What did you study, where?
I studied electrical engineering at the Pennsylvania State University in the US. It is showing my age but, back then, EE was an all-encompassing title for RF design, digital design, computer programming, Power engineering … you name it. There was a lot less to learn back then and you could learn it all in 4 years. But seriously, I did have a very broad course of study which served me well as I have worked in several different industries over the years. At my brother’s advice I got an MBA from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.
How long have you worked at Calnex and what attracted you to join?
I have been with Calnex about 2 and a half years now. It seems like a short time but with the phenomenal rate of growth we are experiencing, I feel like a veteran here. I started my career with Hewlett-Packard working with electronic test equipment, so when I saw that there was an opening at Calnex I was attracted by the prospect of returning to this type of company. Although the technology was different from anything I had worked with before, I felt my experience marketing test equipment would serve me well.
What motivates or energizes you about your role and working life at Calnex?
So far in my career I have only worked at multibillion pound companies so the prospect of working at a ‘small’ company was daunting. However, what motivates me most about Calnex is how we have a foot in each camp. We are big enough to do anything we set our minds to, and small enough to actually get those things done. We have all the necessary skills and capabilities in the company to pursue any business opportunity we want. We are successful enough to be able to fund new ideas and projects that make sense even when they are a bit different than what we traditionally do. However, compared to larger companies where huge amounts of effort is required to ‘sell’ new ideas within the company and fight against entrenched siloed thinking, at Calnex it is much easier to get people on board. You still have to prove the idea but people are much more open to new ideas and everyone in the company, even the CEO, is easily accessible.
Talk us through a typical day at Calnex
In-office days are often filled with discussions and decision making, while home-working days are a chance to focus on things that might require more time and concentration. One of the things that surprised me was that emails within the company are often about sharing useful information and communicating decisions and that meetings are about idea sharing and problem solving. Even on days where I feel like I’ve spent the large part of the working day in meetings, I realise we actually got a lot of good things done.
Most challenging aspects for your job?
Prioritisation. There is a lot to do. The challenge is getting the balance right amongst the different tasks that could be done. Good planning and scheduling help me get things done on time, but then I have to prioritise things so that I don’t over egg the pudding and spend to much time on any one thing. This can be tough when some of the stuff I do is so interesting and fun that time evaporates while I’m doing it.
What skills do you need to succeed in the role?
Flexibility, not just for the Thursday Pilates class but, to be willing to take on a variety of tasks. Communication. People at Calnex listen to each other and if you can do a good job communicating an idea then people will start pulling in the same direction towards that goal. Listening. Calnex is full of talented people with great ideas. Sometimes your job is simply to listen and put all the ideas together into one big picture.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a Product Manager?
Learn the basics about marketing and learn when the tried-and-tested ideas make sense to apply and when they don’t. Learn about the wider workings of a company through informal or even formal education such as an MBA. Stay curious and be enthusiastic.
What do you do for downtime?
Travel, caravan, read, DIY and try to keep up with my 12 year old daughter.