MATRIX Employee Spotlight: Gail Ferreira

Our spotlight blog series aims to get to know MATRIX employees and consultants. Today we meet Dr. Gail Ferreira, our new Agile Practice Leader in San Francisco.

Tell me about yourself.
I’m proud to be one of the few natives actually born and raised in San Francisco. I got my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Computer Science and later went on to get my Doctor of Business Management degree. My first job after school was a consulting gig at Oracle, and I ended there as a Senior Principal Consultant. From there I went to Cap Gemini to do management consulting for technology companies. I have also been teaching in this area for the last 13 years.MATRIX Employee Spotlight: Gail Ferreira

Any fun facts people would be interested to know about you?
Although I’ve lived in the Bay Area my whole life, I do love to travel. I’ve actually been on over 35 cruises, traveling throughout North America, Europe and Asia. I rescue Siamese cats, and have a full house between them and my African grey parrot. On the weekends, I take advantage of my membership at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Arts (SFMOMA). Along with fine arts, I also enjoy wine tasting in Napa Valley.

What do you enjoy doing outside of your day job?
I really enjoy teaching and speaking to different groups of people. I am a professor and advisor for the U.C. Berkeley Agile Project Management program, the Walden University Doctoral Business program, and Capella University School of Business and Technology PhD program. I will be speaking on Hoshin Kanri at Agile 2015 in D.C. next month. If you’re planning to attend, come introduce yourself after my session!

What has been the most gratifying part of your career?
Seeing things get created and grow, and projects get completed. It has also been very rewarding to see people I’ve taught develop their careers over the years.

What are you excited about in 2015?
I’m excited to grow our practice in the Bay Area, where so many companies are exploding exponentially. This region provides a unique opportunity to help businesses grow. I would love to bring Agile to non-software companies – to expand this methodology into other industries and improve their organizations. I enjoy being able to support contemporary software startups, but I would love the opportunity to also bring Agile to non-software fields including legal or medical practices.

About the Author: 

Dr. Gail Ferreira joined MATRIX in 2015 as the Agile Practice Leader. Gail began her career in 1995 delivering professional services for strategy, leadership, management, enterprise portal, content management, business intelligence, and analytics for a variety of technology clients. Working in a variety of technology and business leadership roles, she has helped organizations define strategy, perform business analysis, lead application development teams, and govern program management using traditional, Lean and Agile methodologies. As an Agile Coach, she holds CSM and CSPO certifications from the Scrum Alliance, and the Scaled Agile Academy as a SAFe Program Consultant. Follow her on Twitter @LeanAgilist.

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Fun

Tech Recruiters Read Mean Tweets

We get it. Some people aren’t very fond of tech recruiters. We were curious to learn just how deep this sentiment runs, so we followed Jimmy Kimmel's lead and turned to Twitter to find out for ourselves. It wasn't pretty.

(Note: these tweets are not specific to MATRIX, just tech recruiters in general. Does that make it less offensive? Not really.)

Once again, we’re reminded that there is a certain stigma attached to tech recruiters and we’re doing everything we can to change it. At MATRIX, we believe recruiting shouldn’t just be a profession – it should be professional. So we launched #recruitright to shine a spotlight on common issues, with a goal of providing better recruiter interactions for the broader tech community. Our top priority is providing tech professionals with relevant job opportunities and valuable content that will ultimately help them take the next step in their careers. We feel privileged to have you in our community and we hope the feeling is mutual.

If you would like to learn what #recruitright is all about, get connected to one of our recruiters. You can start the process here or search our open jobs.

If you're already part of our community but your job status has changed, update it here.

About the Author: 

Jennifer Bradley is the Digital Content Specialist for MATRIX. Her primary mission is to understand what information our various communities want and need from MATRIX, and to deliver it to them in ways that are enlightening, engaging and in sync with who we are as a company. She loves pop culture, Oklahoma football and the great state of Texas. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Fun

MATRIX Employee Spotlight: Holly Carman

Our spotlight blog series aims to highlight MATRIX employees and consultants, and who they are outside of work. Today we get to know Holly Carman, one of our Jacksonville team members who has worked in many roles at MATRIX in the last few years.

