The Special Sauce: Jan Mikula, Salsita Director of Product

Most of my adult life has been spent avoiding working at an office. Corporate culture never appealed to me and my limited perspective was that it was only about climbing the corporate ladder, which made me envision people doing whatever they could to get ahead.

That’s mainly the stereotype of large corporations though and, as I have found out, not every company—or employee—is created equally. My colleague Jan Mikula is a case in point.

Jan has been working at Salsita Software since 2013. Though he has progressed from UI developer to Director of Product in that time, he shrugs off these titles and prefers to measure himself by only one thing: the result of his work.

Lancelot Purdue

1. How has your love for great digital products evolved from when you were first hired to now?

My passion for building great digital products has never changed. The difference is that when I was a UI developer, at the end of the day, I clearly saw the results of my work. In my current role, it’s more difficult to see my imprint when new UIs are delivered.

On the other hand, I have a greater chance to impact the environment in which teams are delivering great products. I also still love to code on my side projects. That feeling of building a great UI with your own hands is irreplaceable.

2. How has your UX involvement at Salsita changed as you progressed into a management role?

As a UI Developer you have a direct impact on smaller things, such as where to put a button, how to style it, and so on. Your goal is to have a UI that makes sense and is pleasant to use, down to the last pixel.

As a Product Manager you’re doing what I call macro UX, which is thinking in terms of “user journeys.” You want to make sure that the user journey is straightforward and that the user doesn’t get lost along the way.

As a Director of Product, you’re helping UX Designers and Product Managers work together to achieve both of these things. That’s why I’m always looking for new tips and tricks on how to do a better job in developing great products. Recently I’ve been focusing a lot on adopting Design Sprint and Shape Up methods.

3. How has adopting the Design Sprint and Shape Up methods impacted your approach to UX?

I like practical methodologies. Design Sprint shows you how to brainstorm a problem and turn it into a solution within four days. It also helps Product Managers define requirements with the team in practical workshops.

Shape Up helps you create environments where teams are super productive within a six-week cycle, followed by a two-week cool-down period. The core of Shape Up relies on Product Managers to holistically define requirements for the team on the right level of detail—giving enough space for them to be creative on one side, and making sure that the solution is well-thought-out without any major risks. It forces the whole team to deliver results that are predictable and valuable.

I recommend any team that is trying to build great digital products to try Design Sprint and Shape Up.

4. What’s the most useful skill you’ve acquired at Salsita?

Don’t give up on big goals and long-term vision, just realize that you need to take thousands of very small steps every day to get there.

5. When you’re not perfecting the art of product management, what is your ideal day away from the office?

It’s winter now, so when the sun is shining, I’m cross-country skiing in the Jizerské Mountains. In summer I like to bike ride or go hiking and autumn and spring are all about floorball.

If you’d like to read more about how Shape Up influenced Salsita’s UX team, I recommend, Shape Up: Practical Lessons from the First Cycle, by Jan.

And, to get an in-depth look at how Salsita conducts UX workshops, check out, The First Critical Step of App Project Success, also written by Jan.

Before you go, check out the other editions of The Special Sauce:

· Radek Zabranksy, Salsita Tech Lead & FS Developer

· Lancelot Purdue, Salsita Copywriter

· Alfred DeRose, Salsita Product Manager

About Salsita

Salsita Software is a web and mobile app agency specializing in compelling frontend experiences. We focus on eCommerce frontends including 3D product configurators.