Sprout recently launched our new Instagram integration, and it has all of us around the office taking mad selfies day in and day out. Since the Meet Team Sprout series is our chance to introduce you to the people behind our product, it is only right that our second installment features a team member who was critical in bringing this integration to life.
Jack Sadanowicz serves as a Product Manager on our engineering team. From his product expertise to his love of selfies, Jack is an accomplished leader and an all-around fun person. Now that the initial launch is complete, he is currently working with the engagement and reporting squads here at Sprout to further build out our Instagram integration.
Read on to hear him wax poetic about product, outline the skills needed to be a successful Product Manager and explain why he just can’t choose a favorite social media network.
Name: Jack Sadanowicz
Started at Sprout: September 2014
Can you tell us a little about your career so far?
I’ve been working in technology pretty much my entire life. I did some development; I did some implementation work for enterprise software; and at my previous company, which was healthcare related, I always gravitated toward driving the direction of product. Understanding software development as well as customer needs allowed me to merge those two interests into product management.
What attracted you to Sprout?
I wasn’t looking at social media or any industry in particular, but I appreciate good product. Before I applied to any company, I signed up for the product, watched demo videos or looked at screenshots to try and figure out if the product was something I could love and be deeply involved in. I’m really passionate about usability and user friendliness, which I immediately found at Sprout.
Why was adding Instagram important for our customers?
Instagram has always had a lot of potential for business due to its high engagement numbers—users are more likely to interact with content than they are on other social networks. Recently, it was announced with a big splash that Instagram’s total active user base surpassed Twitter and is second only to Facebook.
Brands are recognizing that they have a higher likelihood of their content being seen by customers on Instagram than on other networks, so they’re gravitating toward Instagram. Not only do you have higher impressions and engagement per post on Instagram, but you also have more people on Instagram overall. So it’s a no-brainer for brands to get into it, and Sprout tries to anticipate and build what our customers want.
What is unique about Sprout’s Instagram integration?
In this first iteration, we wanted to make sure customers are getting the same great unified inbox experience they are used to. We’re allowing customers to view their Instagram media and comments in our Smart Inbox, along with all the functionality that comes with Inbox—completion and reply tracking, tasking and tracking volume in the real-time activity chart. We’re doing some unique things that are hard to do natively, such as keeping track of messages that have been dealt with and replied to and ones that haven’t.
We’re also helping customers analyze their presence; for example, we calculate an engagement rate for each post based on interactions and follower count at the time their Instagram media was posted. We’re doing all of these things across multiple Instagram accounts and, of course, across social networks.
So what does the development process look like? How does the engineering team work on projects?
We have always used Agile methodologies to develop software, and we recently implemented a new iteration that’s working well. We break the project down into smaller chunks, which we then sequence with the team. Over time, we’re able to figure out exactly how much work can get done every two weeks. Sometimes you run into difficulty or things become harder than you anticipated or don’t fit nicely into that two-week model. But generally, we’re able to design, develop and test pieces of the product in two-week increments. When it gets to the end, close to our projected date, there’s inevitably a bit of stress, but we keep the team, including me, accountable to delivering a great final product.
What advice would you give someone who wants to join Team Sprout?
I would suggest you look into Sprout’s culture and make sure it aligns with how you tend to operate, because that’s important for long-term fit. We try to be accommodating of folks’ workflow, but we have a team-based, squad-based environment. So as a developer, a quality assurance person or a designer, you need to be comfortable becoming a member of our team and working in that environment.
This is something that’s really important to me: You have to care about the product. My No. 1 criteria is: Do I love the thing I’m going to be working with day to day? From our CEO to the developers to the sales team to me, we all use Sprout daily. You have to enjoy it.
And what if they wanted to become a Product Manager—what characteristics make someone successful in this role?
The most important one is understanding and anticipating customer behavior. Ultimately, the job of a Product Manager is to deliver product that customers want—knowing what customers want is important to have in your DNA.
On the flip side, you can’t only understand the customers. You need to work well with developers too. It would be hard to be a Product Manager without a certain level of experience with those things.
The third thing that ties it all together is having a sense of urgency and being able to execute—finding areas that are bottlenecks on a project and finding creative ways to deal with any issues with development, design and quality assurance.
In terms of anticipating what customers want and where the industry is going, what resources keep you fresh on all things social?
To stay on top of social media news, I follow the official blogs of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to know what they’re releasing. I follow Mashable Social Media to stay on top of news around the social media space. For marketing advice, Social Media Examiner is great. I also periodically brush up on Hacker News, which is popular in the development community.
Do you have a favorite social network?
Recently, Instagram tends to be my favorite, as I’ve used it a lot. I have a sweet spot for Twitter when it comes to reaching out to people you wouldn’t normally have access to. To stay in touch with extended family and friends, Facebook is great. To talk to most of my immediate friends, I use messenger applications, which I also consider to be social networks. Every network serves its own purpose.
What music do you listen to while working?
I listen to the triumvirate: Gaga, Britney and Kesha.
What’s something people might find surprising about you?
Aside from the fact that I listen to Kesha? I geek out on what’s called “urban survival,” which is more or less survival if something in a highly populated city was to go very wrong. For example, I can pretty much pick any lock. I’ve also learned forest survival, so I know how to find food and water.
So if the zombie apocalypse hits, you’re the guy to follow.
Winter is coming.
Jim Conti: Jim Conti leads Sprout Social's ambitious talent team. Affectionately known as the "Cruise Director" while in the office, Jim can be found exploring the streets of Chicago and planning his next international adventure when not growing and caring for Team Sprout. Give him a follow @SproutJim.