By Greg Griffiths | Posted on June 01, 2018
Earlier this year, Janrain welcomed Todd Etchieson as our new Vice President of Product. Todd was recently VP of Product Management at New Relic where he launched New Relic Insights and carried responsibility for New Relic’s client-side analytics products and the company’s business platform. Todd’s experience also includes leadership and product management roles at Nortel, RadiSys, Flir Systems and Nike.
We were able to catch Todd between meetings for a quick interview.
First, could you give us a little professional background on yourself - what roles have you held previously and what did you enjoy about them?
My degree is in Electrical Engineering and I spent the first fourteen years of my career at Nortel Networks. After four years and roles as a Database Engineer and a Digital Hardware Design Engineer, I moved into a business role. The last ten years at Nortel, I worked in product marketing, product management, and business management - including some time spent as an expat in England and France. Since leaving Nortel in 2005 and moving to Portland, I have had product management executive positions in embedded systems for telecom (RadiSys), surveillance (FLIR Systems), retail IT (Nike), and SaaS (New Relic and Janrain).
I think I have enjoyed my roles the most when I'm building something - a new product, a new team, a new market, a new process. I guess in many ways I like defining and effecting change. I especially enjoy building teams - I get really excited when I see my team grow and excel.
What about this role in Janrain did you find most appealing?
I'm really excited about being responsible for the entire product strategy, reporting to the CEO. I love owning the strategy, process and execution of a product plan. I've been a product manager and led product management groups for a long time now and I'm excited about the opportunity to put all the learning from all those past positions - both positive and negative experiences - into execution.
In addition, Janrain’s connection with HighBar Partners was a big draw for me. I've never seen a board that is so involved – not just observing the business but deeply involved. I'm looking forward to learning from them and exchanging ideas and experience with the other companies in their portfolio.
Now that I've been working for over twenty-five years, the thing that is the most important to me is the people I work with - we spend so much time at work that it is just not worth spending that time with people you don't enjoy being around. I loved my team at New Relic and probably my biggest apprehension about my new job was whether I would enjoy the people here as much. Now that I've been at Janrain for a couple of months, I can say that I needn't have worried - it is a great bunch and I am really enjoying making new connections here.
What type of climate do you want to build for the Product Management team at Janrain?
Ownership, shared responsibility, and passion.
I want my Product Management team to feel that they are truly owners of their products' roadmaps, messaging, and success. I see it as my responsibility to provide them the tools and freedom to make decisions about what is right for the business. Of course, I have opinions and will nudge from time to time, but more than anything I want to provide this team the opportunity to help Janrain accelerate growth – and to grow and accelerate their own careers as well.
You'll often hear people say that a product manager should be the CEO of their product. I no longer use that phrase. What I have learned is that product managers that really internalize that message end up making decisions for the good of the specific part of the portfolio they are responsible for, not necessarily for the company as a whole. What I strive for is my team to feel shared responsibility for the entire portfolio, to work together to further the corporate strategy, and to understand how their responsibilities fit into the larger picture.
What are some significant milestones or challenges that lie ahead of the product team?
We are updating our product planning process - how we build roadmaps, how we plan what we will deliver within the quarter, how we document product strategy - and that is always disruptive and can feel frustrating, and changes like this take time. I am pleased with the progress so far and like the energy and openness I see in my team, in the Engineering leadership, and across the company for the changes I am implementing.
The other big challenge I see is that we are winning a lot of business. That may sound funny to be listed as a challenge, but we are at an inflection point and the product team has to figure out how to balance the maintenance of existing products, extensions of those products, the desire to open up new product areas, and the needs of the many new customers we are bringing on.
You've been here a few weeks now; how would you describe the culture of Janrain to somebody who hasn't experienced it first-hand?
I guess the easiest way to describe it is transparent. I see a lot of transparency from the CEO and executive staff all the way down. I like that, because I'm a pretty open person and don't like hidden agendas of passive-aggressive behavior. I love that everyone is willing to put issues on the table and talk through them. It is also a very collaborative culture where people just want to do the right thing for our company and our customers.
Outside of the office, how do you enjoy yourself? Any favorite restaurants?
There are a lot of things I do. My family really enjoys all that Portland has to offer: the outdoors, skiing, hiking, wine, beer, and food. That keeps us pretty busy. I also have a vintage car that I enjoy working on and driving and I have begun dabbling in brewing beer. There's never enough time to do everything I want to do!
Food-wise, in my humble opinion the best restaurant in Portland is Le Pigeon – just incredible. But our family’s happy place is ¿Por Qué No? taqueria – best carnitas, period. And of course, being a guy from Texas, I have to put a plug in for Podnah's Pit. The owner grew up not far from where I did and the brisket is legit Texas brisket.
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