This month we continued our Made Tech team interview series with our Head of Product Management and Business Analysis Andreas England to better understand his role and to feature the great work he has been doing.
Our Product capability helps project teams understand why the project is being done. We do this by identifying who the project’s outcomes will benefit and the value of the benefit. If you’re clear about this, then prioritisation, risk management and what you actually build is far easier to define.
If you would like to watch the full interview, it is available here.
Q: How did you become interested in tech?
A: I’m from the Lake District way up in the North which meant there wasn’t much tech, especially a long time ago. In 1984 I saw a poster for the first-ever Macintosh called Test Drive a Mac and I knew I wanted one. I was sold from that point on. I couldn’t afford one for about a decade but just got into computing, as everybody did in the 80s, to make games and that kind of thing.
Q: Outside of tech, what hobbies do you have?
A: I raced mountain bikes competitively for a couple of decades but I had a big crash in 2015. The recovery took a long time and I lost my nerve so I said I’ve retired from that. The key thing I do now is I’ve rediscovered my passion for making electronic music. I had a studio when I was young and I’ve got the opportunity to do that now again so I’ve really indulged myself with some nice shiny bits of kit.
Q: Had you worked in the public sector at all before you joined Made Tech?
A: Yes, at my previous company I’d done projects for Camden and Westminster Councils for about four years. We did five projects for them over that time, so loads of Local Government experience. No Central Government stuff, that’s the new area for me at Made Tech.
Q: How do you find working in the public sector?
A: I really love the difference in focus. Prior to this, in a lot of commercial work, I focused on a product or competition, and now it’s about making things for the public. I love the fact that we make the thing that the public actually uses and interacts with. We make the tangible bit for them and I feel really proud to do that.
Not to degrade commercial work because that’s how products get made but their agenda really is about being in a competitive market space and being one step ahead and they use agile for that. Whereas we use agile in the public sector to be more efficient and to make better products. I like that real purity of it.
Q: What attracted you to Made Tech?
A: I liked that they had a way of working that really fitted with me. Although what actually happened is I just kind of got chucked in at the deep end which was scary but it was also really great because I could say we should work in a certain way. Made Tech had clear values so I had boundaries to work within but I could say we’re going to run inceptions, promote a particular flavour of agile and work in these particular ways. Then when they do work they’re great and they become part of how we do things, and when they don’t work, we don’t. So the freedom to experiment as well is really valuable.
Q: What does your role here involve?
A: I spent a long time on projects at Made Tech and now I’ve become senior and started having members of staff. It really is about pushing the value of products into all of the projects because despite the growth I’ve seen in two years we’ve got a massive heritage of digital engineering. The majority of our members of staff still are digital engineers and so I have to defend product’s corner.
Similarly, Harry’s come on as Head of Design, another facet of digital delivery, and we have to elevate these disciplines to the same level of credibility as engineering. I love that challenge. I was a Designer for such a long time and it’s nice to have people to talk to about Designery things and not just talk about engineering or products. Now I meet people who share the same passion for that.
Q: What do you like most about your role?
A: I’m really enjoying getting to coach and mentor people in Made Tech and client teams. I’ve got 20-25 years of experience now of doing projects really badly and then getting them less wrong through all of that time. For example, this morning in a project review they were saying that everything is too big, there’s too much, we can’t possibly do all of this. So I gave them two strategies to follow, recommended what to do and how, then said we’ll have a quick catch up tomorrow to see if it worked. That kind of thing makes people feel far more confident.
I like that people can just say, ‘Hey Dreas, I just need a direction on this. Or this is going wrong, how would you fix it?’ I love doing that because I think I’ve made all the mistakes you can make and I’m always discovering new ones, but I’ve never failed on a project yet. So by some way I’ve clawed it back and can say don’t worry because we can do this. I like making people confident that they can do the job.
Q: What would you say are some of the most challenging things about your role?
A: I’ve finally got the ability to talk openly about my dyslexia. For years there just wasn’t the culture to be able to talk about the fact that you’re not good at some things and you’re always going to have a problem.
In my role, writing is unavoidable. I’m always asked if I can do a blog post, a whitepaper or a case study and I find that massively difficult. Similarly, the way my syndrome works is that I have massive problems with short-term memory. Thankfully computers and phones have helped me out immeasurably but it’s the key fact that Made Tech is supportive of this. Once you actually say, ‘I have this problem,’ then people understand it’s reasonable to expect some of my sentences to go on for a long time and people help me out with that. The intent is there, the content is there, it’s just not always as good as it possibly could be.
Q: Do you have any advice for someone who wants to join your team?
A: I think my team is the best team because we’re there to answer the questions of why, who for, and how do we know we’ve got this thing right. All the really fascinating stuff on a project and all the questions about value. When it comes to delivery or research, it’s about lowering risk. We’re the people there who explain how you lower the risk and we’ll know we’re right when we’ve met this measurement. It’s the glue in between all the projects. So anybody who wants to get involved in product, come and join the team or learn the skills.
Q: What do you like most about working at Made Tech?
A: I’ve written down this phrase here called torturous freedom. I mentioned before, when Luke just kind of went, ‘you’re the Head of this capability, just go and do it,’ and I was like oh my god. That’s the best because one of the things that I really suffer from is I get bored. But now I’m in the position where there’s always something to do and there’s always another challenge, like how can we make recruitment scalable or how can we start working at program level and at project level and things like that.
Two years ago I would have thought, why am I in governance on a project? How can that possibly be interesting? Now I’m the one going, we really need to talk about governance here, how we can make it more efficient, how we can make the team own it, that kind of thing. Until people tell me to stop doing that which never happens at Made Tech. So it’s that freedom to do things and the fact that I torture myself with it, that’s the best bit.
Q: Do you have any books or resources you’d recommend for someone interested in joining your team?
A: Yes, I made a big list and I reduced it down to some real nuggets. The first thing I’d recommend is Henrik Kniberg. He’s the guy who drew the diagram of the MVP skateboard to car and about how we iterate. He currently works for Mojang, the people who made Minecraft, and he’s got a blog post there. The YouTube videos that come off that blog post are brilliant. He’s also just written a book, Lean from the Trenches, about pragmatic lean and actually deploying it on large-scale projects.
Everybody uses the diagram he must have drawn about 15 years ago but very few people understand what it means. I’d say take the time to not just reproduce his diagram in a deck when you show you are doing agile in a project, but actually understand what he meant. That’s the really important bit.
Similarly, when I was starting, service blueprint design and user story mapping was kind of emergent. Jeff Patton wrote User Story Mapping: Discover the Whole Story, Build the Right Product. The interesting thing in it though isn’t the bit about user story mapping, it’s all the other stuff in there about how you get there and the why. Then make up your own way of user story mapping. I know I did and that’s why anybody who knows how to do user story mapping then says to me that mine is different, and I say that’s because it’s mine and it works for me. I understand this and I think I could tell the story better by doing that.
Finally, the whole world of product is really quite strange because it’s loads of bits that come together. The best single place for all that to be put together is Jake Knapp’s The Sprint Book on how to make massive decisions in just five days of intense workshops. It summarizes products so neatly.
Those three people I would strongly recommend. I’ve got a massive stack of all of these but often you just get value from a single bit within a book and the rest of it you’re a bit meh about but those are ones where I said the whole thing is worthwhile.
If you have any more questions for Andreas about his role here, you can get in touch by reaching out on Linkedin or Twitter. Additionally, if you are interested in joining our team, you can view our current open positions here.
Be sure to stay tuned for our next Made Tech Team Interview coming next month.