I built this website to share some of my design work, and other creative stuff.
It's nothing fancy.
In product speak, it's an
After years of working in the product manager's shadow, the designer decided it was finally time to say something.
"Look at this resume - product, product, product - nothing but product. It's not fair."
The product manager looked up to regard the designer silently.
"I think that's right," he replied, "you need a portfolio."
This designer was taken aback. He felt heard if not vindicated. But, because he's really a product manager, he demurred at the suggestion.
"Uhm...I'm not sure about that," he said, drawing out each word. "Portfolios are for real designers - not, you know, product managers."
"Yep," said the product manager (who's also a designer), "I get it." (And, being the empath that he is, he truly did.)
The designer and the product manager stood in arms-crossed silence, staring into space, and the floor, respectively. A passerby might have mistakenly thought them dazed, but they were not. Sometimes more thinking just means less blinking.
Eventually, a wry, self-satisfied sort of smile began to appear on the product manager's face. The designer, knowing the product manager as he did, prepared to remind his friend not to fall in love with his own ideas.
"Call it an MVP - a Minimum Viable Portfolio," said the product manager.
👋🏼 Hi, I'm Shawn.
For more than 15 years, I've helped lead teams to create award-winning, market-leading consumer and B2B software products as a product manager and leader at four startups and two public companies. In 2016, I created SAIO to deliver product management, UX, and lean startup consulting services to small companies, startups, and nonprofits. My LinkedIn profile does a pretty good job telling that part of my story.
What it does not do well - in fact, it doesn't even try to do at all - is tell the design part of my story. And it's an important part - not just to me personally, but also to the teams, companies, and products I've been involved in over the years. So I decided to create this site to hopefully offer anyone who's interested a fuller picture of what makes me rather unique as a professional.
Product managers in the software business tend to skew toward being either more technical or more business-oriented. Between the two, I guess I have to say that I fall into the second group since I'm a coding noob and I happened to go to b-school. I see myself as something a bit different, part of a rarer breed, the product manager who skews toward design.
I caught the design bug in December 1983 when I got my first Sony Walkman. Even as an eight-year-old, I was aware of and completely drawn in by the iconic design and the quality of the build. Nearly 40 years later, I can still feel the weight of it in my hand and the feeling of pressing the buttons through the clear polyvinyl window of its silvery zippered carrying case.
In 2004 I convinced the CEO of the industrial lighting company where I was a young product manager to hire a top industrial design firm to design a new line of handheld fluorescent lights (see image), arguing that good design would differentiate his brand in what had become a crowded commodity category. Today, this patented design that I helped bring to life is ubiquitous.
I fell in love with UX design in 2005 as a first-time software product manager at AOL. I had occasion to dip my toes into design a year later at Revolution Health, and by 2008 I was banging out wireframes for a complex multi-tenant enterprise email platform for school systems.
In 2010 I began branding myself as a design-driven product manager. I argued that thoughtful, unadorned, user-centric design was becoming an unarticulated requirement for a growing number of customers across a growing number of product categories, and that the market would reward us for being the first in our category (healthcare analytics at the time) to deliver such a well-designed product.
It worked. With a user experience that was more Turbotax than SQL terminal, the new product made an immediate splash, winning market share and two industry awards in the first year. This success led us to invest more in user research, which produced, among other things, a mental model that guided our product roadmap for years.
There is more to this story.
But right now, I'm out of time. So, more to come!
(hey, it's just an MVP.)