Tomáš Krajčovič: The Product Management Team at 2N Is an Ideal Mixture of Experience and New Ideas
Marek Chládek, 23. 02. 2023 | 8 min read
How does the cooperation between product management and development work at 2N, and what technical expertise does the ideal product management candidate need to have? Find out this and more in an interview with Tomáš Krajčovič and Lukáš Franck, who are new to the product management team.
Tomáš, Lukáš, you’re both new to 2N. What do you do at the company?
Tomáš: I'm in charge of product management for the 2N OS, our software platform that most of our devices run on. It is essentially the heart and brain of our products. My role is to act as a link between business and development. More specifically, I try to ensure that we use R&D capacity for the right kinds of things; stuff that’s in demand and has business value.
Lukáš: I've been here for less than six months, and I'm a product manager for the IP door entry control software. So, I’m in charge of the programmes and applications that our customers use to open doors or set up access to other users.
You mentioned working with business and development. What does that cooperation entail and how does it work?
Lukáš: As far as development is concerned, I can definitely see the interest of our developers in the product itself. I mean, they just want their product to be good, to work properly, and to sell well. They are very proactive and often want to join me in a meeting with customers so they can better understand them and their needs. It’s not that I didn’t ever see this in other companies, but it's especially noticeable at 2N.
Tomáš: There is more to development here than just another chunk of code, as with traditional agile software development. But it's strongly linked to hardware development. So, you can easily see the interdependence between SW and HW, and the outcome of SW development has a very real impact, which you can actually experience. Working with technical support or sales, on the other hand, who are very active in terms of providing suggestions from which we can draw and then translate into specific new product features, should never be overlooked.
How does working at 2N differ from your last job?
Lukáš: The product manager's structured work organization is the most notable difference at 2N. I found it a bit scary at first, but on the other hand, it makes sense. In other words, there's a lot of pressure to make decisions based on data and not on a whim. We have to verify the business potential of everything we do.
Tomáš: I came from the B2C e-commerce environment. The first thing that surprised me was how 2N conducts business in the long run. So, a new product feature isn't going to be launched until a few months down the line. And, as Lukáš mentioned, the benefit I see is that the approach of all product people is very structured. We carefully consider whether what we want to do makes sense.
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Isn't such a structured approach to work limiting?
Tomáš: It can be limiting, but it also ensures that no mistakes are made. Our software is stable, and there aren't nearly as many bugs as I recall from my previous jobs. We know that the result of our work is highly functional and that’s what the customer wants. But structured work doesn't mean that we, or anyone for that matter, can't come up with ideas. On the contrary, our management is eager to consider any ideas!
Lukáš: Exactly. The structure doesn’t limit us when an idea comes up. The point is that when you have an idea, the structure allows you to validate it and possibly implement it later on.
Why did you choose 2N?
Tomáš: Moving from B2C was a challenge for me, so I wanted to give it a shot. But most of all, I had a really good feeling about the job trial day when I got to meet my potential colleagues. Everyone I met that day seemed to be relaxed, and I could sense from them that they saw a purpose in what they were doing and that they enjoyed it. So, I wanted to join the team. I also got the impression that Ondra (my boss) was willing to give me some freedom, to give me the opportunity to put my ideas into action, which I had previously not had.
Lukáš: The interviews and the job trial day were crucial, and I just felt comfortable. The second reason is that product management is taken very seriously here. It’s an important department that management wishes to develop and on which they place a lot of emphasis.
Both of you mentioned that the people here are great. But what exactly does that mean?
Tomáš: It's a "no bullshit culture," in my opinion. I've worked in places where the chatter was pleasant but lacked substance. For example, even on the job trial day, everyone here spoke with me openly. I received immediate feedback and felt that the company had nothing to hide.
Lukáš: I feel that the majority of people here, if not all of them, do excellent work and still maintain positive relationships with their colleagues.
What are you working on at the moment?
Tomáš: With the dev team, we're finishing up another increment in which we're opening up the API of our products so that customers can customize the GUI. We're also experimenting with AI and object recognition for our camera-equipped products right now.
Lukáš: We're working on merging two mobile apps at the moment. We have one to receive video calls from IP intercoms and another for mobile credential access control. We're working on combining them so that users can receive calls and unlock doors from the same app. In the 2N® Access Commander management software, we're working on a facelift of the whole interface to make it more appealing and more in line with the rebranding that 2N is currently in the process of going through.
How quickly can you begin to see the results of your work?
Tomáš: It's fair to say that our time-to-market is longer, but that's logical because we care about analysis and verification. The process of developing an idea with a customer and putting it into production can take at least four to five months. The important thing is that the production team here at 2N doesn't just look at the product in terms of the upcoming sprint or release. They look at it from a long-term perspective, in a year, two years, three years.
