“I work with computers”

Picture the scene, a big family get together, being cornered by the latest wife of your outward going (and rather inebriated) uncle…

“So, what line of business are you in Robin?”

“I work for an organisation that enables designers to create world beating electronics products”

“Wow, ok, so what’s your job role?”

“I am a product manager responsible for a computational fluid dynamics based electronics cooling simulation software”

“O right, so you work with computers”

“Yes, I work with computers” <sigh>

I love our products; have been using them for 13 years, first as an AE, now as a product manager (admittedly with less frequency and flair). As a product manager I take very seriously the role of customer representative when working with software engineering. The rest of the time (what, when I’m not being serious??) I spend facing outwards, interacting with the market. I seemed to have missed the ‘how to be a product manager’ lecture of my mech. eng. degree. In lieu of that I’ve found the following simple guide lines help frame my day to day activities:

Product planning

  • Defining new products
  • Gathering market requirements
  • Building product roadmaps, particularly Technology roadmaps
  • Product differentiation

Product marketing

  • Product positioning and outbound messaging
  • Promoting the product externally with press, customers, and partners
  • Bringing new products to market
  • Monitoring the competition

My personal favourite is market requirements that ultimately end up as implemented as functional (make it do x, y and z) or non-functional (make it do it in a certain way) items. One thing is evident, for an established product there are never enough software engineering resources to do everything that everyone wants done in the software. The key isn’t having ideas as to how the software could be modified; the most important thing is prioritisation as to which ideas should be implemented and which shouldn’t (not because they’re rubbish, simply because you can’t do everything).

For Mechanical Analysis products such as FloTHERM, FloEFD, FloVENT etc. we launched a specific area of the Mentor IDEAS web site that has been created to enable users to post software enhancement ideas, to comment on others and to vote on those that you’d like to see implemented. Access is obtained via use of your SupportNet login.

In development of our next major release (V9) we’ve already implemented 3 from the top 10 voted ideas. I’m not sure if it should be encouraging that so many people agree on a single software idea or that it simply indicates we neglected to implement something so obvious! Either way the site is a great tool for product management, enabling the best software change decisions to be made. I can only encourage any Flo# product user to make use of it!

10th July Ross-on-Wye


3 thoughts on ““I work with computers”
  • Chris Hill

    For the past *mumble* years I have worked as an application engineer for a big, well-known electronics company. In the early days, when people asked what I did for a living, I actually used to try to explain it to them. Even to people in the industry, though, it was an uphill battle, and one that I soon grew tired of. I therefore adopted an alternative approach whereby my response to the question “What do you do for a living?” would be “I work with computers”. This would usually result in a glazed expression on the face of the questioner and no further queries forthcoming. In other words, a good result.

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