Product Owner cohort tees up e-discovery insights | Zapproved

With three successful learning cohorts, Zapproved is proving the value of apprenticeship in electronic data discovery software innovation

The old adage of learning by doing is alive and well in Zapproved’s product and engineering teams. Starting earlier this year, Zapproved has been applying that simple concept to amp up its technical and intellectual bench with three cohorts of raw talent. Equipped with natural problem solving acumen, and the requisite beginner’s mind, these individuals are helping Zapproved push the edge of innovation.

Apprenticeships are nothing new, stemming from the Middle Ages when they were the primary way trades were taught, learned and mastered. In today’s hyperspeed, ultra competitive environment, companies are rediscovering apprentice programs to think further outside the box and accelerate innovation.

Zapproved launched two Engineering Foundation Program cohorts and one Product Owner cohort to do just that. The strategy is simple: recruit talent with great potential and tap into their learning process to find fresh ways to solve coding and product challenges. Other goals include:

  • Support the tech community by enabling less experienced talent to gain coding and product management skills.
  • Identify candidates to join Zapproved as regular employees who otherwise would not have qualified.

Together we are more quickly maturing skill sets, improving workflows and advancing product performance. It’s traditional apprenticeship adapted to the 21st Century ethos of Agile development.

Product Owner cohort aims high

The Product Owner cohort formed in early September with an eye on enhancing product success. Aside from unlocking valuable insights and research for our engineers and product leads, the team also developed an original board game, akin to Trivial Pursuit, that takes Zapprovians on a journey of product knowledge-building. The game is now being used as a fun highlight in new employee onboarding.

Wrapping up in November, the three-person cohort included: Kelly Kendziorski, Noah Carpenter and Seth Taylor. Their stellar performance earned each a permanent job placement within Zapproved’s product group. And, their accomplishments as a cohort continue to help Zapproved:

  • Apply product user personas and narratives to help clarify which features matter most.
  • Uncover new opportunities to advance product performance and efficiency.
  • Build a roadmap with workable milestones for engineers and developers.
  • Give product managers more time to visit customers and dig into the market to innovate.
  • Free up time for engineers to advance product code rather than conduct research.

Meet the Product Owner cohort team

 

Kelly Kendziorski

“… a friend of mine who is a Product Manager told me there would be a lot of overlap in the skills I built up as a filmmaker and the work that Product does.”

Where are you from? Please share something about your background.

I’m originally from the Chicago area, but I have been in Portland for the past 16 years. I have a masters degree in Visual Anthropology with a focus on Ethnographic film. I am leaving a ten-year career as a documentary filmmaker and editor with a focus on educational film.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I’ve made a feature documentary with a very small team and as part of that I ran a successful KickStarter campaign. I also travelled through Europe helping out on a documentary about bees.

Why were you attracted to this opportunity?

I wanted to work for a larger company and a friend of mine who is a Product Manager told me there would be a lot of overlap in the skills I built up as a filmmaker and the work that Product does.

What are you working on? Please describe.

Writing up features for the 2018 road map and figuring out the best way to bring our personas to the engineering team.

Is the job what you expected? What do you like best? Biggest challenges or surprises?

It is pretty much what I expected. The cohort program made it so that the ramp up period has been fairly gradual. I like the process of taking information from different people and synthesizing it into a concise and clear descriptions that the engineers can use for development.

How has this opportunity made you approach your career differently?

I don’t work from home anymore, so I have to commute again!

Noah Lewis Carpenter

“Love the culture and people on my team. Biggest challenge has been realizing I’m not as fluent in learning software as I once thought I was.”

Where are you from?

Manasquan, New Jersey

What’s a fun fact about you?

Named “World’s Greatest Wedding Crasher” by Good Morning America.

Why were you attracted to this opportunity?

The job application clearly stated that the cover letter prompt (“what drives you, and what do you want to accomplish?”) was more important than the résumé.

What are you working on? Please describe.

Writing stories, becoming an expert in the product.

Is the job what you expected? What do you like best? Biggest challenges or surprises?

Yes, but so much more. Love the culture and people on my team. Biggest challenge has been realizing I’m not as fluent in learning software as I once thought I was.

How has this opportunity made you approach your career differently?

I’ve worked in tech for three years but on the sales side. It’s been an awesome experience being able to see things from a different perspective and not only utilize the skills I learned in sales in this environment, but also gain a whole new skill set and technical aptitude.

Seth Taylor

“As a product owner, my job is to be a user expert. Product owners provide the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ to engineers, so they know they are building the right things for the right reason.”

Where are you from?

I grew up in Seattle and have lived in a number of cities in the Pacific Northwest. I moved to Portland about three years ago. I studied chemistry in college and developed an interest in software and tech in the last few years.

Why were you attracted to this opportunity?

I was looking for a way to get into the tech industry, and had some experience with product management/development in different fields. After interviewing, I had a really good feeling about the people who I would be working with. I felt that it was a very exciting opportunity to get into a new field, learn lots of new things and work in a supportive environment.

What are you working on? Please describe.

As a product owner, my job is to be a user expert. Product owners provide the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ to engineers, so they know they are building the right things for the right reason. To do this, I write user stories, in the form of ‘As a___, I want ___, so that ___. I have also been working on crafting user personas so that Zapproved as a company has a better idea of what our users care about and how they are using our products.

Is the job what you expected? What do you like best? Biggest challenges or surprises?

I didn’t have a whole lot of expectations coming in, because I have never done this job before! I did expect to be challenged but also given lots of support and guidance, and all of these things have been true. My favorite things so far are learning about and applying user experience design and thinking to really put myselves in the shoes of our users and make sure we are solving the problems that are important to them. The biggest challenge has been learning about ediscovery as a practice, thinking about workflows in terms of investigations and litigations, and ensuring I am not making assumptions about what users want, but am instead gathering information from internal and external people who know the answers to these questions.

How has this opportunity made you approach your career differently?

It’s made me realize that there are great companies out there, who not only value their customers, but also value their employees and give them the freedom and support to have great work-life balance, and also do a great job and create great products that solve challenging problems. The opportunity has also exposed me to a new and vibrant industry, and given me a lot to think about for the future.