Product People – Sean Scott

Product People in the News spotlights Sean Scott, Vice President and Principal Product Manager, US Bank, and the rise of the Dual-Track Career Path.

A pivotal role of the Association of Product Professionals is to strengthen the threads that connect our profession. As our profession becomes stronger, our voice will be more influential enabling us to change the way organisations perceive and accept the work of product management.

To that end, we intend to share new information about the profession, compelling changes in the practice and amplify the career movements of our esteemed colleagues in product management.

In this post, we discuss the rise of the Dual-Track Product Career path.

Dual-Track Product Career paths have become more prevalent in the product profession. Dual-Track career paths give product people the opportunity to take the managerial track or focus on honing their technical skills and contributing as an individual product manager. In this case, individual contribution is considered equally as valued as managerial contribution and is rewarded and recognised accordingly. Having a Dual-Track career path for product people builds a healthy product-led culture that not only lifts recruitment and retention but delivers better product outcomes.

While researching and learning more about the global product community, we noticed that Sean Scott from the U.S. Bank had a dual job title. Sean not only had access to a Dual-Track Career path, but he also has ‘technically’ 2 types of jobs.

We recently reached out to Sean to learn about his job title and role.

Vice President and Principal Product Manager, U.S. Bank is an unusual job title. Can you tell me a little about your role and what you do at US Bank?

“I would say that U.S. Bank marries the traditional financial world with the new digital world and that's where the officer titles come in place. An officer title is given based on merit. They are based on experience, dependency, loyalty and accomplishments. These concepts form part of the traditional financial world and of bigger organizations.

When I started work in 2017, the U.S. Bank was in the middle of a digital transformation. That transformation introduced digital to the financial world. That is where, as our digital chops matured, we saw the need to introduce, from a product management standpoint, a more standard set of roles and titles.”

The Principal Product Manager role is a hands-on product management role. Do you still get the option to do hands-on work in your dual role?

“Yes, very much so.

U.S. Bank is the fifth-largest bank in the US.

For a bank that size, when it comes to digital, product managers are thought of as individual contributors. We participate in creating strategy and roadmaps, all the way to having discussions with our creative and technology partners to make sure we're building the right thing.

I think that's part of the role of a product manager, whatever sort of organisation you're at. There are certain demands of the role, both official and unofficial, and as product managers, we stretch to do what it is we need to do to create impact for our customers.

The product management space moves so quickly that as a product manager I just want to consume and process information, to hopefully be one of the first ones to not just read about it, but implement it and get a sense of whether something works or not.

Do you think it's a growing trend in product management to have these dual roles that you have?

I think so. I think just from the sheer fact that there are so many startups. And as we know, folks normally join startups as individual skilled contributors but as the organisation matures, I think the management title and the accompanying activities get tacked on to their roles.

I know that's not for everyone. I think there are still folks who love the individual contributor role. I'm not super keen on the management aspect and almost everything that comes with that. So I think the US Bank, and a lot of other organisations that are more mature, are really recognising that as of late and really trying to offer two tracks for people like myself. But I really enjoy the coaching aspects of management, almost as much as solving problems for our customers. And that's why, for me, in particular, this hybrid world works.

Can you share with me how the product teams are structured at your bank? Are many of the product roles dual roles, or individual contributor roles?

Many of us have hybrid and dual roles. We’re structured along portfolios, experiences and journeys at U.S. Bank. In general Principal Product Managers “own” an experience, Group Product Managers are responsible for journeys and product managers for a team within that journey. Features are typically managed at the team level.

The whole digital team reports to our Chief Digital Officer.

You mentioned that the US Bank just went through a digital transformation. Did the product team have a big part to play in that transformation?

The powerful aspect of this digital transformation was that it was led by our leadership team. When you're looking at changing an organisation that's 70,000 plus employees, you really require a culture change. And that's in phases, right? It doesn't change overnight. It’s really something that never ends completely.

So, when I started in 2017, Agile and Scrum existed in pockets. But 2017 marked the beginning of a wider acceptance of the practices by both our business partners and frankly ourselves. It wasn't just a development methodology anymore. It meant that the product team got to leverage this new way of thinking to deploy faster and therefore meet the needs of our customers a little faster as well.

And does product management have an influential voice that you US bank at the moment?

Yeah, it certainly does. I think there's pros and cons to being a product manager. By that I mean we are folks who come from different backgrounds. We can solve customer problems, some of us know how to code, solve design problems, and more. As a result of our diverse backgrounds, we are expected to do much more than identify new market opportunities.

That is interesting, right? Product management is interesting.

I'm not a big believer in the concept ‘Product Manager as CEO’ but I think we do have to fight every day to make sure we’re collaborating. Our work is really a team effort. I think the product manager has a unique position in most organisations. We have a seat at the table as well as the ability to provide a solution that solves valuable customer problems.

So it's our responsibility to take that opportunity, right? Because, again, it's not something that a lot of other folks and roles are afforded.

We are excited to share Sean’s story, so a big thank you from the team at the Association of Product Professionals.

Be sure to reach out to us if you have an interesting story to share that will benefit all Product people.

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