5 minutes with Katrina Harris, on making a difference in product
How did you start working at Bondaval?
Since leaving university, I've always worked in startups. I really wanted to be a part of a company that was in its early stages and see how a business actually works close up.
My first company was an environmental tech startup. I was hire number two, helping out with anything that needed doing: the typical startup mindset of ‘all hands on deck’. From there, I moved to an HR tech startup. It was a different space, but it had a similar mission of trying to grow quickly and reach the right audience.
It was there that I started working closely with product and the design team, building platform- and web-based products for our customers to interact with. That was when I realized that product was something that I really wanted to pursue.
I came across Bondaval after being introduced by someone who already worked there. He was so excited by the offering and what was happening at Bondaval. Once I came in and met the team, it was just so clear that the company was full of extremely bright, interesting people.
I joined as project manager, but swiftly moved into product full-time. I really feel like I found my role working in product; that’s largely thanks to Sandy (our VP Product) being such a supportive leader.
How have you found working at Bondaval since you joined?
Going from environmental and HR tech into insurance was a massive change, so my first impression was definitely ‘Wow, this is a bit scary’. It felt like a very complex world to enter into to begin with.
But even though joining a new industry was quite overwhelming at first, I found Bondaval to be an extremely welcoming environment. That's credit to the team: they all helped to break down the main concepts for me and explain everything to bring me up to speed. The first three months I was trying to be a sponge, absorbing as much information as possible.
As for the workplace culture, I think it’s just excellent. Bondaval does remarkably well on being true to the startup principles that good ideas can come from anywhere and you can have a positive impact from day one. You’re really valued on what you can bring to the team. That's an exciting, motivating proposition because it just means everybody buys in and everyone wants to make it work, because they can see that they are making a difference.
How do you work with our audience to improve their experience?
Day to day, I look after the client platform. That means I interact really closely with our clients, getting an understanding of what will make their life easier. We've got a really engaged user base, so I meet with our users every week to get their feedback on what we can improve. I'm very much a people person, so I find it incredibly rewarding to build those relationships so we can tick boxes for them and streamline their work streams.
For example, a recent improvement was making it possible for a client to export platform data in a particular format to match with their internal records. We met, had a conversation, I wrote down the specifications and we were able to deliver something for them by the next week.
That’s something I really enjoy: drilling down into their problems and finding solutions for them. Scoping out products from nothing but an idea or a conversation that we've had with, and then working with design and engineering to build that with the lens of the clients is just hugely satisfying.
How do you approach building features for our clients?
What I really love is hitting the ground running and making things better for the client. After all, there’s no point trying to sell something without putting energy towards improving the product or finding the proper solution.
Having said that, a lot of product is a balancing act between keeping your customers happy and making sure you're improving their experience, while making sure you’re still thinking big and executing on your long-term roadmaps in order to scale and reach a much wider audience. You always need to keep one eye on the bigger picture, so you don’t end up building for whoever shouts the loudest.
When it comes to executing on that roadmap, there’s a lot of product jargon out there, and so many people try to reinvent the wheel of how to deliver a good product. Obviously, you need to follow some structure and process. But it’s far more valuable to delivering something for your customers to test and feedback on so you can iterate, rather than getting bound up in process and research and fine-tuning. That push and pull of feedback and delivery is what keeps product alive.
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