Managing Products in Gaming With Maestro VP of Product

This week, Product School hosted Matthew Jordan, VP of Product at Maestro for a special #AskMeAnything session. He answered questions on how to transition from Project to Product Management, challenges in the gaming industry, and advice for Product Owners on transitioning to Management.

Meet Matthew

Matthew, Australian born and currently residing in Paris, France as a naturalized Citizen; has enjoyed a diverse career, ranging from human resources to project management. He has worked across a variety of industries including mining, consumer finance, information and communications technology, and 8 years within in the gaming industry.  with Ubisoft, a leading global video game publisher. Currently working within the interactive live streaming space, he spends his days solving complex international business problems with user-centric solutions whilst handling the challenges of collaboration with remote development teams and stakeholders worldwide.

Not content with the status quo, he rigorously applies critical thinking methods and strategic vision to define and create viable solutions and architectures to produce a fluid consumer experience. Taking an owner-mindset approach while driving communication, relationship development, and stakeholder management; Matthew has launched a portfolio of successful products that support live game development, player communications, and user acquisition. Leveraging his unique experience and educational profile in the business, psychology, and project management, Matthew offers a creative and systems-focused approach to product management. Outside of work you can find him playing guitar, attending concerts, or traveling around the world making sure to try all local cuisine.

“How did you get into the gaming industry?”

I wasn’t actively targeting the industry when I joined, though I was/am an avid gamer since a young age. I was looking for a role in my new home country to leverage my skills, and I was lucky enough to be a part of it through a standard application (it still can happen! 🙂 ). There can be many paths, and being on a production/game development side is quite different to where I was on the business/transversal services side.

gaming tools

“What was the most challenging aspect of managing products in the gaming industry compared to other spaces you’ve worked in?”

An extreme user focus to control for high demands. Gamers as a consumer group and sub-culture can be demanding and it’s an interesting line to tread on creative and business expectations. A well-thought-out and executed plan by traditional methods, can still not perform as expected, and community responses can derail the best-intentioned programs. The flip side, is you are almost never short of feedback from the community and users.

“How you were able to make the change from project management to product management? What helped you make that transition?”

I transitioned where I took over an existing application/product, and I managed a few stages of its evolution. I was able to show that I could think of what stage the product was in, where it could or should go next, what needed to be solved or cut from the scope. I was able to shift the focus on the business reason for the application to the users, and then from here I was a self-starter and proposed ideas, took a 2 line request, and went off and elaborated on new solutions. Being the ‘intrapreneur’ is a very important mindset.

colored blocks

“What advice would you give Product Owners who want to become Product Managers?”

Start to think longer and more strategically. Focus on where you’re ownership of development is taking you. Demonstrate that you want to make an impact on the wider business, and put down some ideas on what you think can/should be strategically changed and focused on. It sounds easier said than done, but essentially the first thing to change is your mindset, to factor in and think holistically, and then identify where you currently fit in, where you want to go, and pitch. Doing well in your job is great, but try out ideas, pitch them, and importantly take the risk of saying “I think I can steer where the whole system can go instead of just my part ‘, the ownership mindset is key.

Show an understanding of the users of your product/work, go beyond execution to focus on the why, why are we doing this, why does it fit to strategy, why does it make sense? Then be able to demonstrate this in your work and communicate it upstream. I always impress on my teams I’ve managed, if we can’t show why we’re doing something, then we shouldn’t be doing it. Exploring and pitching ideas is great, and immediately you can start to DO the job of the product manager, but applying the skills in how you talk about your work, report on it, and show you see how it fits into the whole organization. This will go a long way to being recognized. I’ve found that when I’ve moved into new roles, I essentially was already doing them, don’t’ wait for the role, start doing it in whatever ways you can now.

“What are good ways to prioritizing features in the active growth stage when there are many new things coming?”

Great question, prioritization is always a vexing issue, when there are a million things to focus on. I’m in that phase right now in my current role. A strategy needs to be defined, we need to identify a north star, it may change in 3 months, but we have to have a sense of direction and goals to anchor our efforts to, otherwise, we’ll burn ourselves trying to keep too many plates spinning. I look to focus on what can give you the most immediate return, but counter this with a breakdown of our focus on ‘our clients, our internal business, our future needs’, what do our customers want now, what does the business need to sustain its growth and performance, and what do we need to make sure we keep heading in the right direction in 6 months 12 months, so we don’t run out of the trail. It’s a balancing act. Communicate, share ideas and get feedback, and critically get alignment from your stakeholders.

dart board

“As a PM in the gaming domain, what’s your level of influence or participation in the storyline, graphics, sound (from an artistic point of view), and UI/UX  of a game?”

I didn’t work directly on game production, so i sadly can’t validly answer questions directly related to this side of the business. I was on transversal tools and services for all of our studios and business teams, and gamers to use globally.

“What do you think would be the priorities for building a loyalty solution for gamers that would work for companies like Ubisoft?”

Give value. What you offer needs to reflect how much you value your customers that you want to be loyal to you. Think through what aligns with what they love about your product and experience. So it will depend on the game, the mechanic, and also the market/culture, as what may be interesting for a US market may not be received as excitedly by saying the Japanese fanbase. Consumers and gamers specifically I feel, know when something has been designed for them, rather than for the company, ensure it has them at the center, if they feel valued, they’re more likely to stay with you. But It can be a fine line between being seen as unfairly rewarding or game mechanic upsetting/marketing place balance, it can be tricky. I’ve been there and designed loyalty retention programs myself.

Check out: What To Do With a High Churn Rate

skyscraper

Final advice,  be organized,  be a great communicator (which doesn’t mean a great speaker), and care about what you are doing, and if you don’t, then find something you’re actually interested in, because product requires vision, ideas, and enthusiasm to understand your future or current users. If you don’t feel engaged yourself, it’s an uphill battle to design and have the ownership mindset for others to feel that way.

Being able to bring ideas to life, as cheesy as that sounds, but I like to build things. So to look back and think, that I took a 2 line email about solving some need, into a solution that managed millions of players, or a new way to attract and retain fans of our games, and now to build out the next evolution of interactive content streaming. I like to leave something behind, if it’s worth doing it’s worth doing right, so I feel proud if something stands after I’ve walked away.  Not one thing in particular, but the ability to keep getting that feeling, means i’m pursuing something worthwhile in my career fulfilment goals.

Join us next week for another #AskMeAnything Session for more insights from Product Managers around the world!

Productcon banner

Enjoyed the article? You may like this too: