Good day,
I hope this finds you well. This brief is designed to give you a better idea of what my work approach is like in different production situations. It consists of six parts, each addressing one of the key areas of my work:
1. Knowledge and experience
2. Communication
3. Initiative and problem-solving
4. Liaison and networking
5. Service delivery
6. Decision-making
Each part poses to me a series of questions, to which I respond by describing the real-life scenarios in the form of case studies (CS).
The case studies are based on my previous employment at The Journal X (JX), where my product management experience largely comes from. JX is an online media outlet publishing daily briefings on the variety of cultural topics, focussing on young creatives.
I hope you find this information useful. Do not hesitate to get in touch for further info ( and do not forget to subscribe to my newsletter (!
Yours sincerely
1. Knowledge and experience
> Planning and delivering product improvements using industry-standard tools and techniques. Managing backlogs and roadmaps, balancing priorities and dependencies, and mitigating risks
CS1. Planning and delivery
To illustrate my approach in this area, I can use a case study of an Online Film Festival (FF) which JX had organised in the COVID-19 lockdown period between March and October 2021 to increase the audience and visibility of the journal. Production requirements for FF included creating a new website section to host a series of 35 online screenings, implementation of a streaming platform and design of the associated promotion materials.
I have approached the project as a series of the following tasks:
- To create a detailed requirements document based on stakeholder meetings.
- To do the research for the film streaming options.
- To coordinate the design and production of the FF landing pages, as well as film streaming platform integration.
- To coordinate the delivery of marketing collateral.
The project workgroup consisted of the producer from the editorial side, two developers and two designers. When building the roadmap, I have split the production efforts into three versions: Open Call, Film Festival and Awards. These corresponded to the JX landing pages which had to be released at three moments: before the festival, at festival start and when the winners were announced. I planned and coordinated the delivery phases according to the production best practice: discovery, wireframes, design, production-ready mock-ups, development and testing. Such treatment had allowed me to effectively track the tasks pertaining to each release.
CS2. The use of tools to balance priorities and mitigate the risks
In the context of the FF project as described in CS1, I have balanced the priorities and mitigated the risks with the three industry grade tools: Smartsheet, Jira and Confluence. While Smartsheet worked well for stakeholders, Jira was ideal for development, and linking these two tools allowed me to create a fluent conversation across the different organisation strata. Lastly, Confluence was used as a technical documentation space available for all.
- Smartsheet. The roadmap I created in this online Gantt suite had allowed stakeholders, producers and marketing to estimate the efforts and evaluate the risks before taking any action. For FF, I used Smartsheet to set the time frames for the three releases, populated each with associated production, editorial and marketing activities, and assigned tasks to relevant team members. This has allowed me to report based on person, team, task type, or project stage. Where possible, I have linked the tasks to corresponding Jira issues.
- Jira. As a tool for managing support tickets, Jira was a good fit for balancing priorities and dependencies in delivery of FF, once the strategy was approved on the stakeholder level.   I have used Jira for the following tasks:
  - Composing user stories for all aspects of development, for example: “produce video for the banner”, “create an anchor link to festival passes”, “stabilise the open call page performance”. Each user story contained the requirements, rationale, current context and any additional information.
  - Backlog grooming: organising the backlog stories in order of their priority, based on the consensus within the organisation and the production team. Decommission or de-prioritise the stories which were no longer relevant.
  - Sprints. Opening, closing and reporting on sprints in two-week intervals. Constructing upcoming sprints with stories from the top of the backlog, depending on team velocity and story point estimates.
  - Releases. Tethering Jira releases to pull requests in gitHub, which the developers used for version control. Each release deployment was marked with the corresponding Jira release tag. After each release, I ran a retrospective with the FF workgroup to address any issues, celebrate the achievements and discuss the work approaches.
- Confluence. Creating pages for initial requirements, meeting minutes, feedback, retrospectives, and supporting the developers in writing up the technical details, such as streaming platform integration.

CS3. Annual planning
In the first quarter of 2022 at JX, I was responsible for creating a draft high-level roadmap. This task included:
1. Gathering what was already known about the projects planned for that year, compiling draft requirement documents and creating wireframes which would show essential features.
2. Compiling the draft roadmap while discussing the collected materials with the developers, who would advise on the rough time estimates.
3. Adjusting the roadmap draft so that all team members have a steady flow of work.
4. Stakeholder presentation, paying extra care to the responses in terms of the delivery priorities and projected deadlines.
5. Revisiting the roadmap in view of the feedback and sharing across the team as the initial version of the workable plan. The emphasis here was that the plan is in no way set in stone and would be further adjusted as the projects take shape.
As a result, the team had an understanding of the composition of each project throughout the year, which allowed them to organise their work accordingly.
