Since stumbling into Product Management almost 10 years ago, Colin has been in love with all things product related. He is a self-declared agile liberalist and leads the Product Team as VP Product Management at Photobook Worldwide. Colin is an avid football enthusiast, music lover and foodaholic, he currently lives in vibrant Kuala Lumpur.
Our readers like to see how senior product leaders get to where they are. How did you come to be a VP Product Management at Photobook Worldwide?
The beauty about product management is that there is so much room to grow.
Many people I know in product management have successfully carved their own unique career path. My product story began after spending about 7 years doing tech & communications in the banking industry plus trying my hand at entrepreneurship. I was given the opportunity to a be product analyst, pretty much a product owner role of a B2B data analytics product called Experian Hitwise. I was there for 5 years, working my way up till I was managing a team of product owners along with UX design. However, I was craving the opportunity to test my chops in a B2C product, so when the opportunity to join a social cause crowdfunding startup called Booster.com came, I made the leap. I spent 2.5 wonderful years there before Photobook Worldwide came knocking on my door, looking for someone who would be the first VP of Product for them, helping scale the product team and introduce a new UI / UX design team. And that’s what I’ve been doing since then.
Could you share a couple of things you love and/or find challenging about your job or industry?
Colin: The thing that I really love about product management is the challenge of bringing joy to our users by helping solve problems for them. It’s tough because our role has all the influence and none of the authority most times, but that exhilaration, that comes when all the hard work gets into the hands of the users and you see the value that has been created, there’s nothing like it!
What is surprising about product management is that every organisation has its own way of running product and scaling their teams.
That’s why I love trading product stories and experiences because it’s almost never the same from person to person and company to company. Sharing with each other helps us to better understand, see things from someone else’s perspective and build this community together.
How did you come to be involved with PM Huddle and Agile Malaysia?
Colin: When I first got involved in product management, it was also simultaneously my introduction to agile development. I had only ever worked in the traditional waterfall environment before that and after doing my first project with agile, I was hooked. When an opportunity arose to be part of the organising committee for Agile Malaysia, I jumped at it. I felt it was my way of giving back, having been given myself opportunities to learn and grow my knowledge and experience of all things agile.
It was around this time as well that I was beginning to feel frustrated that there were no product meetup groups despite hunting high and low. After a while, I decided that if I could not find a product meetup group, I was just going to start one myself. Thankfully, it turns out there were a couple of other product folks (Olha Yohansen-Veselova and Serene Gan) who also felt the void and were planning to do something similar. We combined our efforts and PM Huddle was born. The rest is history.
How often do you get feature requests from friends or family?
Colin: It’s fairly common, especially since a lot of my friends and family purchase from Photobook. In fact, just last week, I had a friend, whom I had not met in a long time, suddenly message me out of the blue to talk about a product she thought would be great for us to start offering. Then again, we in Photobook also get our family and friends to give feedback on new features, so it’s all good. There was even once when a friend directed me to a social media post, which his friend had made, commenting on our product. Over a cup of coffee I ended up getting very valuable feedback from that person. It hasn’t gotten to a point where I’ve had to change phone numbers or anything so it’s still all good. For now 😀
Meet Colin Pal at Product Management Festival APAC on the 17-18 June in Singapore. His talk will be “Hi, I’m a Product Manager and I’m the Hostage Negotiator”. Schedule and tickets available at https://apac.productmanagementfestival.com/