Ambition at Appian: Breaking the Mold in Product Management
Ambition is one of our values at Appian. But what does ambition mean to us?
When I interview people for a Product Management position, I often get asked: "What makes a successful PM at Appian?"
My answer is always the same: excellent problem-solving skills. Everyone thinks problem solving is all about designing the perfect solution, but in reality the hardest part about problem-solving is thoroughly understanding the problem.
That's where I see a lot of ambition here. It's easy to build what people ask for, but we’re striving to build the best product for our customers and you can't do that without truly understanding the problems they're facing. It’s asking tough questions and taking the extra effort and time to get it right. It’s in our Product Management team digging into problems with curiosity.
We have that same problem-solving mindset in how we work on our team. I’ve worked at Appian for 11 years, and I’ve always loved the challenge of asking the right questions, breaking silos, and improving the way we work.
Finding the gaps in how we work.
Most Product Managers at Appian work on a squad that builds features in a particular area of the product and they work closely with other squads that are working in the same area of the product. For many years, that was the model and it worked well for our needs. But as Appian has grown and our product is much more complex, we realized there were gaps in this model.
We’re a very different company and product than when I started at Appian. Appian is now made up of over 2,000 team members across the world. With so much growth, this means our processes and structures need to evolve too.
We found Product Managers were becoming siloed in their own product areas. Although there were similar customer problems we were working on, we outgrew our ability to collaborate effectively. There were just too many squads working in different areas of the product; it was impossible to keep up with what everyone else was doing. We were having trouble identifying these overarching problems and solving them in a way that would be consistent throughout the product.
Breaking the mold of how the Product Management team is structured.
“Look, there’s something missing here.”
I said to my manager after many chats with team members about what Product problems they were working on.
The squad model worked for years but now that our product was more complex and comprehensive, we needed a role for someone to support all Product Managers, and help find the pattern in problems. We needed someone to help integrate our overall processes to ensure every Product Manager is set up for success and we’re being effective. That’s how the Product Architect role was created over the past year.
Similarly, at this time I was looking for a new challenge. I was working with my squad to build features, but also already collaborating more across squads and seeing how important this new role could be. I shared how we would better utilize my time and skills in this role. After years of working in Product Management at Appian, I had foundational knowledge that I thought could really benefit this new position. I received so much support from my team members and manager who helped advocate for this new role I’m in today.
Growing your ambitious career on the technical path.
Not everyone wants to or is suited to be a people manager, and I have always appreciated that Appian has growth opportunities for people who don't want to go that route. In Engineering, there is a clear technical track and different roles on the management track. And more importantly, Appian was ready to listen when we identified that the people on our technical track weren't reaching their full potential.
Managers at Appian are skilled at fostering a culture of growth. They recognize that ambitious people will look for new challenges, and want to break the mold of how we work. It can be awkward and nerve-wracking to share with your manager when you’re not content with where you are and looking for something new. I’ve found I’ve always been listened to. For me, that meant creating a new role I saw an important need for.
Thanks to our programs that support learning and development, there are so many ways to grow at Appian and you can expect a culture of ambitious people committed to building the best product for our customers.
Learn more about our value of working to impact, not just completion here.