I have studied economics and computer science and always liked it at the intersection of both. But I never had the ambition to become an SAP consultant. So I worked 7 years as product manager for ecommerce and saas, for big companies and start-ups.
Then I spent five years as an analytics and data consultant. Where I try to bring better data to the people to build more exceptional products.
After finishing school (Abi 97!) in the small town of Elze
I joined (in dual studies) the world of black rubber, one of the biggest car supplier companies, car industry, aka the German heartland: Continental AG in Hannover (Gerhard, Klaus, Carsten and me).
During my time at Conti, I discovered the digital world. In 2000 I was on an assignment in Antwerp, Belgium, for ContiTech Printing Blankets. Within the big enterprise, that was a smaller entity.
During that time, I should work on a concept for a b2b online shop where partners could order printing blankets. The idea was written in a short amount of time, which left me with lot time left. So I decided why not create a prototype. So I searched the web for some approaches and settled for ASP on top of an Access DB (I was young and loved the adventure).
When I left Antwerp (which I recommend everyone to visit, outstanding beers), we had a working prototype of the e-shop. They migrated the prototype later to a proper setup (I think it was JSP – they were young as well). After that, I went back to university to learn more about assembler code, algorithms, oop (never liked it).
When finished with that, I knew that I wanted to do something on the web. But it should combine economics and computer science because working solely as a developer didn’t work out for me.
I found a small publisher in Hannover, which ran a classified ads marketplace. Officially I was a project manager, but from the stuff, I did, it was a classic product manager position (I didn’t know the term at that time).
It was a good environment to start of, plenty of freedom, responsibility, and room to design. I did a bunch of typical product manager faults, learned from them, and progressed.
It was also when I first got in touch with agile development (2007) because we had the impression that our approach to development was inefficient. The introduction of agile methods was my second major event. The effect it had on the teams was outstanding. An agile environment and iterative approach was an essential aspect for all things that came after it.
The third major thing was the discovery of analytics.
I was always in discussions about new features. Everyone had an opinion, and in the end, it was implemented based on opions. I was pretty unsatisfied with that approach. At that time, we used a very small implementation of etracker (I know, still young) because tracking everything would be too expensive. I learned about Google Analytics and campaigned to replace etracker (free analytics, unlimited events). It took some time to convince (when Google knows our traffic, they will raise the click prices in AdWords), but finally, I got it.
During the time after I spent plenty of time with the setup (no segments at that time, only filtered views – data took 1-2 days to get into the tool) and creating my first approaches to data-driven product management.
After that job, I joined a digital agency with the lovely people at d-SIRE in Cologne. I wanted to learn how to manage digital projects better, how to do better design & UX. And after two years, I learned a lot about design, expectation management, delivery on time, and getting in touch with some wonderful people (Christian, Jürgen, Susanne, and more). But I wanted to get back working on a product.
Next up Berlin, Audible.
Audible was the first product I worked on, which I deeply admired (and still love today). Audiobooks were my constant companion during commutes.
It was the most intensive experience. When I joined Audible Germany, there were ~30 people. During the interviews, you already get to know everyone. The office offered magnificent views, and the people were amazing. After the interviews, I was hoping to start there. Luckily they had the same idea. So I ventured into the world of Big Tech (Audible is an Amazon company).
My first day I had in Newark in their headquarters. They had a product workshop with Marty Cagan. I didn’t know that he was one of the godfathers of product management. After the workshop week I knew. That was my 4th major event – he introduced me to product management I still conduct today. Build products that customers love.
The other major event was the discovery of the amazon universe – aka the wiki. For a knowledge nerd, it was like finding my El Dorado. As well as getting in touch with the Amazon folks. You can reach out to people in different teams and entities, ask them if you can bother them with your questions and get to you and help you.
But I couldn’t do product management at Audible. Product was driven out of the US office, and we could only and simply add direct debit to the features they developed.
After five months I decided to leave Audible. That was still my most challenging job decision because the people were amazing, and I am happy that I am still in touch with them (esp. Lars and Conni).
Entering the start-up world
By accident, I came across a job advert by Adspert. I was not already looking actively, but I was attracted. They were looking for someone who can help to develop the product a green field with a lot of possibilities. The founders were more experienced and the team was not the usual “we are young – we work and party together” setup. I stayed with Adspert for ~3 years. It was a very interesting experience.
I learned a lot about VC funded business, the struggles, the victories. I learned to manage (mostly after I quit and looked back). At Adspert, I also met the wonderful Sander, who was the head of sales. With Eurodance Tuesdays, Lachsbrötchen Wednesday, and fun customer meetings (don’t do feature fucking).
After three years I wanted to do something different, but I didn’t know what. My son was born and I decided to take five months off (which is covered in Germany). After some weeks, I sat down with Sander and we decided why not work on an idea. We hated status meetings, so we came up with a system where people share their updates during the day (in a twitter-like interface). Others could like and comment. I build the prototype using Angular 1 (ok, I was not so young anymore) and Firebase (not acquired by Google at that time). And Sander went off to apply his magic sales tactics.
So after a short amount of time, we had ~20 test teams. We also found a first angel investor and looked for some more when I recognized my gut feeling. I did not felt comfortable taking the money and sell shares. At that time I couldn’t explain it, now I know that I like to have full freedom over my products and want to keep and grow a product as I want.
Entering the consulting world
After I quit the start-up world, I decide to start freelancing and use the money to pay the bills and the rest to fund my software project instantmetrics. Instantmetrics was an email analytics product that would send you the core aspects of your account to you every morning. So you are up to date once you arrive at your desk. For freelancing, I first went back to Audible to help with some ongoing projects and later started with analytics consulting for other companies. Audible was a great backup because building up the analytics reputation and a network took me 1.5 years.
Instantmetrics suffered a lot from my approach to do everything myself, try out new tech (react at that time), and no focus on delivering value in a reasonable amount of time. It looked a lot like I had to learn more.
Freelancing, in comparison went well, I grew my customers and my network, shifted to 100% analytics and data project after 1.5 years.
After 2.5 years of analytics consulting, I felt that I wanted to change my approach a bit. Setting up the 20th tag manager became quite a dull job. So I started looking for different kinds of opportunities. By accident, I talked with some people at Audible about the issues they have to create a blog engine that would be compliant with the Amazon security standards (WordPress and similar was off the table).
I went back and spent a week with a bunch of research. As a side project, I started to play with AWS architecture during the summer. What I have learned now became useful. Back at Audible, I pitched my concept, the Infosec team approved it, and we could start to develop. The first version we did with external help, but the next 2 versions of the platform I designed myself.
Today the software projects take 80% of my time, and data & analytics projects are rarer. But I still like to do them.
Entering the product world again. Developing a working software solution for Audible helped me to fix me up with the initial idea of creating a product yet. That is what I am working on right now, stay tuned, there is exciting stuff coming up.