Interview | Product Manager at WeTransfer | Amy West

my name is Amy and I just I have such a
hard time explaining what it is that I do on paper I’m a product manager for
the public API at wetransfer but in reality I’m a designer I studied
graphic design and I spent the last six years as a graphic designer and a
product designer and an event designer and a leprechaun designer and that even
though now I’m a product manager I still use the same logic and experience in the
way that I work when I I studied visual communication in Dublin
I’m from Ireland and my so for your graduation project in in visual
communication you have this kind of 15 week long project where you come up with
an idea and you use every kind of skill and piece of experience that you’ve
gotten so far to demonstrate how amazing a designer you are so like animation and
website design and typography and poster design and all of this stuff and it was
supposed to kind of show what you’ve learned
but I kind of figured that the most important thing that I learned in visual
communication was the importance of an idea and then it was also the most
exciting part and like it’s where you get all the goods and you know when you
spend more time digging into the thing that you’re supposed to be designing a
solution for it then it makes more sense and it means something and so then I
tried to come up with an idea that would demonstrate this as a learning and I
ended up I wanted I pitched the idea to build a turd polishing machine so I told
my lecturers that I wanted to build this big huge giant contraption with like
bells and levers and whistles and things and you’d do all this stuff and then you
know what came out at the end was just a polished turd and obviously they were
like that doesn’t doesn’t didn’t demonstrate anything skill that you’ve
learned or that we’ve taught you for the last four years so I turned myself into
a turd polishing Sheen in the sense that I made this fake
graphic design studio and I made all of these like posters and stuff and did an
interview with the creative director and it’s called graphic BS bullshit and have
a really fun time doing it but then when I graduated from busy um it meant that
no design agency wanted some young entitled graphic designer to be working
in their studio so the first job to answer the question you asked me about
ten minutes ago the question are the my first job when I graduated was working
for the national leprechaun museum because they were willing to give me the
opportunity to be a designer I suppose ah well to give a low bit of context the
reason that I one that I work at we transfer now is because I originally
wanted to work for an agency called present plus that is based here or was
based here in Amsterdam and they were a kind of product design
agency that worked like a normal design agency but they would be involved in the
product design aspect of projects as well and that just sounded like really
exciting to me and I thought they really did a good job at it and they seemed
like you know just hot shit so I wanted to work for them and I always spent
months putting a portfolio together and was like really excited to like send in
my application even though I don’t think they were even looking for anyone and
then by just as I was about to hit Send for a dramatic effect I ran a TechCrunch
article that said that we transfer had acquired the design studio present plus
and so I just I was like what the hell literally what the hell I was so sure
that this is where I wanted to work and that they’ve been absorbed like we
transfer what does that even mean we transfer is literally one page with like
two buttons on it why do you need to acquire an entire design studio for this
so I run a really angry email to the VP of design that we transfer and I was
like what do you think you’re doing and asked him to explain himself and explain
to me what the design you know process an environment that we transfer is like
that they need an entire design studio so Tice invited me over for a
conversation and he basically just just explained that we transfer his approach
to building products is from a design perspective which amazed me because
that’s my buzz and that’s why I you know the struggle that I have in describing
who I am and what I do is because I’m product I build products but from a
design perspective so I don’t ever want to let go
the designer title even though I’m a product manager but I’m like no but I’m
a product designer that this was what we transfer was all about so that’s kind of
that’s what it’s like to work there in essence it’s like design focused
product beautiful simplicity good vibes very intelligent people very interesting
people hilarious people and yeah that’s well when we sew we only started this
project and team a year ago and you know as I explained I was a product designer
up until a year ago and I was given a very you know amazing opportunity to
step up as a product manager for this new team that would build a public API
we transfer but I didn’t even know what API stood for the time so I was kind of
winging it and you know when you’re working it was I was willing to embrace
the unknown let’s say and the team that I was working with were extremely
patient and knowledgeable and you know dedicated a lot of time to explaining to
me how things worked and you know we would use metaphors to explain to each
other what the technical aspect of something was versus the design aspect
versus the strategy aspect and we would all work on it together because we
needed to understand each other and we built this kind of language of metaphors
with like airports to refer to like API gateway and all of these kind of
metaphors to explain how things worked but at the start that was that was quite
a challenge because it also meant that because I didn’t have the technical
background I was kind of out of my depth in terms of decision-making on some
stuff at the beginning just because I didn’t understand it and when you’re in
a position to be building a product and have a team that’s looking at you for
the direction and strategy you kind of need to know what you’re talking about
so that was a challenge but again tanks thank God for the team that I got that
we were able to work it out together and now I think it’s kind of put us in a
much stronger position because we had to work every aspect at together that now
we feel like we’re building it together and I feel a lot more confident now
being able to make decisions about stuff because I know we’re all on the same
page but that was a struggle as a product manager out we transfer I’m I’m quite erratic in my day-to-day
behavior anyway and because my preference is the design side of things
as opposed to them management and you know analytical side of things well you
know I get a kick out of that too but obviously from the ideas part of things
so when it comes to tools and workflow I’m kind of all over the place I’m all
for the pen and paper and then I lose it which is not ideal but yeah I don’t know
I guess I use whatever is there to just get shit done that’s a terrible answer
but I don’t know how to answer that question I’m all over the place oh well the first one that springs to
mind is slack and I think the read the very specific reason why I’m kind of
inspired by slack as a product in general is because of their approach to
how they designed the product from every aspect and had they tie it all together
and their consideration for the people who are using it and actually because
those are things I my are bad psyche but their consideration for people using it
and also their own clarity now from an external point of view their own clarity
on their mission and vision for what they’re trying to achieve so it’s not it
doesn’t have an end goal they want to revolutionize the way that people
communicate in general so it’s not focused on the tool it’s focused on the
outcome and my most favorite article that I’ve ever read that in any way
relates to product design or strategy or vision for products is an article by
Stewart Butterfield who’s the CEO of slack and he wrote a medium article
that’s cold we don’t sell saddles here and it you’ve got to read it it is just
that explains it all and that’s what I admire a lot about slack and that was
variance Pakistan flag but that’s where my conference talk was about how well it
was called rethinking how we transfer and it was about how 10 years ago we
transfer was a product that was built built to solve a specific problem and
they did that well and it was in a design approach to reimagining problem
and building something beautiful to solve that problem and ten years on from
that solution that was built the landscape in which people create
anything or build create share ideas has dramatically changed because
everything’s interconnected so you know my talk was kind of about how we’ve been
thinking and revisiting how people transfer their own ideas and where they
do it from and building and equally as relevant tool or solution for people who
still need to transfer ideas

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3 thoughts on “Interview | Product Manager at WeTransfer | Amy West

  1. Great interview. It feels real and she's not talking bs. I like her way of seeing aspects of a product with a design approach specifically in an API/Dev team that can often be developer-led.

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