MATRIX Employee Spotlight: Holly Carman

Tell me about yourself.
I was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. I haven’t ventured out too far since graduating from Clay High and attending the University of North Florida (UNF). My father owns a swimming pool company, so I grew up with an entrepreneurial mindset and strong work ethic at an early age. I recently married a wonderful man, Ryan, and we have a Boxer puppy named Emmitt. I also have four cutie pie nephews whom I adore!

What are you passionate about outside work?
Outside of work you will find me out on Black Creek, playing golf, or dancing – West Coast Swing or 2-Step. I enjoy being outside soaking up the sun and relaxing when I can. I have been dancing competitively for five years and it has been amazing to travel all over the country to compete and meet new friends.

If you have nothing better to do, check out my routine - but don’t hold it against me!

What are you excited for in 2015?
MATRIX is growing and I couldn’t be more excited to expand a great company into my hometown. I’m looking forward to strengthening current partnerships, building new business relationships, and helping great tech professionals advance in their careers. My goal is to grow my network all throughout Florida. Let’s connect!

Why MATRIX?
Almost four years ago, my best friend was working at MATRIX in Atlanta and recommended that I look into their Phoenix office. I was working at the PGA TOUR / TPC Scottsdale at the time and wasn’t looking for new opportunities. I doubt anyone grows up thinking “I want to go into IT staffing” – I think it’s something most people fall into. But as soon as I met the guys in the Phoenix office, I knew it was the right fit for me and my career.

MATRIX really is all about taking care of people and doing the right thing. In less than four years, I’ve received three promotions and had the opportunity to work with almost every MATRIX branch in one way or another. Each time I meet another colleague I fall in love with MATRIX a little more. So I guess the better question is, “Why Not?”

What’s the most rewarding part of your career?
Meeting new people and building great working relationships! I pride myself on helping people and companies grow. After bad times in the economy, where so many people were laid off, it’s awesome to help people get back to work and get companies back on track.   

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Fun

Quiz: Who's Your Famous Movie Tech Persona?

Have you ever related to a character in one of your favorite movies?

We put together a quiz with some of the top famous techie characters to get to know you guys a little better. Answer the questions below to find out who your movie tech persona is and share your results on social media!

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Fun
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Four Product Management Universals

What exactly do you do?

When I started out as a product manager, my friends and family all asked this question. I answered it like this: I figure out what we need to build, I write requirements, I prioritize requirements, I create user journeys, I sketch pages (back then “UX” wasn’t a thing) and then I manage the development process to get it all built. I’m like an architect and building contractor tied up in a bow, except I don’t design and build houses; I design and build websites (back then, that’s all we made).Four Product Management Universals

Over the years, the device ecosystem expanded, the responsibility grew, the scale scaled, the project requirements became more complex, but the fundamental job of product management hasn’t changed. It has definitely been more codified in the last 15 years, and we’ve all worked with and know what makes good and bad product managers.

I was asked the question again recently, and I decided to look back through dozens of executions — some good, some great, some failed — and uncover a few product management universals that I think are worth a paragraph or two, and hopefully lead to a new answer:

1. Product Management is People Management.

I’ve built and been a part of great teams. I’ve also made some bad hires. What I’ve seen is that great products are built by people who think of a team as an ensemble. Ensembles understand that it’s the aggregate of their combined prowess, smarts and experience that produces the best product. Ensembles are also flat. No one member is more important than the other. And the more diverse the ensemble, the better the product. Product managers with a CS degree/background are great, but I’ve also had great results hiring product managers with degrees in English and Music. And product managers don’t corner the market on ideas. Some of the best product ideas I’ve heard have come from junior developers in their first weeks on the job. When you empower and encourage a group of people to think of themselves as attached to a greater “sum” experience, their individual agendas get diffused and their creativity thrives.

