culture

Musings from my first few months as a PM @ Zeal

Hi there 👋 I’m Nick Boesel, Zeal’s first Product Manager. I am going to walk you through what my time here so far has been like and how we are looking to grow as a Product team.

Product Manager

Nick Boesel

Product Manager

March 07, 2022

🏗️ Carving out Product as the first PM 

Being a seed-stage or Series A PM means that you have two large responsibilities: creating a scalable/usable product and building repeatable processes. 

My role as the first PM has really been to try and help our team think about creating features that are less about validating our MVP and more about creating a scalable and desirable product. 

For building a scalable product, this means thinking about architecture and features that go beyond supporting our original Beta customers (0-1), and supporting the customers that will begin to help us quickly accelerate (1-100). 

“How do we ensure that the features we are building address the needs of our customers today, knowing that the needs of our customers in the future might differ?”

Creating repeatable processes has meant building out what the relationships and communication channels look like between Product and Ops, Engineering, Design, Sales, and Implementation teams. Asking the question: “How do we take in feedback from all the different stakeholders in a structured manner so we can scale how we respond to issues?”

🤔 Some challenges

Like any company of our size and maturity, we have had our fair share of problems we have had to overcome. At times, the breadth of what we are trying to solve causes us to think through 80% of a solution, while the final 20% ends up taking the most time. This has allowed us to create stronger frameworks for identifying edge cases so we don’t run into the same issue.

When you work at a smaller company, there is also the temptation to create a one-off solution to something because you know you can communicate with all stakeholders

We have learned that following repeatable processes today will allow us to more efficiently solve problems as our team scales in size.

🎉 Some achievements 

There are over 11,000 unique tax jurisdictions in the United States, which means that if a company operates all across the nation they could need hundreds of different tax account IDs which will map to thousands of different taxes sent to hundreds of different collection agencies.

In order to create a feature that could accurately collect all the right IDs and then understand which tax agencies they mapped to required months of research from our Operations and Tax teams. Once we had this information in hand, I worked with Engineering  to create an architecture that could efficiently digest all these mappings and display the data in an easily-consumable format for our end employers. 

The result is our Tax Setup Page and I couldn’t be more proud of the cross-functional work that the team put in to develop this feature

Building this in-house, along with our Gross-to-Net calculator (which most payroll companies outsource) means that we are well-positioned to grow our product knowing we have a solid base to work from.

👀 You can look at our Gross-to-Net API documentation here 👀

I’m also extremely proud of the culture we have created within our small (but growing!) Product and Engineering teams. No problem is too small and no person is too busy when it comes to how we view helping each other. Any question you have is answered promptly and thoughtfully. By clearly articulating what the team and company’s goals are, we all understand what needs to be done to ensure we get there.

🌱 Where we want to grow 

For the time being, we want to continue to grow our Product and Engineering teams to be full of generalists who can solve any problem. 

This means getting Product Managers who are just as comfortable drafting API specs as they are communicating GTM strategy with our Implementation team members. 

It also means that you get to learn and grow a lot more than you would as a siloed PM working on a single feature. The next members of our Product team will not only get to help us continue to build out a durable payroll product but also help us imagine all of the possible new features we could begin to build on top of it. We are excited to see where our product leads this year and can’t wait to continue to build and iterate with new product members as the team begins to grow and expand.

If you have any questions or are interested in hearing more about Product at Zeal, please email me at nick@zeal.com.

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