – development, analytics, design, strategy, etc. This means that there is no shortage of areas in which you can expand your topical knowledge. I’ve found this allows me to expedite conversations and ask better questions of my colleagues. Take the extra 10 minutes to learn about something you just found out about; it might come in handy down the road.
Q: What are you looking ahead to in 2018?
Professionally, I’m looking forward to shipping a couple major features that have been in development for the past several months. My team have been hard at work optimizing our architecture and increasing security for our users, and I’m very excited to get these features in the hands of our users.
I’m also very interested to see where iOS and Android OS and hardware are going to go next. It’s always exciting to see the innovation Apple and Google bring to the table, and what that means for the rest of us.
Personally, I’m going to get certified to sail this year and I’m planning a big vacation with my wife to Thailand.
Q: What’s your favorite way to stay up to date on all things product management?
For product management as a whole, I primarily stick to books and the occasional Medium article. I’ve found PM inspiration in almost every business book I’ve read, but my go-to is “The Book of Five Rings” as a must read every few months. For all things technology, I stay plugged in via Geekwire, TechCrunch, and whatever comes across my teams’ slack channels.
Q: With no resource constraints, if I could work on any app, it would be [fill in the blank]. Why?
If I could work on any app, I would create something that helped foster learning and education focused around job growth and career development. I see a lot of motivated people in the world who are wanting to progress towards something, but they often times get stuck skimming articles on their favorite news sites without getting to go deeper. I would love to have an app that provided more substantive guidance based on what others in a specific role have done. It could be a great resource for both individuals in the middle of their career as well as those just starting out.
Q: I feel [fill in the blank] without my smartphone.
Blissfully ignorant. I love games, memes, and work email as much as the next person, but disconnecting from my phone really reinforces for me that there’s no substitute for downtime.
Q: Android or iOS?
iOS. I actually like the Android UI better, but I’m past the days of wanting to customize all my icons and layouts. iOS offers me a simpler UX, and these days I’m all about simplifying.
Q: What does customer love mean to you?
Customer love means listening to and understanding your customer’s goals and what they need from you in order to reach them. At the end of the day, the customer relationship is a partnership and we’re both trying to grow and improve. Maximizing that growth on both sides absolutely requires fostering love.
A huge thank you to Dane for taking the time to share his thoughts. Stay tuned for the next interview soon, and check out our first four interviews from these expert PMs: