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!

We’re carrying out a set of interviews with our ProDev team to find out what a day in the life of an Unruly developer looks like. This week we sat down with our Agile Coach Qaiser Mazhar to chat about his agile journey, becoming a father, and his love for gardening!

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

QM: Hey, I’m Qaiser Mazhar and I’m the Agile Coach at Unruly. I’ve been here for almost six months. I coach teams and individuals at Unruly to harness the benefits of agile principles and practices through a variety of ways including games, workshops, catch ups and meetings. I’ve also been known to write a line or two of code!

Q: How did you end up here?

QM: I found out about Unruly a long time ago when I attended XP meetups at the old offices. I used to also see Rachel Davies, Unruly’s former Agile Coach, at conferences and events.

I heard about the Agile Coaching role at Unruly through a headhunter. I was due to start at a different company shortly after hearing about the role, but when I found out that it was for Unruly, and that Steve Hayes had recently become the new CTO, I knew this was an opportunity too good to pass up! Steve worked at Goldman Sachs around the same time as me, which is where I discovered that Steve was an agilista.

Working at a company where the founders built agile into its DNA is really rare. I’m excited to see what we can achieve!

Q: Tell us about life before Unruly…

QM: I’ve always been a big techie at heart! I started my career off as a software engineer at Goldman Sachs where I helped the company navigate the 2008 financial crisis using XP and lean practices.

From Goldman Sachs I moved to Rightmove where I worked in a split role as a Technical Lead and Agile Coach. I helped Rightmove transform their legacy tech and practices so that they were fit for the future. This was one of the most challenging, but rewarding experiences of my career to date. Echoing Rightmove parlance: in Agile, I had found my happy!

With success in digital transformation, I decided to take on a bigger challenge and so I joined Marks and Spencer as an Agile Coach and Delivery Lead. There was always amazing value to generate from supporting and growing multiple development teams, to improving communications between departments and supporting leadership teams. It wasn’t just any job, it was an M&S job!

Q: You’ve been on quite a journey! What draws you to this type of work?

QM: Working in a place where you can take a real-world problem, and turn it into an opportunity to create something that can improve the lives of millions of people on a daily basis is something I’ve been consistently drawn to in my career.

Moving from a Developer to an Agile Coach was a difficult choice but being able to support individuals, teams, and the wider business with their short, medium and long term challenges is incredibly rewarding. Working with everyone to cultivate a safe and sustainable environment where all Unrulies have a clear purpose, a pathway to mastery in the things we do, and the autonomy to get on with the task at hand is a continual process of improvement that is so varied that I am always learning and growing.

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

QM: I help my friends at work to discover and experiment with things that could help them work together better, delight our customers more often, and grow as a company in the long term, whilst having fun along the way.

Q: Tell us about something you’ve learnt while working here?

QM: I’ve learnt that not every fridge in the office is what it seems! (Editor’s note: Qaiser’s right, some of fridges have special properties!)

Q: Do you put your skills to work outside the office?

QM: I’m a London Java Community Associate, which is the steering group for the largest Java community in Europe.

Q: Got any side hustles?

QM: I used to have a side hustle in the recruitment tech space before joining Unruly. Becoming a new father and the fast pace of my day job meant I had to put that to bed.

For fun, I am considering creating an open source android app that combines elements of multiple productivity techniques alongside agile and lean practices. It’s on my to do list!

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

QM: My wife and I spend most of our weekends running after our son at activities and events! I love catching up with friends and family over coffees and dinners, and at home we’re keen gardeners so we spend most weekends working on our veg plot.

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

QM: There are always so many great ideas that our developers could be working on. As we grow parts of our business, some of our teams focus around scaling up our services so we can meet the increasing demand for existing services. We have teams that are focussed on thinking about future opportunities in areas like machine learning and big data. Then there are others building new features in existing services to break into new markets. It’s all very exciting and I’m always blown away by the things our developers do in their 20% learning time too!

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?

QM: Working at Unruly during a time of massive growth is really interesting as an agile coach. Helping our teams scale, but still retain agile values by figuring out new ways of collaborating, prioritising and delivering value is really fun.

Q: And finally, what music do you listen to whilst working?

QM: I’m usually working with other people around the office but when I do have my headphones on I’m listening to Chillstep.

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!

We recently sat down with Alex Wilson from our ProDev team to find out more about the day in the life of an Unruly developer. Find out more about the projects, the people, and above all – the best music to listen to while coding. 

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

AW: Hi! I’m Alex Wilson, and I’ve been at Unruly for almost six years, working in the Product Development team.

During my time at Unruly, I’ve held a few different roles and currently work as the Team Lead for our Shared Infrastructure Team. Our team look after shared systems, and try to act as a force-multiplier for other development teams so they can work on their own domain-specific problems.

How did you find out about Unruly, and what you did before you got here?

AW: I did a short summer internship as a software developer for another ad-tech company, but Unruly is my first “proper” job. I found out about it through a friend I went to University with. I finished University on Friday, moved to London over the weekend and started on Monday. I was still doing corrections for my master’s dissertation during my probation period!

Q: Wow! A very quick turnaround! What do you enjoy about the work you do?

AW: I’ve always liked solving problems and supporting other people, and I get a huge kick out of making processes faster and removing blockers. The shift to becoming a team leader was a big change but I’m enjoying spending more time thinking about long-term sustainability and improvements, whilst at the same time enabling a fun and safe learning environment for my team.

Q: How do you put your skills to use outside of work?

AW: I spend some of my time outside Unruly volunteering my software development skills for Democracy Club. They are a community working on making elections in the UK much easier for people to navigate, and cover all aspects of the electoral process, from being able to find your polling station on election day, to seeing who is running for a position and their policies.

Q: Everyone loves a side hustle. Tell us about yours:

AW: A particular interest of mine is ‘small data’ (data sets of curious or niche information). I maintain a database of Strictly Come Dancing results and contestant data, and have contributed to OpenBenches (https://openbenches.org/) which is an index of memorial benches around the world.

We get Gold Cards, also known as 20% Time, in Product Development to work on things that we are interested in, and I recently built a small open-sourced web-app called MapDrop to help me accumulate locations of interesting things. I can drop and label a pin at my current location, and then download them all later, or view them on an interactive map.

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

AW: I don’t like being indoors too much, I usually spend my time walking around London’s many canals and small rivers, sticking my head into small cafes, and exploring museums. I make sure I take a day off every year to go to the Science Museum and check out their latest exhibits!

I’m also a huge fan of fantasy novels, and when it’s cold and miserable outside there’s nothing like burying myself in a good book or binge-watching a box set. I’m currently working my way through Terrace House which is a really addictive Japanese reality show!

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

AW: The problem we face time and time again is making sure that we’re still building the right thing, in the right way, to solve the right problems at the right time.

We’re an XP development company at our core, and a lot of our thinking goes towards tuning and improving our prioritisation processes.

We also have to make sure that we’re giving enough time to innovation and research, without compromising on our continuous delivery ethos.

Any and every single person at Unruly can make a difference to our business. In ProDev alone, a couple of Gold Card projects have been spun out into revenue-driving products, or helped the wider business save time that was previously spent on mundane tasks.

Q: Finally, the most important question! What music do you listen to whilst working? Do you have a specific work playlist?

AW: It tends to be all over the place, anything from the Nightvale Presents podcast network to whatever’s currently in the charts, to classical choral music, but I’ll always have a soft spot for pop!

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!