Lukáš: I think the horizon is quite wide. If we're talking about new products, it can be months - or even years. New product features take a few months. And if we're talking about assisting a colleague with a business opportunity, it could be weeks or even days. And that's what product management is all about. It's not just about individual products; we also do seminars, trainings, and presentations on specific features.
What have you managed to learn at 2N so far?
Tomáš: The telecommunications industry was completely new to me. I was not familiar with the market and product options. My presentation skills have also improved a lot. Because our sales team is international, we frequently present and advocate for our work in English. The company prioritizes efficiency, which includes time management and meeting efficiency: and that’s something I’m automatically getting better at.
Lukáš: I also had little knowledge of the industry in which 2N operates until now. I have improved my debating and persuasion skills, as there's a lot of pressure to advocate for one's decisions. Then there's the English language in general. There's a native speaker on our team, Gareth. Virtually all meetings and emails are in English. So, I've learned a couple of new English words.
Tomáš: Yes, you realise that you pronounce a lot of English words incorrectly. For example, until recently, almost everyone on the team, including myself, mispronounced the word demo. We used to pronounce it as ‘dimo’, but it’s actually pronounced the same way as in the Czech language.
You mentioned that you were not familiar with the industry that 2N is involved in. Was it difficult to navigate?
Lukáš: It certainly was, but it can be managed. Again, I would point out that whenever I didn't know what to do, I could turn to pretty much anybody, and that person was willing to help me.
What technical expertise does a product management candidate need to have at 2N?
Tomáš: If you want to be a hardware product manager, you should have some HW experience. If you want to be a software product manager, you should have experience with agile software development, product management, and prioritization in general. But most importantly, you should be proactive, come up with an idea, advocate for it, and implement it.
Lukáš: I agree, particularly the point about being proactive. That's what I think product management is based on. And, in terms of technical knowledge, I believe it is on par with books like Networking for Dummies. I've never had anyone expect me to have in-depth technical knowledge. If I don't understand something, I ask, and there is always someone who is willing to help. Then, if we're dealing with a customer and it's a more complicated issue, there's nothing easier than contacting technical support or the dev team for assistance.
What tools are you putting to use in your work?
Tomáš: We use Productboard for product prioritization and to record new requirements from the market, which was a completely new tool for me. For development, we traditionally use JIRU and Confluence, and for prototyping we use Figma. We get customer and technical support feedback into Salesforce, which we have linked to the Productboard.
Lukáš: I might add Miro, which we use for visualizations and mind maps.
Who are you looking for to join the team right now?
Tomáš: We're looking for a colleague for IP intercoms. We're also looking for someone to take on all of our mobile apps and someone to work on our cloud solutions. Anyway, the team is still evolving and it's pretty dynamic. There could easily be another new vacancy because it's just too much for one person. So it's best to just have look at the vacancies on the website.
What is the product management team like at 2N?
Tomáš: The team is pretty diverse in terms of experience. There are relatively new guys, like the two of us, and on the other hand, there's my colleague Ondra, who's experienced everything at 2N and who helped us a lot during our onboarding process. It's such a perfect mixture of experience and new ideas.
Lukáš: Yes, there are colleagues who have been at 2N for a really long time and grew into their position from technical support, so they know the products in detail, and then there are new colleagues. So there's a mixture of insight, experience, and historical context with the perspective of those of us who are relatively new, and who want to bring in ideas from the outside.
What do you do for fun in the team?
Tomáš: 2N places a strong emphasis on bringing people together outside the company at events. There's a Christmas party, a Christmas team meeting, sometimes we go out to a restaurant and we often have barbecues where we have the 2N company band playing.
Lukáš: Apart from the fact that there are events where it's just downright fun, we often go outside the office and brainstorm or present things outside the company. Just for the sake of changing the environment. That's cool. Then we also have some fun when it comes to Gareth's Czech language skills. Gareth's the colleague who corrects our English, and sometimes he doesn't give us the benefit of the doubt, and in return we make fun of his Czech. And then we often tease Tomáš because of his blazers.
Tomáš: That's right. A suit is not a mandatory part of the dress code, it's my own initiative, but I'm just used to it from my previous jobs.
What do you do outside of 2N?
Tomáš: I'm currently enjoying spending time with my 5-month-old daughter, who I want to spend as much time with as I can, and I'm glad that 2N allows me to juggle work with my new role and doesn't impose a strict attendance policy.
Lukáš: For me, it's also family. I live quite far away, so I'm relieved that working from home is acceptable and it really functions here. I've never been denied working from home, and it makes my life a lot easier. It's considered perfectly normal in the company, and there's almost always someone connecting from home in meetings.