“I’m always looking for a challenge. It’s in my DNA.” At a young age Wesley Veldeman was already assembling an Intel 286-based PC using the spare parts his tech-enthusiast dad kept in his garage. As a Product Owner at TrustBuilder, he can combine his passion for solving challenges with the experience he amassed as a secondary school educator (teaching IT, of course), website builder, developer and consultant.
What does a Product Owner do exactly?
Wesley: You can also call a Product Owner a Value Maximizer. I make our products as valuable as possible in as short a time as possible. Creating value happens when the customer is satisfied with the product and when we bring features that customers are really waiting for.
Long-term and short-term vision
How is this product ownership different from an Architect role? And from the Product Manager role?
Wesley: In theory, the Product Owner is situated between these two other roles, but currently I still combine product ownership with my previous job as an Architect. The Product Manager has a more commercial take on the product. The Product Manager visits customers, inquires after customers’ challenges, looks at the evolutions in the market, hears from customers what their priorities are. The Product Owner translates that information into product features and decides what the minimal viable product (MVP) is, based on that information.
I also look at how we can complete that MVP in the future. Then I check how new features will impact the overall product. From an architecture viewpoint, I make an estimate of the time needed to develop these features. A Product Owner looks both at the short term and the long term.
Who prioritizes what features are developed first?
Wesley: This always happens in consultation. We have a Product Management Board, where we review the overall vision on the product. We check the value of each feature, and consequently rank features based on their value. The most valuable features then get planned into our two-week sprints. We use the ‘MoSCoW’ principle and rank features in four categories: Must haves, Should haves, Could haves and Won’t haves. The decision of what happens in what sprint is also taken together with the development team, of course.
Product life cycle
How do new features get on the list?
Wesley: Anyone at TrustBuilder can make additions to the list of wanted features. The Product Manager or Sales who get input from customers. Consultants or DevOps who want to make implementation easier for the customer. Developers who want to make our product more complete. We always strive to make the product as mature as possible. An MVP is just the basics, you can’t have a product that contains just the basics. We are constantly looking at improving the product, making it as user-friendly as possible. So sometimes we add small features that fill the gaps in bigger features.
How long does it take before a feature request finds its way to a customer?
Wesley: That depends. Sometimes it’s just a quick bug fix, that is developed in two weeks. When it’s something more complex, it can take a few months.
Versatility and flexibility
Like many people at TrustBuilder, you don different hats. Besides working as a consultant, you still combine your job as a Product Owner with your previous Architect job. Do you see that as a positive thing?
Wesley: It’s definitely an advantage to combine these different tasks. By working as a consultant, I use our products in a real-life environment at a customer. That way I can notice improvements myself, rather than waiting for others to report them to me. That is useful information that I can feed back into the product cycle. If I were a full-time Product Owner, I would lose touch with what happens with our products in the field.
On your LinkedIn profile, you describe yourself as a ‘problem solver by nature’. What problems to you solve at TrustBuilder?
Wesley: When I plan my days, I only block out 50% of my time, because I know anything can come up. An urgent problem at a customer, for instance when a consultant gets stuck in his work. Issues at customers are always a priority to me, as are meeting with customers to discuss our products and strategy. And sometimes I help the development team choose from different options to solve a problem. This means I am constantly prioritizing and then reviewing those decisions.
What skills does a Product Owner need? And how did you acquire that skill?
Wesley: Patience. Good communication skills. Openness and teamwork. You also need a strong personality. I have to work with a lot of people: customers, our own developers, the Product Management Board,… This requires good communication skills. My previous experiences as a teacher, a developer and a consultant really help me here.
In my teaching assignment, I learned to present in an engaging way. I ask questions and tell a compelling story, so that people don’t switch off while I’m talking. Having worked as a developer makes it easier to discuss things with them and the same applies to my contacts with other consultants.
When do you consider a job well done?
Wesley: I can only be satisfied when our product is user-friendly. I get irritated when I see features that are tricky to use. Customer experience is very important to me. A product should not force a user to fill out seven pages of actions, when one page will suffice.
You have worked at TrustBuilder for over five years now. Would you recommend working at TrustBuilder to family and friends?
Wesley: Actually, I did, and that’s why Yannick is now working at TrustBuilder. What I especially like at TrustBuilder is the flat hierarchy: you can take up anything with anyone. It also means that everyone can have an impact on the evolution of the product and the company. If you want to innovate, you get freedom. You don’t find this at many other companies.
Are you interested in working at TrustBuilder? Check out our vacancies.