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Humans of Product: Daniel Kinal

By Isabella Reynolds

Meet this week’s Humans of Product, Daniel Kinal. He has been a Product Manager for quite some time (19 years to be exact!) and has completely fallen in love with the profession.

“Before Product Management, I was a Marketer for a small accounting software firm. I loved talking to the Engineers, helping them work through problems, and then communicating this to the market. I could direct some input from the outside world back into the development team. It took me a while to realise that there actually was a job for somebody like me. I didn’t know what a Product Manager was back in those days. But I happened to land my first Product Management job for a larger accounting software firm. Back then, Product Management was a less mature discipline and this organisation was only just starting out in this space. There was a lot of learning about what Product Management actually was at the time. I am still constantly learning. 

Despite having a Masters in Marketing, Product Management is the perfect job for me! All the different aspects of marketing are still really important for a Product Manager. You look at what the product actually is, how you should be communicating it, designing the augmented product, pricing …. the list goes on. I believe that Product Management is more like what I learned in classical marketing than most official marketing jobs.

Since August 2021, I have been the GM of Product Management at Reivernet Group of Companies (RGC), which is a really exciting opportunity for me. RGC is moving from being a services-focused organisation to Product-Led. And kudos to them! They decided it was important to bring in someone with a Product background to kick this off. I’m working very closely with a small team of developers and helping set up the Product discipline. The intention is to grow the discipline quickly over the next couple of years.”

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He expressed that when he was a kid, he actually wanted to be a Lawyer. He did a couple of law subjects in his undergraduate degree, but quickly realised that it was not for him. So what was it that drew Daniel to Product Management?

“The great thing about Product Management is I get to use all the different parts of my brain. I have to be very analytical, and at the same time be a universal translator that can talk to sales, marketing, and legal teams. In this role, you’re talking to all the different stakeholders and have to maintain a high level of credibility. You have to be a jack of all trades. Product Management has become quite a key part of my own identity. I find it really difficult to see myself in any other job. I might end up being a Product Manager for the rest of my life, maybe even under another name.

A defining moment for me was my very first ProductCamp held by Brainmates. It was the first ProductCamp held in Melbourne, and the organisers, Nick Coster and Adrienne Tan, came down and it was relatively small, there probably wouldn’t have been more than about 50 people there.

It was the first time I realised I wasn’t alone. There is a group of people around me who understand my pain and we speak a common language! I found my tribe at this camp. Product Management, up to that point, was a pretty lonely experience as everyone’s just working it out as they go. That was a turning point for me when I realised that there was a lot more to share about Product Management.

I have also been a Product Anonymous person from the very early days, back when it was just a small group of us meeting at a pub geeking out about Product Management. It has been beautiful to see this small initial group  grow immensely over time. I’m very close with Liz Blink and Jen Leibhart (the fearless founders) and I’m in awe of their energy! I think they’ve done amazing work in the Product space. I have been fortunate to speak at their meetups a few times.  

I’ve also been a big Leading The Product supporter from the beginning. You’ll hear other people attest to that. I was even fortunate enough to speak at LTP once as one of the Lightning Talk speakers, which was good fun.

Honestly, without four key people; Nick, Adrienne, Liz and Jen, the Product Community in Melbourne would probably be close to non-existent. It was them that built up this amazing community and Product Management in this city is definitely the richer for it.”

It is clear that Daniel is genuinely passionate about Product Management. It is a job that isn’t well defined. But according to Daniel “we also can’t push the profession in a corner and say that this is what it is. Instead, the most important skill that I think people need to work on is to listen with humility.”

“People need to balance that with some strength of conviction. It is a very difficult thing to do but that’s what Product Managers have to do. We need to have those strong opinions in order to get things done and to lead people through this journey. But, we always have to be open to listening to other people’s real experiences, and have empathy for that real pain that they may be experiencing. It’s always about being really good at asking the dumb questions, and really listening to the answers.

If I were to describe Product Management in one word, it would be alignment. The role of a Product Manager is to foster alignment within an organisation. There’s a lot to unpack under that word alignment. But we’re making sure that there is full agreement that the organisation is working together for that common cause. Product Managers understand what is needed to be done for that common cause to be served. From story prioritisation to resource management to sales, a Product Manager is across it all. They need to ensure that the Product and Developments teams are actually building what the market requires in order to maximise value. The primary focus for a Product Manager is to ensure that the different moving parts in an organisation are aligned to maximise that value.”

When Daniel is not being a huge Product nerd and spending a good part of his day kid wrangling, one of his favourite activities involves going out and seeing live music. Over the past 2 years, Daniel has missed the chance to do this, with COVID-19 taking a huge toll on the Arts and live music.

“I have wide-ranging tastes. I will go and see a Jazz concert one day and then some weird Rock, Classical or Folk performance another. It just needs to be of some interest to me and I’ll happily go and see it.”

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Want more humans of Product? Read last month’s feature on Nick Fields OR follow us on Instagram!

And if you are keen to meet some of these like-minded Product folk, join us at LTP DIGITAL 2022 | APAC!