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A day in the life of...a Product Owner

Read about a typical day for some of the people involved in the MDE journey.

This series of 'A day in the life of' follows our MDE technical partner, Ascent. Here you can hear more about what it is like being the technical Product Owner for the MDE from Alex Shaw; otherwise known as "Tazz".

Tazz was the product owner from Ascent, working on the MDE, from 2020-2022. As we step in to a new year, we have a new Product Owner at Ascent, but we wanted to reflect on the last year with the person that has been the driving force behind the MDE that you see today.

The Crown Estate wish Tazz well in his new role and unofficial role as MDE User.

"Together with the team we incrementally make system changes and release new functionality to the MDE

Alex "Tazz" Shaw, Product Owner

As a Product Owner for the MDE, what do you do?

I am in an interesting position where The Crown Estate is our (Ascent's) client, but that does not mean I don’t feel part of the story or family. As product owner I am responsible for helping the MDE be developed in a way that makes it as valuable as possible. Value is not always a monetary figure and the MDE is a perfect example of that.

The MDE holds a lot of data which has a lot of potential but is sadly locked away in various formats and only understandable by those in the domain. Something I realised very early on was that The Crown Estate have a wealth of data covering a significant period of time, and if this could be extracted then this could become something very special. This is where I work my magic to bring the dream to life and to make the data as accessible to as many people as possible.

Together with the team we incrementally make system changes and release new functionality to the MDE. This hopefully means small improvements can be felt without needing to wait for a big bang, enabling us to make changes based on feedback much quicker. I am a firm believer in not submarining, as too many projects tend to, so it is my job to be sure we continually improve, deliver value, listen to feedback, and release new and useful improvements regularly.

With the vision, knowledge, and most importantly support of The Crown Estate and the team, we have started a journey that will see the MDE becoming the world leading platform to inspire anyone wanting to access, and potentially innovate on the treasure trove of data The Crown Estate has in its hands.

I am proud to have been part of this journey.

How did you get here?

Last year was very disruptive for so many of us and, like so many others, I was made redundant from my previous job. I was exceptionally fortunate that after hunting for only a short time I was offered a position as Product Owner in the Services industry. To be honest I had no idea what this meant, but when I was told about my first project and who I would be working for I was a little excited, and terrified. This is not a domain I came from, and I am not the most educated person ever. Looking back now I am thankful for the push the pandemic forced on me otherwise I would never have had the opportunity to work with so many talented and passionate people. So, in answer to the question, quite by accident I found myself here, but I am very pleased I did.

What is a typical day like?

A typical day? That is hard to say because no two days are the same. Life as a Product Owner is about being ready for anything and always having a plan b, c, d …. The MDE has a lot of moving pieces and my job is to nudge each bit along so they don’t stall, or worse still, to ensure that they don’t all come in at once.

In between keeping the many spinning plates in the air, I spend a lot of time ideating and building the stories that eventually will become new features in the MDE. This can involve looking into ways to improve the data quality and make it more accessible, to working with the UX lead to make the new features as engaging and easy to use as possible.

I get to play around with the new functionality first and listen to the development teams’ ideas and opinions of how we can take things to the next level. I get to spend a lot of time with The Crown Estate team and gather their thoughts and inspirations, and find ways to incorporate that with the feedback from those using it so we can get the most value as quick as possible.

It is very easy to be drawn in and think of the many possibilities in the MDE’s future. My job is to also keep us focussed!

"I love working with The Crown Estate team especially, it feels like we are one team and driving in the same direction. It is so easy to get pulled into the inspirational world they are working towards.

Alex "Tazz" Shaw, Product Owner

What to do you love about what you do?

I love that I am working with people who inspire me and are dedicated and are very passionate about what they do. I love this domain and the fact that I am learning something new every day.

A Product Owner can be a hard job because you can’t please everybody all the time, so when something amazing is created or a new idea pops up, or I have one of those eureka moments, I get to share that with people who are as excited as I am. I love being the one who helps dreams and ideas come to life and get to work with data that I believe could be invaluable.

I especially love to see once an idea has been created and people are using it, hearing the feedback, or seeing how it is used in unexpected ways inspires a whole new load of ideas and potential value that I can sift through to find the gems.

I love working with The Crown Estate team especially, it feels like we are one team and driving in the same direction. It is so easy to get pulled into the inspirational world they are working towards.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

An interesting question; I would probably say that the most challenging thing is having to compromise while waiting for things outside of my control to be done. To make any of the real magic happen we need a lot of help from a lot of other people. Those people are also needed elsewhere and have other jobs, so keeping the drive and motivation, as well as trying to think of plan X, Y and Z ready keeps me busy. It can also be a challenge to keep those around looking at the vision and not the short term.

The task ahead is a big one, make no mistake, and so it is easy to loose sight. This is where keeping people moving forward, feeling inspired and happy, you know, all those plates spinning I would say is the biggest, but most rewarding challenge.

Plan B. Where would we find you if you hadn't become the Product Owner?

So, I trained to be a ballet dancer, but I am not sure that is where I would be now. I would possibly still be working in the shipping industry and working in IT because I love technology and working on solving problems. I love to inspire others and one of the greatest privileges I had was leading a Product Owner team. So, I would happily be there, trying to build the best Product Team in the world!

If a magic wand was waved and I could do anything I would love to be a motivational speaker and inspire as many people as possible to be the best version of themselves in whatever they do.

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