Rebecca Fallon is a Product Manager at Improbable. Previously she has been an academic, writer and anthropologist.
I didn’t come to Product Management by way of computing. In fact, despite a healthy early interest in cheats for The Sims and hacking my Neopets profile, my technical literacy was limited to a few half-hearted attempts to rock Code Academy’s world. I’m a social scientist by trade, and working through the warped identity politics of Facebook users and the strange Twitter sub-culture of female ISIS recruiters helped me nurture two questions that I get to ask every day: “How does technology shape behaviour?” and “How can we empower people to get the most out of their tech?”
SpatialOS is a complex product (so don’t worry, I’ve brushed up my distributed computing IQ) and it requires a complex understanding of both where we are today and where we might one day go with it. Bending towards that future, and investing in our users to get there, is what gets me excited about working at Improbable every day.
I work on the Product team, where we design the platform on which people will build worlds of the future. Product sits right at the heart of Improbable, and I have the privilege of working with incredibly driven people from all across the organisation. On any given day, I could meet with our CMO to talk about brand direction, chat to one of our customer champions about their challenges and aspirations, help our Community team design a new tutorial, and chat to an engineering lead about API architecture.
I love having a holistic view on what’s happening; connecting different puzzle pieces from across the company helps the Product team make confident, rewarding decisions.
Working at a small start-up with big ambitions is the perfect crash course for learning not only how to build a product from the ground up, but how to build a business. Product are intimately involved with company operations, and are often the engine behind structural improvements and the mouthpiece for how and why we’re adapting. Working with people who question why and how we make decisions is a great exercise in thoughtfulness and thoroughness.
“Product sits right at the heart of Improbable, and I have the privilege of working with incredibly driven people from all across the organisation.”
I currently manage Improbable’s Front of House and Onboarding experiences – so everything you encounter from your first website visit to your first tutorial. (If you’ve got feedback, hit the forums.) This means that I get to work with two excellent, but very different teams. I manage both our WebDocs team, who own the code sitting under our website and docs, and our Community Team, who produce our guides and tutorial content. I also work closely with our illustrious Design and Marketing teams to define the UX architecture and product messaging that shapes our users’ first experiences.
Working in Product at Improbable has taught me the art of prioritisation; as a small company with big ambitions, we have to be very picky about how we spend our time. Putting your weight behind an exciting project often means leaving others at the wayside (what’s that old adage about killing your darlings?) but well-planned improvements can make an enormous difference to users.
As a Product Manager at Improbable, you also have to be prepared to be a little scrappy; sometimes, in order to get the job done, you need to take care of the little details that others may not have the space or purview to care about – whether that’s labouring over the right text for a button or cleaning up a bit of SQL in your management software. For me, the versatility of the role is what keeps it exciting; I never have the same day twice.
One of my favourite Improbable challenges was working with invested parties from around the company to design and build our website from scratch. Building a website may not be as technically complex as building a fabric for distributed computing. But because it’s the front page of our company, the way we present ourselves on improbable.io impacts everyone’s work every day. Making sure that we put our best foot forwards while serving the needs of our users requires both balance and iteration; growing our site over the last year into an organism that does both has been a real labour of love. While our web presence will continue to evolve as our product and ambitions grow, there’s nothing quite as formative as wrangling big aspirations into language and flows that people understand.
“For me, the versatility of the role is what keeps it exciting; I never have the same day twice.”
Teaching people how to use a difficult and admittedly unfinished product is no easy task. It can be frustrating to see users stumble on challenges that you didn’t even realise were possible. But when they succeed, there’s nothing more rewarding.
For me, next, I have the privilege of kicking off a new unit in the company designed to improve learning at the early stages of SpatialOS development. I love advocating for users and setting the roadmap for the features they care the most about, and the things I think will help them succeed. I’m currently spending a lot of time thinking about different groups of users, and how we can give everyone the experience that they’ve come looking for.
This means that I get to talk to all kinds of people around the company – our customer engineers (like Chong-U!) who work hand in hand with people using the tech every day, our business units who are working hard to kick off some exciting new projects, our UX team who continue to push my thinking on logic and intuition in user behaviour. Expect to see a lot of big changes around onboarding soon!
Whatever your background, Product at Improbable is full of opportunities to grab onto big problems; whether or not you solve them, I can guarantee you’ll grow along the way.
Visit our careers pages to find out the Product roles that are currently available.