Mike Stover, now Senior Product Manager at OpenText™, has always enjoyed understanding how things work — getting down to the nuts and bolts to see how components work together to create an output. For him, product management is a natural fit, and an incredible opportunity to get to know how a company’s products work.
In this Q&A, Mike sheds light on his experience in product management at OpenText, what success looks like in his role, what inspires him at work, and his advice for new and experienced product managers to thrive in this industry.
Can you start by telling us about what brought you to OpenText?
I started my career at OpenText (at the time it was Captaris, which was later acquired by OpenText) when I was a student in college, majoring in Management Information Systems. There were such great people and solid opportunities for career advancement and growth that I decided to stay on board after graduating with my Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.
I’ve been with OpenText for more than 13 years and held a variety of roles within the business, from technical support to sales engineering to my current role as Senior Product Manager for OpenText™ RightFax™.
What made you choose product management as a profession, and how would you describe your experience in product management at OpenText?
I’ve always enjoyed understanding how things work. Since I was young, the best way for me to visualize and understand was to tear everything apart and examine the components. Product management is an incredible opportunity to get to know how a company’s products work. And if you think of the product as an American football team, the product managers are the quarterbacks – they’re decision makers who lead the cross-functional execution of the strategic vision.
As a Senior Product Manager at OpenText, I collect and aggregate information from a wide range of sources and use that data to set the product strategy, vision, and aggressive prioritization. I create product roadmaps and direct cross-functional teams within the organization to build products that solve mission-critical problems. I bring forward a subset of features that will have the most positive impact to our customers into a project and, from there, I become the internal sponsor and champion the project throughout the organization.
On any given day I may work with engineering to answer implementation questions, with marketing to explain the value, with sales to determine the demand, with data governance to track the adoption, with support to improve troubleshooting methodologies, with operations to determine efficient architectures and with executive management to discuss strategic vision for the business. Every day, I get to see how our employees and departments come together to bring great products and services to market.
Tell us about the people side of the business – both the people you work with and the customers you serve.
OpenText has offices all over the world and the product management role offers you the chance to work with colleagues and customers across the globe. I’ve met and interacted with so many amazing people throughout this organization during my tenure. I work out of the Tucson, Arizona office; it’s a great office atmosphere filled with the best colleagues I’ve ever worked with. We’ve all got a sense of mission to make our customers wildly successful and it’s a great environment to work in.
RightFax is most prevalent in the healthcare, pharmaceutical, insurance and financial services industries. Many of our customers are members of the fortune 500 and global 1000 lists. I meet with customers across these various industries and discuss how they’re using our products and services. I always take time to understand their unique software infrastructure ecosystems to gain an understanding of how OpenText solutions fit into their environments. With so many ideas flowing into the product manager position it’s easy to lose your way, but there is no better “decisional compass” than the voice of the customer. Direct meetings with the customer gives me an understanding of the customer’s experience and problems, which guides my decision-making process.
What does success look like in your role and how is it measured?
Success in my role is centered around delivering new product functionality to the market that surprises and delights customers by providing solutions to the business problems they’re faced with. We can measure that success by looking at revenue numbers, but the success is given a soul when customers share stories with me about how they use the products we create. When I’m able to retell those stories to the team members who make the product a reality, that’s when I know I’ve been successful.
The whole process amazes me every time: I get to see conversations turn into ideas and ideas turn into functioning code, and all the ways we get to guide the organization to rally behind that functioning code and work together to productize and release a product. Getting to work in an environment where I have a hand in directing a process that ultimately creates something where once there was nothing is what makes me proud to work at OpenText.
What inspires you most at work?
I think risk and the unknown inspire me most. OpenText fosters an environment of innovation and iteration. We are empowered with the autonomy to make decisions for the product and the business, so there’s always plenty at stake. Our management is always asking us where we’re going to place our bets and they give us the capability to make those bets. Starting a project with nothing more than a few user stories and the collected feedback from the field with which to have many months’ worth of discussions and ultimately lead to a released product will always be what inspires me to continue in this role.
Solving real world problems is also high on the list. RightFax is a mature product that’s been in the market for over 30 years and, in most cases, it’s a critical application for our customers. It’s exciting to receive feedback from customers about how they’re using our products and services to solve their organization’s problems, then work with the OpenText team to build something new based on that feedback, and finally to have our customers adopt that new functionality.
I must say that my co-workers and colleagues offer a solid dose of inspiration, too. It’s great to work in an environment where everyone cares so much about the products and services we’re creating. Every day we get to have discussions about how best to help our customers, and it’s invigorating to see the manifestation of everyone’s passion play out, in the product.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in product management? What about someone who is more seasoned?
If you’re just starting out in product management, keep these priorities high on your list:
- Be a sponge. Embed yourself and learn as much as you can from the people in roles throughout the business.
- Take on responsibility and accountability early and often. This is so much more important than taking credit.
- Do the jobs that nobody else wants to do. Pick up the work and become an expert.
As one seasoned product manager to another, these are some of the top practices that I live by:
- Have patience and be willing to learn. Perhaps especially in large organizations (like OpenText), it will take time to learn the nuances and intricacies of the business.
- Make connections with people in every department. You’re going to need those connections to be successful.
- Bring an open mind. There’s a reason for every process, so take the time to understand why we do what we do.
- Don’t be afraid to make changes. Once you’ve taken the time to learn the business, take aim and make your mark.