“The biggest challenge is: In an organization in which
the opportunities greatly outstrip the available
resources, how do you have a fair and transparent
system for evaluating what work to do?”
What skills does
In a growth-stage
you need communication skills, organizational skills and a
technical fluency to
have credibility with
What’s the best
The best way to
achieve results in
business is to inspire
and empower people
It’s not really low-tech anymore, but I
really love bicycling.
I’m a big fan of combining my commute
more efficient. The business agrees to the portfolio
allocations, and it’s my team’s job to fill up the
buckets with work.
So you’re ensuring that the engineering
team’s projects are strategically aligned?
That’s the job in a nutshell—ensuring that Socrata’s technical resources are deployed in the best
interest of the business strategically.
What does project management at the
organization look like?
The fundamental thing about project management
at Socrata is that we’re always simultaneously
building new functionality and maintaining our
existing service. At Microsoft, I worked on Excel
and Access. The company traditionally ships a new
version of that software once every couple of years,
which lends itself very well to waterfall methods
of project management. We’re in a very different
model; we constantly have requests from customers about functionality that they want. But we also
look out a number of years and recognize that we
need more generational shifts.
Can you describe that project management
Once a quarter, we take a week or two off from
execution mode, step back and make sure we’re
comfortable with the direction we’re heading in.
We put together an execution plan, and then we
run on two-week iterations. Every two weeks, we
commit to a set of work, and then we deliver on it.
Can you discuss the agility that two-week
We adjust the quarterly plan every two weeks
based on feedback from customers or from engineers. For example, one thing that we thought
would be easy to do might turn out to be complex,
and maybe the cost-benefit analysis looks different
than it did two weeks ago. That’s one of the biggest benefits of agile: You can constantly course-correct.
What’s a recent project you’ve been
We’ve been working on an improved open-data
user experience. The existing user experience
works great for data sets of a thousand rows, even
10,000 rows, but our customers are asking for hundreds of millions of rows—even billions of rows.
For that size of data, you need a different experience, a dashboard experience that analyzes each
facet of the data.
As you’ve implemented processes,
has it been challenging to shift the
Any time you come into a startup as a program
manager looking to add process, there’s always
skepticism you have to overcome. But after a
few months, once engineers saw the benefits of
being organized, the skepticism died down. You
don’t spend a lot of time talking about the change
you’re taking; you do it, and then everybody sees
the benefits. PM