Like so many Product Managers, Mandy Anger didn’t set out for a career in Product. She started in the technical communications space and was working for a small early education SaaS company when her manager asked if she wanted to be the product manager during the kickoff of a new product.
“I said yes not knowing what I was getting myself into, but I’m so glad I did! It really combined all of the things I love and feel that I’m good at and brought them all into one role. Techcom, problem-solving and working with people," says Mandy.
Since that day, she has spent the rest of her career in SaaS working in everything from start-ups to enterprise in a number of different verticals like education, health care, work management and backup and disaster recovery.
When she found Accelo, she was at a crossroads in her career working for a large organization when she decided to return to start-up life and be a part of a smaller, more agile organization. Somewhere that she could build strong connections and make an impact, fast.
Mandy, now VP of Product, has done all that and more since starting at Accelo, despite having a globally distributed team and working remote from Salt Lake City, UT. We spoke with Mandy during a recent trip to Australia and discussed the ways she successfully fosters real human connections with her remote team members and how she maintains trust, creativity and productivity through a screen.
Mandy: “You have to be hungry to learn. You have to be collaborative with a desire to work with each other and with anyone across the organization or user base. You also have to be very self-motivated.
When we’re distributed we can’t always meet in person and motivate each other so you have to be able to do that yourself most days.
Setting goals is super important in getting things done with a distributed team. Once there are goals in place, a roadmap needs to be created so everyone is aligned around the strategic vision.
This is currently what we are working on as a team — defining our strategic vision and understanding what that means for each of us.”
Mandy: “I try to keep my team engaged by being transparent and communicating about what we’re doing and what the goals and outcomes are that we need to reach. And always celebrating our wins, big or small. You have to acknowledge people for the effort they’re putting in especially when we’re distributed because it’s often hard to see what each person is contributing otherwise.
We use a big portion of our weekly team meeting bringing highlights to the table and calling out our peers for living the mission, vision and values and that has been really great.
Every week, a different team member does a presentation for 30 minutes and it’s just whatever they want to present on. It could be an area of their experience or a challenge that they’re having in their role that they want to work through with the team. It could be something interesting that they have read or listened to or watched or learned that they want to share.
It’s just an opportunity for us to grow as a team and in our knowledge. Those have been AWESOME. The topics have been so varied and everyone is equal. And for me, it helps me learn more about the interests of my team members so I know what projects they want to work on next.
Something I’ve learned as a leader is that most of the initiatives that have the highest engagement, don’t come from me! They weren’t my ideas. When it’s a peer-to-peer initiative there’s more adoption because it’s more meaningful coming from one another.
They are the ones who are actively looking for opportunities to improve our culture and to engage with each other more and I feel like that's something that's changed over time as we’ve become more trusting and comfortable bringing ideas to the table. Sometimes it’s my job to just give them the space to do that.”
Mandy: “Don’t get me wrong, I love being remote. But there are so many benefits to being face-to-face now and then. That’s why I’m so excited to be here in Australia now!
As a leader in the company, I want to develop a relationship with everyone so that they know they can trust me and come to me for support or to just discuss something, whether they report to me or not.
Being in Australia for this short period of time is going to completely affect my remote relationship with these people. It’s going to make a huge difference. A lot of times I am the one giant head on the Zoom screen and everyone else is in the room - it can be hard to see everyone’s expressions or read their body language sometimes.
I think there’s just going to be this level of comfort with me now that people can push back or raise a question or propose a new idea that might not have happened before this visit! I want people to just know me as a human.”
And when it comes to teams accessing the strengths and weaknesses of team members she hasn’t been able to meet face-to-face yet, Mandy shares, “I ask a lot of questions - what are your goals? What are your passions? What do you want to be when you grow up? In one year? In five years?
I care about you as a whole person and I’m here to develop you as a whole person. I want to help you, the person, grow. Not just the Accelo employee.”
Accelo is looking for a Product Manager to join one of our existing Agile development teams to provide guidance on delivering the most value for our customers. If you are a self-proclaimed “learn-it-all” with a passion for making people's work lives easier, join the Product team in their mission to get people back to the work they love by identifying and prioritizing the right solutions for the right users at the right time