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Meet a Product Manager – Kathryn Gaskell Edition
Posted on Friday, October 31, 2014
Meet a Product Manager – Kathryn Gaskell Edition
For AV Month, we’re doing a series of blogs with our intrepid Product Management team. First up, Kathryn Gaskell.

Professional Life
How long have you been in product management?
I have been in product management for over 15 years. Wow that makes me feel old – saying that time. It has gone by fast. I have always had interest in the creative and the technical sides of providing solutions for customers. So product management was a great fit for me. I get to wear so many hats through a day, even in an hour. During my career I have been drawn to technical, physical products that are leaders in the marketplace. I am new to AV and Milestone. But uncovering customer needs and wants is something I have been doing a long time, with joy.

Describe the work you do.
When you are a product manager, you treat your products like they are your babies. You need to decide when to add something new to the family – what that means is defining it well to be able to communicate the new feature or product need to others, develop it with a team and introduce it to the marketplace. While the product is in the marketplace, you make sure it’s alive and happy, see if it needs an improvements, a new look or new features. And from time to time you need to retire a product because the need has changed and the marketplace moved on. In AV, as video walls are created in new configurations and applications, you are trying to find opportunities and solutions for those needs by keeping connected to customers and partners to come to the marketplace with a great solution that everyone loves. The great thing about product management is you play on the creative front and on the technical side. So you get a lot of variety. My favorite part is working with customers by far. They are the ones living and breathing it every day.

What drew you to this work?
The variety and making people happy. You come up with a really innovative solution they don’t have today, and the look in those customers eyes when you bring them that solution, you can’t make that up. Seeing their happiness or joy or appreciation is awesome. It’s making someone’s day easier, creating better looking content in the marketplace and prettier environments to live in. Being able to do that at Milestone is even better.

How did you first hear of Chief?
Through a friend. My manager is a friend of a friend of mine, so that helped me know the people at Chief were going to be people I enjoyed working with.

What are the challenges of the job?
A fun challenge is you have to translate what a customer says, does and feels into a product.

Describe a typical day at work.
There is no such thing. Some days I’ll be in the marketplace talking to customers, some days I’m in the office tracking down custom opportunities or potential projects coming soon, some days I’m in development and brainstorming for the next generation of products, some days I’m in production/manufacturing to help improve processes, and some days I am training sales and customer service.

What makes something a good idea for you? What do you consider when evaluating a direction for a product?
It needs to be innovative or new, yet simple to comprehend and use. You really want to find that perfect balance of simplicity and excitement. You want to go wow, that’s really cool, why didn’t someone think of it before? ConnexSys is one of those examples by using strut channel as a base to level a single row. When I watch customers understand that concept, they are like “I get it, and I love it.”

Personal Life
Do you have other hobbies or interests?
I enjoy spending time with family and friends, hosting gatherings and helping people with a few charities I’m in. I enjoy boating on the Mississippi River.

Where did you grow up?
A suburb of Minneapolis, Hopkins.

What’s your first memory?
I live in the house I grew up in. My father added on to that house when I was a young girl. It was my father and grandfather building and me running around with a tool belt on at the age of two and trying to help.

What was your family like growing up?
Just the average family. My father was an engineer, and my mother was a stay-at-home mother. Education was important to the family. We worked hard. We appreciated family time.

Do you know when you first got interested in product management?
It was at the first company that I worked at for 18 years. I had a wonderful mentor who worked with me. She brought product management to me at the time and asked if I would be interested. I fell in love with it pretty fast.

College degrees?
Marketing and management.

Final Thoughts
What personality traits work well with what you do?
I think caring and empathetic. You can hear the softer messages customers are telling you without trying to jump to solutions. Listening is a good characteristic to have to understand the root cause, problem and pain point. That’s what the underlying need is. It’s not always the first thing someone says. You also learn by watching them go through their day. Other characteristics are definitely project management skills and people skills to work with cross-functional teams.

What frustrates you?
Inefficiency. But when you see it, I see opportunity, so being able to turn that and improve that. It’s can be frustrating but a good challenge to have.

What excites you?
Every day is different. It’s never dull. There’s plenty to do. And that we have a great team.

What do you worry about?
That a product will be as good as we think it will be. There’s always a nervous tension in the air when you are about to announce a new product.

Do you get nervous?
Yeah, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I love the culture here — they believe in people’s knowledge, experience and empathy – where we don’t belabor data. It helps me move forward without getting caught up in details.

What do you wish for most?
Awesome teamwork.

What is your favorite non-dirty curse word?