Employee Spotlight: Taylor Gilbert, Product Manager
From Sumatra’s inception, we knew that making real-time decisioning accessible to every business would require us to solve some difficult user experience challenges. We sought out a Product Manager early on, knowing they would be crucial in helping us to translate the complex capabilities of our product into a user-friendly experience for our customers.
When we met Taylor, he won us over with his qualitative and data-driven approach to understanding user needs and iterating on product. Fundamentally, our platform helps product and data teams optimize the customer journey by having the right data available at the moment it is most impactful. The value of getting this right is something that Taylor, as a user-facing Product Manager, deeply understands.
I sat down with Taylor Gilbert after his first couple of months on the job to get his thoughts on his experience so far.
Why did you join Sumatra?
First – the most essential quality of any role is the people you work with, especially at a startup. Because things are constantly changing, you are forced to tackle new challenges and adapt constantly. You rely on the team around you to respond accordingly and adapt to the changing environment with you.
The people determine if the role is fulfilling, and the people at Sumatra are exceptional.
Secondly – my passion is the moments when someone interacts with a product, and it exceeds their expectations by abstracting away complexity. The user makes a choice, but the system does the work. That’s exactly what Sumatra is trying to do – reduce friction while giving the user the best experience that drives business outcomes.
How does your background in design help you in your role today?
My design background is unusual for tech because I don't come from visual or graphic design. My degree was in a little-known discipline called Contextual Design. I designed systems in the form of physical objects. One example was a game board—like a crossword puzzle—that was a functional, secure password manager. It transformed a technology opaque to most people into a game everyone understands.
Translating complex, opaque systems into intuitive products is the core of what I do in my role. Machine Learning products are often black boxes with steep learning curves, but they don't have to be. At Sumatra, we are building an ML-powered data platform that prioritizes transparency and self-service.
What part of your role do you enjoy the most and why?
Brainstorming ideas with the team. My colleagues have world-class experience in engineering and data science. Understanding the problems we are solving so deeply enables us to rethink assumptions to find better solutions.
What work in your career are you most proud of?
What I'm doing now. I know! It sounds cheesy, but it's fortunately true. I hope to always be most proud of whatever the current thing is that I'm doing.
If I had to pick something else, it would be building a VR hackathon project called Spell Bound. Our team built a VR learning game to help children with dyslexia and dysgraphia learn letter formation and word recognition. While it won "best of" in two categories, I'm most proud of it because we were able to make cutting-edge technology so simple anyone–including children–could pick it up and immediately benefit.
What are some of the current challenges/priorities you are focused on?
Sumatra is so powerful that it can solve a vast range of problems. It's impressive but challenging, because focus is crucial to a startup's success. My top priority is identifying the issues best solved by Sumatra and focusing on them to iterate toward product market fit.
Who/what resources do you turn to for inspiration in your role?
Lenny's Newsletter, Shreyas Doshi, and Reforge are my go-to's.
As a product manager, what value do you see that Sumatra can bring to your role?
Sumatra offers a way to build products that adapt to each individual user—at scale—to drive the best outcome. Any product manager should be excited about that.
To hear more from Taylor…