For the past two years, I’ve been working as a product engineer developing picture frames and limited time only products. I have been largely focused on the item-level details of our various assortments. I reported to a product development manager (PDM) whose job it was to lead us through the process of product development, and ensure every member of the team (buyers, packaging, engineering, design, leadership) were all producing the right deliverables at the right time. He managed our development calendar in order to anticipate obstacles, secure resources and create strategy. He facilitated the correct conversations at the correct time to create alignment with other teams and leaders. He was a program manager at the core, with additional responsibility for team and technical strategy. It was his job to keep the cross functional team running smoothly, producing great product and getting it to stores on time. (He did great, btw.)
Well, now, it’s my job!
As of last week, I joined the Housewares team who develops kitchen tools & gadgets, barware, bakeware, cookware and cutlery. Target has tremendous breadth of product in these categories, and many different brands both Target-owned and national. Our part in this is the development of owned or exclusive brand offerings such as Chefmate, Room Essentials and Threshold. I also get to lead a team with incredible talent and guest empathy who weave user experience into everything they do.
As I onboard into this new role, I’m drawing both great strength and caution from my own experience as a Target engineer. I know the product development process in and out, and the specific ways I accomplished the job. In this role, however, I have to use that experience judiciously, because even a few weeks in I’m fighting the urge to solve – to prescribe – to execute! I’ve led teams and people before, but I was always alongside them developing product in a same or similar job. It was easy to lead by executional example. As a PDM, I step away from that somewhat and lead through other means. I must now use experience not to hand down solutions, but to influence, to organize, to build consensus and enable my team to bring their own experience to a better solution.
I’m excited to have the time to focus on team, resources, and grow skills in cross-functional leadership. It’s a natural next step given my background and future goals, even if it feels unfamiliar to step back from the day to day. Although, as exploration of unfamiliarity has been the goal of my Target experience, I’m still on the right track.