I joined Auvenir as a Product Manager in mid November 2020 during the era of pandemic lockdown and remote working.
It’s been almost half a year now, and I’m very grateful for this journey. And here are the 5 things I love about being an “Auvy”.
1. We are passionate, empathetic and user-centric problem solvers
People at Auvenir (the “Auvies”) are a diverse group of forward-thinkers striving to help smaller accounting firms around the world Audit Smarter.
“Success is not delivering a feature; success is learning how to solve the customer’s problem.”
“In an IT mindset organization, product and tech are mercenaries. There is little to no product passion. They are there to build whatever. In a product organization, product and tech are missionaries. They have joined the organization because they care about the mission and helping customers solve real problems.” - Marty Cagan, Partner at Silicon Valley Product Group
At Auvenir, everyone is very passionate and dedicated toward solving the right problems and building the right solutions, from discovery to execution. We listen, learn and actively collect feedback from our customers and clients during product demos, user research sessions, prototype testing and any other informal conversations to understand their challenges, pain points and goals. All insights are carefully analyzed, thought through, entered into our product backlog and prioritized into our product roadmap. Whenever we introduce a new feature or process, we always start with understanding our users & stakeholders’ needs, learn and define the why & what before we figure out the how. Every feature, every workflow is built with a purpose with our users’ experience and priorities in mind.
I am very excited to be running the upcoming Q2/21 user research activities for the Auvenir platform. As a CPA myself, I empathize deeply with the end users we serve. I cannot wait to connect with fellow auditors and discover new ways to make their life better!
2. We align to be inspired and empowered
“Great teams are made up of ordinary people who are inspired and empowered.”
― Marty Cagan, EMPOWERED: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products
Because we care about solving the right problems with the right solutions, we strive to inspire and empower our stakeholders across the board. To build successful products that users love, we want everyone on our cross-functional teams to be proud of their contributions toward our shared vision and mission.
Every Monday morning, we have a company-wide townhall to help all members and stakeholders of the organization understand the bigger picture, strategic updates and what progress we have made; and a deep dive session to educate everyone on knowledge/expertise/thought leadership/special projects from each of our functional teams. With the intention to inspire all Auvenir teams and stakeholders about our commercial product through storytelling, I worked with our Product team and initiated the Auvenir Story Time Series during townhall deep dives, where Product Managers & Designers roleplay different user personas in the workflow demo of our new features to explain key use cases and user benefits. It brings lots of excitement to the teams when they learn about the Why, Who, What, Where and How, and a lot of fulfillment to me seeing how inspired they get.
Just like any other product organizations, we face the challenge of aligning the many different stakeholders with different objectives and opinions. That’s why our Product Managers proactively seek ways to help different functional teams understand the business & user value behind the problems we solve and the solutions we build. For any new features in each Auvenir release, we involve more than just the assigned feature squad of PM (feature owner), Product Designer and BSA. Technical stakeholders from our Development team are brought onboard as early as possible in our solutioning process, and other PMs from the Product team are invited to join any ideation & brainstorming sessions, so that we can unite the power of multiple minds and everyone’s voices are heard, considered and valued.
3. We collaborate A LOT and support each other.
In my past work experiences before joining Auvenir, there were several projects where I spent huge amount of time working in silos, spinning my wheels, and struggling to figure out everything on my own. I was afraid to reach out to others in fear of troubling people.
This is not the case at Auvenir. Because we have a Team before Self culture - we Auvies truly believe in the value of collaborations and always have each other’s back.
Ever since I joined the company, I have been super fortunate to learn from everyone I work with. People are very warm, open and approachable even during this remote-working time.
We collaborate cross-functionally on most of our projects to encourage inclusivity, diversity of thoughts and knowledge-sharing - from product development to customer outreach. Just a few of many many examples:
- Our Product team’s weekly syncs are not just status check-ins but also opportunities for PMs to groom our product backlog together, exchange advice & lessons learned from different projects, and help “unblock” each other on any challenges.
- Before I did my first-ever product demo to external parties, I received incredible support and feedback from Product, Marketing, Customer Success, and Sales teams during our internal dry-runs to help whip my presentation in shape.
