Life as a Productboard engineering manager — an interview with Ivo Klimša
In the latest interview of our People of Productboard series, we caught up with Engineering Manager Ivo Klimša to discuss his journey to Productboard and engineering leadership.
Hi Ivo! Can you tell us more about your role at Productboard?
Sure, thing. I’m an Engineering Manager within one of our tribes called Insights. It’s currently my sixth month here, and I really enjoy it!
It’s not only about people management — which is, of course, an important part of the job. You need to know about your team, how they’re doing, what’s happening in their day-to-day lives. One of the best things I really like about Productboard is that we really care about our people. But you also have a chance to influence the technical part of the engineering team, which is super cool. It’s not that you have time to code, but you collaborate with a product manager, too.
So does that mean that in addition to taking care of the growth of your team, you can actually influence what we’ll build next in terms of features?
Yes, partially yes. But I’m trying not to do that too much. I know there are others who are much better than me in specific areas and so I just try to focus on supporting the engineers in my team, letting them shine. Even when you don’t understand a specific technical area in-depth, you can ask good questions, challenge, and guide the team to better results.
Sounds great! My next question is about remote setup and working. You’re currently based in Brno, but a part of your team is in Prague. We live in a Covid world. It’s harder to connect. What’s that been like for you? How do you approach this from a leadership perspective?
I’ve been quite lucky as I joined in the summer where restrictions weren’t so crazy, so I was able to safely travel to Prague and connect with people offline, too. It helped me a lot to establish a connection with everyone both in my team and other departments in our Prague office. It’s also helped that we recently opened an office in Brno, too!
But for sure, being onboarded and onboarding in general during pandemics can be tough. Especially when you’re a people manager. But as it’s our new normal, we’re getting better and better at it. I think it’s really about being human — so take the time to ask about non-work-related stuff during your one-on-ones. Ask about their days, what their plans are for the weekend. Be interested in each other’s worlds outside of work.
Can you talk about what it’s like to work with Productboard’s Insights Tribe for our readers who have no idea what that is?
Sure thing! So basically the Insights Tribe works on a part of Productboard that collects feedback and data from customers. The Insights part of Productboard is the place you go to when you want to know what to build next and what your customers really want. You have it clearly depicted in one place. We also think about how to structure the collected data, so that clients can prioritize based on the data later on and create awesome roadmaps (but roadmaps are handled by another tribe).
We also recently started hiring our first machine learning team — how does that fit within your tribe and the features you’re working on?
As I mentioned, you input a specific set of data and feedback into Productboard. The feedback collection can have any form that you can imagine — and it is something that we call “a note”. When you’re collecting feedback from your customers, you can actually accumulate thousands of these notes. So imagine the hard work of going through all of them, sorting them out. And this is the part where our ML team shines. They identify the parts that we can leave to AI, and our customers will be able to save a lot of time by going through the notes one by one. We have an internal prototype in place, I can’t share more now. But what I can share is that it will be super cool, and I can’t wait to see the impact that’ll have.
You’ve been with Productboard for a few months now. What do you wish you’d known prior to joining the team? Is there something that surprised you?
I think product-thinking is something very unique here. It’s also very demanding, too, which you don’t expect at the beginning. From my previous companies, I was used to just working on the engineering side of things, while some product managers would decide what to build next. But here you actually need to think through the next steps, too. You have a say in what and how we build the next great thing. And the same goes for engineers too — it’s not something special only for managers. You even meet with the customers. You can hear their feedback personally and see the impact your work has.
One of the most mentioned things connected to Productboard is scaling. There are now more than 350 of us, and we’re doubling the whole team each year. What are your thoughts on this topic?
I can imagine people might be a bit scared of this rapid growth. But I don’t think we have anything to worry about. Of course, we need to be mindful of the cultural aspect of it all but as long as we build the company together, it’s just an exciting time to join us.
For me, transparency is so important. Communication is important, but at the same time focus on not creating a lot of unnecessary noise for others. Of course, as we scale, it’s going to be harder to get to know each person on an individual level. Throw in a global pandemic, and it’s going to be even more challenging. But I have faith in how we do things here at Productboard, and we’re ready.
We all know that working for Productboard can be challenging — we work on a global scale, across two different time zones, among other things. How do you balance your personal life with working for a hyper-growth startup?
That’s something I try to be really mindful of lately. I have a 3-month-old daughter, so you can imagine that it’s quite challenging. Luckily for me, she has awesome sleeping habits so I can sleep, too! But at the same time, Productboard supports us in this, too. We have the freedom to work how it’s best for us. We’re given an insane amount of flexibility — and a lot of our meetings are recorded, so you can watch them on your own time. For example, when you can’t attend a session because you need to pick up your kids from school. That is not my case yet. But time flies so we’ll be there soon, too!
Want to help our engineering teams manage current growth? Join Productboard as Engineer Manager.🚀
Interested in joining our growing team in a different role? Well, we’re hiring across the board! Check out our careers page for the latest vacancies.