Leading teams that are structured and think this way is more coxswain than dictator. Your hand is on the rudder, not the megaphone. The Taoist philosopher Lau Tzu said it this way:

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists. Not so good when people simply obey him. Worse, when they despise him. But of a good leader who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves.”

Now don’t get Lau or me wrong; “barely know he exists” doesn’t mean, “not present” — it’s that you don’t know he or she exists in the classic “leader” role.

Hiring this ensemble cast is not easy, especially in today’s increasingly self-important workforce. You want diverse yet relevant experience. I’ve found the sweet spot is folks with diverse life experience, combined with relevant market expertise and core product acumen for the project at hand. I also like product managers (and CEOs) that have gone through a failed execution. Failure teaches humility and gives the proper context for true success. Oh, and I’ll tell you what doesn’t work:

2. Narcissists make lousy product managers.

Narcissism’s root cause is insecurity, and insecurity leads to decisions made out of fear or self-aggrandizement. Narcissists also lack empathy (except for themselves), a fundamental skill for product management. Web and world history is full of VERY bad decisions made by people who prop themselves up at the expense of the reality around them. Don’t hire these people as product managers — they put themselves before users and lose their minds when you tell them they’re wrong. You’ll spend your entire time managing ego instead of performance. They’re hard to spot these days because you can easily confuse the occasional millennial self-entitlement with narcissism. You have to look for the small signs of inherent self-destruction and self-loathing in the narcissist. Millenials are great, they just want your job; narcissists want to make sure you pay for not recognizing their awesomeness.

3. Plan to improvise.

Yup — oxymoronic as it is, you need to bank on the fact that you’re going to wing it at some point. Most people do. The thing is we have an Agile mindset now that embraces change and uncertainty as part of the process. This is vital to great product management. Market shifts and competitive product releases are measured in days not months, and your ability to respond quickly with the right next move is the difference between good and great product management. Celebrate your launch for about five minutes and get back to work, because launch is step one.

4) What’s the process for finding a good process?

In every organization I’ve joined, helped start or consulted for, process is always the first “problem” area.

The three classic process complaints:
“There’s no process here, so our job is to manage chaos.”
“There’s too much process here and it bogs us down.”
“Process kills creativity, so those folks are exempt.”

The last one is just plain wrong, so if you hear that, run for the hills. The first two complaints mark the poles of the spectrum and process bliss is some spot along the line based on a company’s organizational behavior and values. Where do you start? Not with tools. Look at your company’s culture and back into a modular process and set of supporting tools that fits the organization at the moment. And yes, the moment may call for a simple shared spreadsheet on Google Drive. And remember, process is shaped over time and influenced by its practitioners, so pick one and start.

**

My answer to the question today? Ultimately, great product managers are Chief Anticipation Officers. They pre-worry about everything — spending their time anticipating and solving problems before they become intractable. They learn to hone their anticipatory anxiety into a laser-focused attention to detail. They write user stories with exhaustive acceptance criteria in anticipation of every impact. They anticipate the market needs for the product they’re building. They anticipate the competition. They anticipate stakeholder response to roadmap changes. They anticipate user expectations and needs for each touch point in the journey. They anticipate and adjust for their team’s (ensemble’s) needs, strengths and weaknesses.

The role is “product manager” — the job is to create simple, elegant products that people love — the methodology is to anticipate as much as possible, then reincorporate what you miss and learn along the way.

About the Author: 

Smith Forté is a product builder and strategist with over 17 years of experience in digital product management, product development, execution and operations. From the early days at GeoCities and Yahoo! to Current TV, the global media company founded by former Vice President Al Gore; and most recently in the digital marketing space for clients like Chase, Intel, Vice, Unilever, GE and EA.

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PM-Agile