A Day in the Life of a (Senior) Product Specialist
When I originally agreed to do this blog, I had an idea that I would write a post describing “A Day in the Life of a Product Specialist” in the style of a JIRA (agile software development platform) ticket. Then, time got away from me and I found myself working on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Cleveland, with little creative inspiration to fit a “daily routine” style piece into the technical and structured (and admittedly, sometimes boring) language of a JIRA ticket. After all, I spend my days writing JIRA tickets anyway - I might as well write like a human while describing my human job.
So, what does it mean to be a product specialist (or in my case, a senior product specialist) at GenomOncology (GO)? I’ve worked in this role for three years now, and the answer has evolved with that time. Because GO is a small business, my day to day tasks vary quite a bit - the product specialist role lends itself particularly well to the trope of ‘wearing a lot of hats’. Our work spans engineering, design (technical and UX), client support and management, product/project management, and operations. I’ve found that being adaptable and nimble are key traits to success as a GO Product Specialist.
Caption: Another key to being a successful PS at GO while WFH is WFC (work from couch) afternoons.
At the highest level, my job is to translate client and industry needs into features that improve our software platforms. In some instances, this involves working directly with clients to develop features to help enable their workflows in our platform. In others, this involves doing higher level research into the industry to determine broader areas of improvement for our platform. There are a variety of product specialist tasks that go into feature design, development, and release:
Collecting requirements - chatting with clients via email or over status calls with prepared questions to clarify their specific workflows and needs of our platform. Or, for broader improvement areas, the product team will conduct research to determine the parameters of the new feature idea for the platform.
Synthesizing requirements - one of the messier steps of the process. This step involves translating requirements into a solution that meets those requirements. Lots of back and forth happens here, and all GO product specialists can sympathize with the experience of coming up with an idea, spending a few hours fleshing it out, and eventually having to scrap it in favor of returning to square one to build something different for some reason.
Design meetings and design review meetings - product specialists work with our product and technical directors to review features. The purpose of these discussions is to ensure that everyone is in agreement that the proposed solution is the best solution, and that it is technically feasible.
JIRA management - some of the work we do is less exciting and design focused, but is necessary for ensuring that our operations run smoothly. JIRA management falls into this bucket - we maintain a pull-queue of features ready for development that our developers use to pull a ticket if they have finished something or are blocked somewhere. We also use JIRA to plan releases of our code, so that the product team knows what features are in each release and can address questions accordingly.
TESTING is a huge part of our job. We run a series of automated tests on any new code that is merged into the master branch, ensuring that backwards compatibility is always met. Certain features require the addition of new automated tests to this repository, which the product specialist team is in charge of writing. Additionally, releases are thoroughly tested before being cleared for deployment to ensure that no bugs are introduced, and that the product is functioning properly.
At GenomOncology, our product specialist team enables the company’s continued success by constantly improving our platform’s offerings. The role is dynamic and demanding, and our team is constantly adapting and making changes to our work processes so that we can continue to provide the best possible service to our clients.