Engineering and Product
Harry Flett, Product Lead at Tracksuit
A love for math and going to bed early ultimately overshadowed the childhood dream of becoming a rockstar for Harry Flett, Product Lead at Tracksuit.
We caught up with Harry to learn a little more about his career journey into product, what he loves about the craft and some of the advice he has for others who might be curious about following a similar path.
Thanks for sharing your story, Harry.
Firstly, how would you explain to a five-year-old what you do for work?
You know those Lego blocks you play with? How do you choose what to build? I do the same thing. I work out what we use those blocks to build. Except on a computer screen.
And for the adults, what does a typical day-in-the-life look like?
In an early-stage startup and as the only Product Manager, I split my time between:
- Planning our Product Strategy / Roadmap — what should we build?
- Chatting to customers and resolving problems — what’s not working? What problems are we solving?
- Executing on features — working with developers and other team members to clarify what we’re creating.
- Learning about marketing, brand-tracking, and going deep on our industry.
"I wanted to play guitar and be a rockstar. But I also liked maths."
Was working in tech something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?
Not at all. I wanted to play guitar and be a rockstar. But I also liked maths. And people. And going to bed early, which didn’t make me a good fit for the rockstar life. So I took those interests, replaced the guitar with a computer, and fell into the world of business and Finance.
I’m a massive nerd and can’t stop problem-solving, but I also want to create something, so business/finance quickly led me to want more ownership and impact, which led me to startups.
What are some of the most interesting challenges that you face in your role currently?
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the value we’re providing to customers. It’s quite an interesting challenge:
- We survey thousands of consumers about 1,000+ brands all year round.
- We present the survey results in a dashboard that is constantly updated, so our customers (marketers) can track their brand health and answer questions like: “Is my marketing strategy improving my brand?”
- But, improvements in brand typically take time (3 months minimum).
- So how do we best deliver value to customers?
- Specifically, is there data that’s not in the Tracksuit dashboard that we can share?
- How can we provide insights that help marketers better understand and report on their brand growth?
- Can we deliver value beyond the dashboard? Are there other insights we can share with them?
- Can we help them make it easier to report their dashboard results?
These are some of the product challenges I’m working on. It’s a lot of fun.
"Product is awesome. Awesomely difficult, awesomely vague, and awesomely impactful."
Tell us a little bit more about your career pathway, and ultimately, how you got into your current role at Tracksuit?
I thought I was destined to be an Investment Banker. While studying, I did a few internships in Finance and it never really clicked. So I packed my bags and went travelling with my girlfriend.
I ended up in China, somehow landing a job for a great Kiwi company called Crimson Education. Crimson had recently opened an office in Shanghai.
It was a whirlwind in startups. By my second week I was trying to close a partnership with a multi-billion dollar education group.
I got kicked back to New Zealand when COVID hit and ended up in the right place at the right time. Crimson was launching an online high school, and needed people to help get it off the ground. I jumped at the chance. I started in Sales, then shifted to focus on Growth / Operations.
Jamie Beaton (the CEO) gave me a masterclass in growth. I did everything from setting up an onboarding flow, to figuring out how to price our product, to planning which other geographies we expanded to.
I came to a decision: should I stay broad, or go deep? I could keep pursuing generalist Growth / Operations / Strategy roles. Or I could do a deep dive into a certain area: perhaps Sales, Product, or Customer Success.
I decided that Product was the area that interested me the most. So I’ve now joined Tracksuit to take a deep dive into Product Management. It’s a very different product to Crimson, and much more early stage, with very different challenges.
I’m very grateful for both Crimson and Tracksuit for everything they have taught me and the people I’ve been able to learn from.
What do you love about your role and why should others consider the career path?
Product is awesome. Awesomely difficult, awesomely vague, and awesomely impactful. It’s a blend of strategy / execution, which I love. What do we build? Then how do we build it?
It’s such a cross-functional discipline that requires you to understand the entire business. Especially when you’re in Product at an early-stage business. You need to be keeping an eye on acquisition while also monitoring retention. Then figuring out which is the biggest issue to focus on right now.
The learning never stops. I’m learning from our Developers. I’m learning from our Growth / Marketing teams. I’m learning from our customers.
"Product requires you to think, write, and argue about many different disciplines."
For people interested in following a similar path, what are the key skills or attributes that you think are important and where can people get started.
Writing. I write all the time to clarify my thinking and to articulate problems. Like Paul Graham says: “Writing about something, even something you know well, usually shows you that you didn't know it as well as you thought. Putting ideas into words is a severe test.”
Read a lot. Read good writing. He can be controversial, but someone like Scott Adams (the creator of the Dilbert cartoon) writes so clearly. Read his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. Read his 20 second article on becoming a better writer.
Learn a little about a lot. Product requires you to think, write, and argue about many different disciplines. Read some books on sales, some books on marketing, or some other books on business. Read some stories of some interesting businesses too, like how Square was built.
Write all the time. Emulate great writers. Like Lenny Rachitsky, a great Product writer. Listen to podcasts from great thinkers and writers. Lenny has a great Product podcast too.
Lastly, are there any key traits or characteristics of people that do well in the Tracksuit environment?
- People who love speaking to customers
- People who leave things better than they found it
- People who have a lot of ideas!