Inside ProDev: Our Product Manager on culture, crossfit, and delivering wow!

Next up in our ‘Inside ProDev’ series we sat down with one of our Product Managers Julien Altoé to find out what it’s like to work as a Product Manager in the ProDev team.

Q: Hi Julien, first of all, could you introduce yourself and tell a bit about what you do here at Unruly?

As you faultlessly said, my name is Julien, and I am a 28-year-old Frenchman that has been working at Unruly for three years. After a few roles in the Ops team, I am now a Product Manager in the ProDev team. I am the home Product Manager for the Demand Side, and as the name implies, we are the team that look after the demand side of the business. Making sure anyone willing to access the video supply we’re offering can do it seamlessly.

Q: Can you talk a bit about how you joined Unruly?

As I have met numerous ad tech companies in my previous role, it was only a matter of time before Unruly crossed my path. With Sandra, the commercial in charge of OMD, we skipped the usual formal meeting in the lobby and went straight for lunch. We had an instant connection and after she told me about the Unruly culture, she mentioned an offer as a Campaign Manager in the French office they were currently looking to backfill. I applied the following day. Having the opportunity to work abroad regularly was my main incentive, and three years later, I am more than happy about the outcome! I started in Paris, went to Sydney for a few months, spent some time in Hamburg. I have also collaborated with our New York, Singapore and Stockholm offices, and am now based in London, love it!

Q: What notable roles did you hold before?

I had a variety of jobs when I was studying sports marketing. I’ve been a seller at IKEA, a warehouse worker at Chronopost, a receptionist in a bank and even a binman! I believe each role helped me to be versatile and adapt to my following experiences.

Once I completed my Masters, I had no experience or knowledge in digital advertising. However, I was fortunate enough to get an internship at OMD as a Digital Media buyer. After six months I got a role as a Digital Trader, which is where I started playing with programmatic.

After that I took on the role at Unruly as a Campaign Manager in Paris, and completed my tour in Australia. I then started as a Senior Campaign Manager when I moved to London. We launched our programmatic offering, and I helped build the tools and processes needed to develop the new business model. I moved on as a Programmatic Ops in the UK and continued to support the team with the daily activities, as well as longer-term projects around programmatic.

Q: How would you explain your job to your grandparents?

I’ve been trying for a while now, but I’m not sure I’ve found the right way. I tell them that it’s similar to the massive poster ads you see at the bus station, but I do it on web pages! It’s difficult to explain to your grandparents, especially when it comes to the scary and complicated internet! As a Product Manager, I try to explain to them what that means on a daily basis. I tell them that we build things, and I have to make sure we build the right things, in the right way.

Q: What draws you to this type of work?

I believe this is very much related to my personal development. If you asked me three years ago, I would’ve never imagined I’d be a Product Manager in an adtech company in London. Talking in front of an audience was the scariest thing for me, but now I do it every day. At the beginning my knowledge of technologies was more than limited. Along the way I’ve been lucky enough to find patient mentors who shared their adtech masteries throughout the years, and helped me progress within the company.

I’m honestly not too sure how I ended up here. I took my chances when opportunities arose, which is very much interrelated to my development as a (grown-up) man. I continuously try to stay open-minded and adapt my approaches to new situations. Empathy is a keyword in the team. Being surrounded by people who care is indispensable for me. I am fully aware that we’re in a business with commercial goals, however, that doesn’t mean we have to remove the human aspect from the equation.

Q: What continues to surprise you about your work?

During the hiring process at Unruly everyone is given 30 seconds to “Deliver Wow”. I wanted to show something about myself that I wouldn’t usually do with people I just met. I told the team about my sense of humour and that I would do things that only I would find funny. They were fine with that as Unruly is a place where you can just be yourself.

Every day I collaborate with new people, and I’m still amazed to see how diverse and tolerant people are in this company. Arriving in the ProDev team after almost three years in the Ops team was full of surprises! I’ve discovered a new way of approaching my work with lots of retrospective and feedback sessions, where we are as transparent as possible and try to learn from previous iterations. That continuous quest for improvement, both in terms of productivity and well-being, is a real enjoyment for me!

Q: It’s the weekend: what do you like to do in your spare time.

I am fortunate enough to have a garden, and I spend lots of time there. I do feel some enjoyment from not taking the tube anymore and cycling around as well, I’ve discovered so many new places and areas since I got my bike.

Also, I’ve been practising Crossfit for more than a year now which I love. It is super important to help me maintain a positive mood most days. Finally, watching the Premier League takes a significant part of my free time, as Arsenal produce good football while losing at the same time!

Q: What kind of challenges does ProDev tackle?

As we’ve grown up very quickly in the past few months, some new internal challenges arose within the team. One very important thing in a company with such a unique and strong culture is to make sure new joiners understand the foundations and values of the business, as well as to feel a part of it as early as possible.

In an always changing environment where new priorities and market needs can disrupt the short and long-term objectives quite regularly, some external challenges have to be faced by developers.

Q: What music do you listen to while working/do you have a specific playlist?

I most definitely do have a few playlists, their vibes vary a lot, depending on the weather, the day of the week or even the football results! I enjoy different types of music from reggae/dub to techno, rap, house and even some French classics for nostalgia. There’s my “Principalement du Chill” playlist that I listen to a lot, and my “D’ici et d’ailleurs, enfin surtout d’ailleurs” playlist that can cure a punctual blues! 

Want to join the Unruly family? You’re in luck, we’re hiring! Check out our job page for the latest roles!

Meet some other members of the ProDev team!

Next up in our ‘Inside ProDev’ series we sat down with one of our Software Engineers Ina Tsetsova to find out what a day in the life of an Unruly developer looks like. 

Q: Hi Ina, first of all, could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you do here at Unruly?

IT: Hi! I’m Ina Tsetsova and I’m a Software Engineer here at Unruly, currently working in our Shared Infrastructure team. The team started by taking over infrastructure projects that didn’t have an owner, and were getting pretty out-of-date. Now we are steadily improving things, instilling best practices, and spreading infrastructure knowledge!

Q: How did you end up at Unruly?

IT: I went to a couple of XProlo events and was blown away by the energy there. The speakers were engaging and the content was stellar. I quickly became curious about the company and its culture. As luck would have it, I already knew a couple of developers working at Unruly. I grabbed a coffee with each and tried to figure out if the company would be a good fit for me. It was, and here I am!

Q: Tell us about your day-to-day experience in the Unruly Pro Dev team?

IT: It is unique! We do a number of things differently than other organisations. For one, we do trunk-based development, and we deploy multiple times a day. Visitors to the office might see a lot of stuffed toys around, but they aren’t just for decoration. They are all deployment tokens and each has its own meaning. We take XP values and practices to heart, we do test-driven development, and we pair on everything that gets pushed into production.

soft toy in the Unruly office

As developers, we also have more ownership of our stories and practices. We do our own research, we talk to stakeholders, and we propose work for prioritisation. We’re very collaborative. If you choose to pair all day, every day, you probably enjoy working with people a fair bit.

Q: What draws you to the type of work you do?

IT: I care about making things better and having a tangible impact. The team I’m currently in enables me to do just that! We are in the same room as our stakeholders and deeply care about removing blockers for them. We also help to automate away the repeatable and manual tasks that get in the way of delivering business value quicker!

In my team, we’ve split the type of work we do across different strands. Mine is about ‘Reducing Toil’ for the rest of ProDev. That is ‘toil’ in the SRE sense of the word – work that is manual, automatable, of no lasting value, that doesn’t scale.  Everyone in our team owns their strand, and mine really aligns with my values. This really helps me feel productive and happy at work!

Q: What have you learnt during your time at Unruly?

IT: I’ve learned so many things! Some highlights have been learning to work with Linux, understanding site reliability engineering practices and ideas, and getting to grips with the infrastructure.

I’ve also gained a lot of auxiliary skills like improving my presentation and interviewing, communicating with stakeholders, running effective meetings, visualising work progress, researching stories, collaborating, giving feedback – the list goes on!

Q: Tell us about any side projects you’re working on.

IT: I want to contribute more to open source as our team has already released multiple open source projects. One of them is a set of Puppet modules for a base Centos 7 configuration.

It’s made me look into open source outside of Unruly. There are so many interesting projects available, and some of my favourites listed are at opensourcediversity.org. It’s a great place to look for first-timer issues! I’ve just completed my first pull request to one of the projects listed.

Q: It’s the weekend: what are you doing?

IT: I read! I read books about fantasy, magic, environmentalism, self-improvement and tech. I also spend time with my husband outdoors. We go to nature reserves, have picnics in parks, or just sit on the balcony and listen to podcasts together.

Q: What kind of challenges do the developers at Unruly tackle?

IT: Work flexibility is a somewhat of a challenge. Things like remote work and flexible hours are fairly new at Unruly and will take some time before they become frictionless. Part of the challenge is because we pair all the time and we’re all collocated. Therefore a lot of our knowledge is either on white boards or shared in person. It’s something that Unruly has been supportive of experimenting with and it’s definitely becoming easier. As a result it’s perfectly common now for me to do my 20% time from home and dial in if necessary.

Q: Describe the Unruly developer culture in three words:

IT: Thoughtful, curious, and kind.

Q: What music do you listen to whilst working?

IT: We don’t really listen to music at work, because we’re pairing virtually all the time. You’ll almost never see a dev with headphones, unless they’re catching up on their admin work. As for my music, I enjoy songs that fall under acoustic, folk or alternative metal. I have a small but growing collection of songs. I also purchase my music either directly from the musicians or from ethical music sellers where the majority of the revenue goes straight to the artist.

Want to join the Unruly family? You’re in luck, we’re hiring! Check out our job page for the latest roles!

Meet some other members of the ProDev team!