- Earlier this week, I was blown away by how efficiently and smoothly our Product, UX Design, BSA, and Development teams worked together to mock up prototypes and define requirements after we made a collective and informed decision for a new and quite complex feature on Auvenir’s client-auditor collaboration portal. Just like any product organizations, we deal with challenges coming from ambiguity and resource constraint; but none of these stop our cross-functional teams from collaborating to identify the optimal solution that maximizes impact and user value while being cost-efficient. No feature is ever a one-person's job.
Because of how often we collaborate, we understand and appreciate how much effort our team members put in to deliver their best work possible. That’s why we recognize each other’s effort through ongoing “shoutouts” in our whole-team Slack channel, so everyone in the company can celebrate our hard work, progress and successes!
4. We learn fast, forgive mistakes, and always look for ways to improve
Before joining Auvenir, I went through a career transition from IT audit/risk advisory into product management. Coming from a non-tech background, I have gone through a huge learning curve and screwed up a bunch of times as a new PM on the team. Thankfully, my managers and teammates at Auvenir are quite forgiving of mistakes and supportive to help me grow. Whenever I open up about my struggles, my team would be very kind to bring me up to speed and offer targeted advice on my challenges.
Within our Product team, coaching is an on-going activity - during 1 on 1s, weekly Product syncs, ad hoc calls in the middle of day/week, and anytime when a learning opportunity arises. It not only takes place between the director of product/senior PM and PMs, but also amongst every PMs on the team. In my previous jobs, I used to be afraid of making mistakes and held back from asking for help. But as an Auvy PM, making mistakes is how I learn faster, because every feedback / coaching moment is a humbling and enlightening experience. I have learned that perfectionism, isolation and ego are the biggest enemies to progress - we as humans should allow ourselves to “f*ck up” and seek support when needed. This inspired me to develop a growth mindset and treat every “f*ck-up” as an opportunity to reflect, learn, and iterate. What’s better - there is always something I can learn from every Auvy member.
We Auvies understand that nobody is ever perfect; but we also reflect regularly on lessons-learned to drive actions that help us improve. Retrospectives are frequently run within the product team, with our cross-functional teams, and with the entire company to collect feedback and identify improvement opportunities. As we grow as humans, we grow as a team.
5. We are bold and we have fun
Auvies work very hard and are serious about delivering high-quality results. But we also know how to have fun and don’t take ourselves too seriously - even when working hard. And that differentiates us from the corporate culture at many other organizations.
When I first interviewed with Auvenir, I was a bit concerned about how my other identity as a part-time standup comedian would be perceived at work, so I brought it up to the interviewers when they asked “Is there anything special about you that you’d like us to know?”. As a follow-up, I made a bold move by sending them my Medium blog article about how standup comedy changed my life. I imagined all possible worst-case-scenarios in my head, but ended up getting a heart-warming note from HR “You should be very proud of yourself!” after the interview. At that moment I knew, I most likely could be my bold and silly self at this company.
And my experience proved me right - our teams have an incredible sense of humour, and it makes the busiest & most stressful days 100 times better. We crack jokes on Slack, during team events, during meetings, and at many other occasions. Comedic relief keeps up our spirit and Positive Attitude, and keeps me motivated to power through any difficulties.
Even when working online, we host fun and creative team events almost every week. From virtual lunches and happy hours, to weekend photo competitions on Slack & 1-on-1 casual coffee chats, we take the time to relax, connect and get to know one another on a more personal level. Some of my top favourite moments with the Auvy family was when I hosted the Powerpoint Karaoke improv game at both our company-wide virtual social, and the PM-BSA-Designer happy hour - remembering the most hilarious presentations I have ever heard from our CXOs and coworkers still makes me laugh out loud today.
To Auvenir - THANK YOU for taking a chance with me 6 months ago and now giving me this incredible opportunity to share my story. It’s quite an introspective experience writing this blog.
Special shout-outs to the amazing Product team (Pei, Eric, Fiona, Gayathri, Tu) for your support and guidance along the way!
To any talented, bold, results-driven team players who can learn fast: WE ARE HIRING! Check out all of our open roles here: https://lnkd.in/gu7SbKA