Conducting user research using continuous discovery practices and translating user needs into tangible outcomes
CS4.  User research
At JX, I have conducted user research as part of the main navigation redesign project, to understand the goals and aims of such redesign. In this case, I was only tasked with surveying company employees because a brief audience survey had been done shortly before. I carried out two group surveys of staff in both company’s offices, and a series of face-to-face semistructured interviews with stakeholders. In the second stage, I have identified that these conversations were, in fact, not sufficient because the group was already too familiar with the product, and a more thorough user testing and more audience surveys were required. Knowing that JX lacked the resources to carry out such testing, I organised a meeting of JX staff and a third-party business analyst consultancy, who came up with a proposal for creating a viable user research program. The approval of the initiative, however, was delayed for reasons outside of my control, and in view of the project deadlines we had to complete the initial version of the new main navigation based solely on the audit results already at hand (see CS7 and CS12 for more details). Given such limitations, we could still argue the successful translation of user needs into tangible outcomes, since we have created a search function and a sidebar menu where none of those existed before. Going forward, I had persisted in advocating a continuous user research protocol, to be able to better instruct further UX improvements.

> Excellent understanding of web technologies and the digital platform environments required to ensure functionality, reliability, data integrity and security. Ability to have productive discussions with technical teams and understand technical estimates, implications, and trade-offs
CS5.  Discussions with technical teams
I structured communication within the production unit at JX around the weekly 30-40 minute meetings, during which each team player reported on current progress. My tasks were to host the meeting, to create the backlog of Jira tickets, to update the roadmap and to articulate the pain points for further discussion beyond our team. I was also responsible for deciding on the optimal approach to the scope of the upcoming week in terms of the task implications and trade-offs of maintenance vis-à-vis new feature development. Such an approach to team discussions contributed to the confidence of each of our colleagues in their work and aided developing a sense of trust within the team as a whole.
CS6. Reliability and security
Following a website performance failure due to a suspected attack in October 2021, I had decided to start an initiative for improving the platform security. I had then obtained approval to hire a freelance devOps specialist, with whom we have formed an intensive working relationship over the period of the following five months. Together, we have implemented a range of security measures across the several key areas:
- Content delivery network (Cloudflare CDN): updates to security settings, firewall and error pages.
- Amazon Web Services infrastructure hosting (AWS): updates to users, groups and permissions.
- AWS: scaling down the infrastructure to optimise the costs.
- AWS: create a proposal and cost estimates for high availability architecture and auto-scaling to increase product reliability.
- JX content management system: drafting the password rotation policy, updating users, implementing captcha.
- Google Workspace: updating user groups and users, two-factor authentication, security updates on user devices.
- Physical server: migration of data to the cloud storage (Google Drive). The migration was supplemented by creating the automated backup suite, briefing the staff on the new Drive usage and decommissioning of old equipment.
- Hardware support: revising the annual rolling contract to understand what we are paying for.
The benefits of the initiative were as follows:
- AWS optimisation brought a 65% reduction in monthly costs without any losses in service quality.
- Using Drive and backups improved compliance with company data storage policy.
- More detailed analytics on Cloudflare; the rest of its optimisation required more time before verifying the results.
- Captcha reduced the number of failed login attempts to the company’s services (no specific KPIs), which suggested previous malicious attacks.
- Hardware support: we have found that we no longer need their services because the nature of JX operations had changed too much over the years — no physical server, no physical location, etc. This meant further reduction in support costs.
> Experience with user experience design, including creating and providing feedback on wireframes and interactive prototypes
My approach does not include the formal handling of UX, and up to date have been lightweight, which can be demonstrated through the following example. In the navigation redesign case mentioned in CS4, JX has worked with an external senior design consultant. The consultant provided the static designs, videos that demonstrated animations and the key effects, along with the interactive prototypes. My role was, often together with the project manager, to test the prototypes on the range of devices, to make sure that the page transitions correspond to the approved user journeys, get the client approvals and to give feedback to the designer. While this approach to UX was culturally appropriate to JX, I’m interested in further developing my command of formal UX techniques.
> Configuring analytics dashboards and reports, identifying patterns and trends, and sharing data insights to guide future product development
CS8. Analytics
My job duties up to now did not include the in-depth data analytics as such, and was limited to using the two tools:
- AWS. I had created dashboards for CPU and memory load balancing trends to understand the capacity demands, had been monitoring the alarms and accessed the Cost Explorer to report on the details of monthly billing. Overall, I have a basic familiarity with AWS reports.
- Cloudflare. I mainly reviewed the dashboards for audience statistics, however my knowledge of this platform so far is limited.
CS9. User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and Quality Assurance (QA)
In the JX migration process to the new version of the platform in 2018-2019, I was a primary point of contact to the third-party IT suppliers who were commissioned to carry out the technical parts of the job. In this project, I was involved with QA and UAT as follows:
- QA. The backlog for this project was managed by the suppliers, and I primarily addressed the tickets where their quality assurance staff required further commentary from JX.
- UAT. I approached the UAT process for each round of testing in the following way. Once the new release was ready for the UAT, it would be made available on the staging environment. I would then confirm the testing session times with the dedicated team members (the UAT team). Next, they would log in and leave their comments in the shared spreadsheet. For more intensive sessions, we sometimes found it easier to schedule a conference call, during which the UAT team would test the product, and I would fill out the sheet. During the sessions, I also made sure that we test from different geographical locations and on different devices, using the testing emulation tools such as Lambda where needed. After completing each round of feedback, I would have a call with the supplier’s account managers to discuss the test results.

2. Communication
> Writing high-level product requirement documents and feature specifications suitable for technical implementation
CS10. Technical documentation.
1. High-level documentation. During the JX platform migration to AWS as the new cloud infrastructure in April 2020, I was, among other things, responsible for delivery of the project’s technical documentation. I had personally authored the high-level documentation pages, while the developers and devOps were documenting the corresponding technical parts they were working on. This had resulted in a section of the company’s Confluence wiki, detailing various aspects of migration and implementation of continuous integration: ELK stack creation, Jenkins pipelines, Git workflow, AWS environment schemas, how-to for Nginx and PHP configuration, and more.
2. Feature specifications. A case of ElasticSearch implementation, discussed in CS12, is an example of me writing the feature specifications suitable for technical implementation. For the Search, after the initial part of the work, including the discovery and visual concept was done, I had prepared a draft of technical specifications and organised a meeting with the IT suppliers’ account manager, with whom I discussed and further refined the specs list. The suppliers would then come back with their own roadmap and the cost estimates, which would allow me to incorporate it into my planning and approvals routine.
> Presenting digital product concepts and progress updates to stakeholders of varying seniorities and technical familiarity
CS11. Stakeholder communication
When delivering the security suite described in CS6, I was reporting the progress in weekly management meetings to the business owner, creative director, editor-in-chief, head of operations and head of marketing. Here, the low degree of technical familiarity among the executive staff was a challenge that I addressed by focussing not on the technology itself, but on budget and time considerations. I would avoid using any technical jargon. As an example, for the old and failing server problem, I had presented a few different solutions and their associated costs. One option would be to replace the old server with a new box, the other — less costly and more secure — would be to decommission and migrate the data to cloud storage. This made it easy for the stakeholders to evaluate the trade-offs and take the decision quickly.
3. Initiative and problem-solving
> Proactively identify and deliver on areas for improvement, for example gaps in product functionality, the product development process itself, or opportunities for training and support
CS12. Initiative
I have proactively identified the JX website search feature as underperforming in a few respects, both search quality and UX, and came up with the updated requirements that included a more thorough search plug-in (Elastic Search), a prominent search field in the top navigation and the ability to filter search results by the category, location and content type. This proposal was supported by marketing, who saw this initiative as an opportunity to increase the visibility of the JX’s rich archive database. The staff designer was also inspired by the project and came up with the set of visual concepts, adding such ideas as the visual search pop-up box and the results counters. Next, I had split the search delivery to several phases, and have found an opportunity to hire a back-end developer for the implementation of the more powerful search plug-in after we had the new navigation designs approved. As a result, despite the missing protocol for KPI tracking, business owners had evaluated the overall accessibility of the website content as improved and marketing had confirmed the boost in targeted promotions.
> Navigating complex organisational structures and governance approval processes
CS13. Governance approvals
In my role at JX, I was not directly involved in governance approvals, and due to the compact size of JX itself, no navigation of complex structure was necessary. However, such negotiations is a direction that I see myself shifting towards in the coming years.
4. Liaison and networking
> Building effective relationships and influencing without direct authority across a busy, decentralised organisation
CS14. Building effective relationships
Link-building was part and parcel of my work with the third-party IT suppliers, mentioned in CS9 and CS10, where I saw my goal as maintaining a warm and friendly sense of collaboration. I took this relationship seriously, not only because these suppliers was a key source of our talent, but also due to the strong belief in continuous discovery in software product work. On the latter point, we had agreed that the ongoing nature of review and response was best addressed via an ongoing relationship with the trusted coworkers. My way of successfully building trust was through frequent and professional style of communication that would maintain a colleague to colleague, rather than client to contractor relationship. Since the supplier was scattered around different locations, I have used every opportunity to visit their offices and see them in person.
CS15. Influencing
The 2018 YY project at JX presented a case where I used my influencing abilities to address the silos issue. The project involved production of several short films, which meant that key members of the team had to be away on site making the footage. However, the silo effect meant that little of the project information had seeped into the production team, and we were faced with the dilemma of creating an online presentation of the films on a short deadline and with no prior planning. Without having a direct authority to change the silo situation, I was, however, able to influence the wider company culture over a period of time so that as we went along, the practice of using shared roadmaps and collective discussions and planning of releases became a part of the usual approach. The tangible result were the new weekly management meetings, which provided the opportunity for heads of all departments to communicate and report on their progress.
> Participate in digital industry events, keeping up to date with digital product trends and advances
CS16. Trends and industry involvement
Currently, I am in the final stage of writing my PhD on the cultural studies in product management. My academic investigation is explained by my interest in current product management trends, the key literature and the desire to develop a long-term research trajectory to be able to contribute to my professional field.
As the Extra Skills section explains, I have conducted university seminars, spoke at conferences and have published work in a peer-reviewed journal. These three facts may come as evidence for my ability for teaching, presentation and writing.
Academic activity serves as the evidence for my ability to provide:
- Learning: I have conducted university seminars, leaving the students happy, according to a follow-up online survey.
- Publicly present my ideas: I spoke at Historical Materialism conference in London, which was followed by a lively Q&A.
- Ability to write persuasively: my piece ( for the Computational Culture journal was published after successfully passing the peer review.
5. Service delivery
> Supporting the end-to-end customer experience through an iterative product feedback cycle. Troubleshooting technical issues reported and liaising with the development team to prioritise fixes and solutions
CS17. Customer experience
At JX, the situation of issue reporting, prioritisation and troubleshooting can be illustrated through the case of so-called “broken pages.” After the migration to the new version of the platform was completed in the early stage of my employment at JX, we discovered that dozens of old pages had a manually adjusted code which meant that the layouts appeared distorted, and there was no automated way of fixing them. My task was to establish a routine that would enable the support staff to deal with the problem in a systematic, longitudinal manner. I have come up with the following protocol: the editorial team, who did not work in Jira, would log in the faulty URL and the description of the issue in the spreadsheet shared online. From there, developers would address the small fixes, and I would write up the stories for larger ones, — for example, where the carousel plug-in had to be changed for an entirely new one. This way we covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time.
After we had dealt with the urgent matters, I moved on to address a larger issue, — that the “broken pages” were deployed into production in the first place. This concern resulted in implementation of the three environments: development, testing and production, which allowed capturing most bugs before publishing to the live version of the website.
> Identifying opportunities and creating resources to support and engage users, including product documentation and delivering workshops, trainings, and/or demos
CS18. Workshops
For identifying opportunities, I primarily analysed the competition and the user research data available, such as described in CS4 and CS12.
I have also delivered the workshops whenever a new tool or practice was introduced in our workflow. For example, as the team was familiarising itself with the new continuous delivery workflow, I have delivered a workshop on story mapping. This included creating a shared online whiteboard, a tool simple enough to use by technical and non-technical staff. Once everyone was logged in, I would introduce the concept of thinking about new features in terms of storytelling and the process of splitting complex scenarios into releases. This explanation was followed by the practical part, during which the participants would collectively create a story map of their morning routine, with different scenarios. The outcome of the workshop had an effect that had a vast resonance in the team — people had a great grasp of the concept of versioning after the workshop, and referred to the event later as a useful learning experience.
6. Decision-making
> Balancing advocating for your ideas and remaining open-minded to different or opposing views. Discerning when and how to challenge assertively, yet being able to “disagree and commit”
CS19. Advocating change
One case of a “disagree and commit” situation I had encountered was during the security and reliability initiative as described in CS6. As part of the initiative, our research had shown that the organisation had used considerably more CPU and memory than was needed because the generic infrastructure settings of the initial installation were not revisited and adjusted regularly. I have come up with a proposal to optimise the infrastructure for present requirements. My proposal, however, was initially rejected, due to the stakeholder’s engagement in other aspects of the business. I have met this decision with an open mind, in the hope that a chance to come back to the proposal will present itself. And indeed, some time later, the business priorities have changed, and we had a new brief to reduce the costs as much as we could, which allowed us to proceed with the earlier proposal. This resulted in 65% AWS cost reduction.
> Backing up ideas with data and ensuring product direction decisions support organisational strategic objectives
CS20. Backing up ideas with data
The data I had used to back up my arguments at JX usually concerned budgets and time required to complete the work (as seen in CS11). In the case of FF as described in CS1, my task was to present such data to the editorial and marketing so that they could advise on which streaming platform to use. The objectives included ability for ticket sales, setting up the film streaming times and accessibility of audience metrics. To achieve this, I have done a comparison of costs, between a bespoke streaming platform vis-à-vis the out-of-the-box solutions. After a cursory investigation revealed that renting a ready-made platform would incur considerably fewer costs, I conducted further comparison among the third-party vendors, attending their demos and assessing the compatibility of their offers to our requirements. This process resulted with a decision on a specific service, backed up by the appropriate budget and functionality, which had fully supported the organisations’ strategic objectives.
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