Meet this week’s Humans of Product, Nick Fields. He is living life in Santa Barbra, California where he surfs regularly, plays in TWO bands, and of course, works in product!
“I’m from Santa Barbara, California. I’m a musician and outside of work, I’ll spend my time playing shows with a couple of different bands I’ve been a part of over the years.
One is called Uncle Uncle. It’s a local Santa Barbara band. We’re playing a festival in May that’s coming up, which will be cool.
And then I play in another older band called Pookie, which is a band that I started in high school. That one we’ve done one little tour through eight states and it still has all its original members. We just love playing together.
I play drums in both bands. It’s something that I do where I feel really involved in my community. I’ve met a lot of people through music, booking shows in Santa Barbara, and playing in other towns as well. I’ve been doing it for most of my life. That’s where my passion is. It’s a lot of fun. So, that’s where most of my time is typically spent outside of pandemics!”
And, I also like to surf. That’s a big reason why I live in Santa Barbara.
I work at ProductPlan and what’s great is we’re founded by two people with experience in startups who started this company with a desire to create a culture of balance, where people can enjoy their lives and feel fulfilled. And they’ve instilled that in the company.
From day one, they’ve taken time for “outdoor days” where we’ll hike together or take some time to be outside. It’s built on a trust that we’re all accountable for our jobs, but we can still enjoy the beautiful days that we’re lucky to have here. They know it’s important to spend time doing things you love and they know that’s the reason we live in Santa Barbara; we love being outside as much as we can.”
Nick went to school to study English but after landing a customer success role at Product Plan, he found his love for Product instead,
“I have an English background. I love words and I like writing interesting objectives. For example, taking a feature or problem that we’re going to solve and writing up use cases with real-life customers, and being able to extrapolate the problem is fun for me.
At ProductPlan our customers are product managers, and we build products for product people. I’ve been at the company for just over six years but I started as a customer success hire. This was before we had a sales team or any official product managers.
I came in as the first customer-facing person with very little foundation. And I had no idea what I was doing, or even what customer success was.
I ended up speaking to our customers, who were mainly product managers, every day and funneling the feedback to our engineering and marketing teams.
It was a really fast-paced learning environment. I got to learn about the product manager role at different companies, different levels of maturity, and different strategies. I found it fascinating and the more I spoke with product managers, the more I realized I wanted to be one.
Also, since ProductPlan creates content for product managers, I got to consume a lot of really good advice, knowledge, and best practices but I just didn’t have a place to put it into practice.
I eventually spoke with our leadership team and expressed my interest in product, leading up to the transition. I’ve been in product formally for a little over two years. The four years before that were in customer success, but I definitely got to wear a lot of hats during that time.”
With two years of formal product experience under his belt, Nick shared the many things he loves about the product industry,
“Those moments where I’m totally surprised by what a customer says. When I can go into a customer interview as a blank slate, just listen and get enlightened. I might have a topic in mind, or a feature in mind to discuss but I’ll ask a few questions and the interview will pivot to an entirely new topic that just blows my mind. When you go, “wow, I didn’t even think about it that way.” The moments when you make connections. The moments where you find those commonalities. That’s what I love.
Also, as PMs, we solve problems without necessarily knowing the technical details for a solution. But we guide people in that direction. I don’t have a technical background. I’m not an engineer. But, I can go to an engineering team and describe in words and envision what we need to do and why. And that moment where the team clicks, and they can take that idea and run with it, feels really good. It almost makes me feel like I can do those things, even though I can’t. It’s like my pseudo engineering role.
And as I said, I have an English background. I love words and I like writing interesting objectives. For example, taking a feature or problem that we’re going to solve and writing up use cases with real-life customers, and being able to extrapolate the problem is fun for me.
I also love getting to work with everybody. Product Management is at this intersection of marketing, sales, customer success, and engineering so I get a breadth of knowledge.
It’s like that old saying, I’m master of none of those things, but I feel like I get to play a part in all of them.”
And, Nick’s advice for those looking to land a role in Product,
“Stay curious and ask a lot of questions. Pay attention to your customers, no matter what role you’re in. Even if it’s not a customer-facing role like customer success or sales, just pay attention to the type of people that would use the product. They’re going to teach you the most.
For me, I find the less I talk in a meeting and the more I listen or ask questions, the more information I leave with. And so, if you’re always trying to learn more, that’s a great way to approach the industry.
Just ask questions and listen. You’ll get there.”