Starting a new job is like enrolling at a school in the middle of the semester. You know what work needs to be done, but there's a steep learning curve when it comes to fitting in. Fortunately, one of the first people I got to know at Salsita was Product Manager Alfred DeRose.
Alfred knows the ins and outs of his own projects and has critical insight into many others. This was a tremendous help when I started as Salsita's copywriter. But what I appreciate the most about Alfred is his command of the soft skills. His clear communication, encouragement, and motivation has benefited each team as well as our clients.
— Lancelot Purdue
What do you enjoy most about being a Product Manager?
Two things: First, the variety of both our work and projects. If there’s one thing product management isn’t, it’s boring. I’m the PM on our 3D Product Configurator and the work I do every day varies to a great degree. Working with the rest of the team to drive one of our most important strategic products forward is really exciting and that keeps it interesting.
Second, I like the work, but I love the people I get to work with. We work hard, but we also take time to have fun together—even in these strange times when it is necessary for our regular team-building to be online rather than in person.
What sets apart the teams at Salsita compared to ones you’ve worked with at previous companies?
When I was in the hot seat during my interviews with Salsita three years ago, I asked many questions of my own about the teams and how they work. At the time, I was coming off nearly 10 years of running my own company and then a couple of years of consulting. I was tired of the hit-or-miss quality of teams you get in consulting and hesitant about going back to a traditional employment gig. In my interviews with the entire PM team, they universally told me something about Salsita that stuck with me, and ultimately, it’s one of the things that made me want to be part of the team:
You can trust people to deliver the first time.
I’ve been lucky to work with some really great people over the years, but this is by far the highest concentration of real pros I’ve seen. Salsita standards are pretty high and the other PMs were right. This is a great group of people to work with.
Equally important, the culture at Salsita is what I wish I had fostered in my own company. It's really cliche, but it is a bit like a family here, despite our many, many differences.
As an expat in Prague, have you ever experienced friction from cultural differences? How did you handle it?
I’ve heard stories from other expats about how Czechs can be standoffish, but I have never found that to be the case. When I got here nearly 20 years ago, I knew I was going to be here for the long haul so I decided that I’d better just find my place and settle in. I get by with the language, have many Czech friends, and don’t hang out in typical expat places.
Fitting in is about looking inward and finding a way to be comfortable and fit in with your new environment. It’s not all about looking for your new environment to conform to your expectations. That’s what I have tried to do and I suspect people saw the effort I made to be part of the community and responded to that.
Which aspects from your years as a youth and family counselor have helped in your PM role?
That seems like a lifetime ago but I have definitely carried some lessons forward with me in my career. Maybe the most important is open and honest communication. I can’t stress enough how much this matters for both our clients and teams. Surprises—both good and bad—knock people off center. It’s important to bring people along for the ride so they feel part of the process. Keeping the lines of communication open is a big part of how you do that.
You’ve worked as a PM for close to 20 years. What advice would you pass on to someone getting started in this line of work?
Twenty years of experience doesn’t mean that you know everything. In fact, it doesn't mean you know anything. There are still days when I feel that way. My best advice is don’t stop learning. My colleagues are all smart people and good at their jobs. I learn something from them every single day and I’m grateful to them for not only showing me new ways of doing things, but also for helping me learn completely new skills. It keeps me fresh, excited, and interested in my work.
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