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Modev Presents: Elliot Susel

Modev Presents is our first step into the world of podcasts, where we will feature interesting people, products, and companies in the mobile space. This week we spoke with Elliot Susel, Head of Product for Paid Services at AOL. Prior to this role Elliot was the Acting VP of Technology at the Alexandria-based technology startup Curb (formerly Taxi Magic). In this role he transformed the technology organization from one deployment every two weeks, to an average of over 40.

On May 18, Elliot will be joining us for MVP Conf to discuss the product manager’s guide to technical decisions.


1:00 – Introducing Elliot Susel, Head of Product for Paid Services at AOL

“I am solely focused on figuring out how to grow users and revenue by creating products that people are delighted by. That solves real problems.”

“The way we approach product is very people centric.”

3:40 – When building products, you need to leave your audience and go where your customers are.

6:00 – Drawing inspiration from cartoonist Tom Fishburne.

“I fully expect in 10 years from now it [Lean] is just going to be standard practice. Until then we have our work cutout for us in educating our colleagues.”

7:35 – First exposure to Agile – Working with the government

“Your agile transformation is not about agile, it’s about transformation.”

10:13 – Finding your mental shift and adopting agile.

“If I can make smart decisions on my own… we can get so much done. When I think about what agile is trying to do, I think of it as a system that empowers people to make smart decisions on their own. Abou what they need to do right now, to make the team more successful.”

12:00 – Misconceptions about lean organizations

“Lean is about efficiency.”

13:30 – More people does not mean more work completed

15:00 – Digging into matrixed organizations

16:30 – Do product managers need to be able to code?

“If you are not particularly technical, it is very very helpful for your trusted advisors to have a lot of technical competence.”

“They need to be able to call bs. We need to be in a situation where we trust each other.”

20:30 – Build teams that you trust. Build teams that are smarter than you.

22:40 – Technical issues within the government or any organization? It may be due to leadership, and not hiring the right people.

25:00 – Communication is the biggest challenge between product managers and technical teams.

“You can’t throw more engineers at a problem.”

26:40 – The scope for agile products can create conflict if communication issues are present

To reduce these issues, Elliot suggests using a story map. This allows you to quickly show to others what is being done, and how it’s being sequenced against your team.

To learn more about Elliot and connect, follow him on Twitter and on LinkedIn.