Why Your Development Team Needs A Product Owner

Sarah Buchholz
Written by: Sarah Buchholz
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Outside of the tech industry, you may not be familiar with the term “Product Owner” — I certainly wasn’t! In the past, we’ve highlighted members of our Senior Leadership Team (SLT) including Director of Development, Lisa Cockrell and COO, Taylor Ross. Next up: Jon Rivera, Product Owner and Director of Product Management, interviewed by yours truly, Sarah Buchholz, Issuetrak’s Digital Marketing Strategist.

Let’s get started.

Could You Tell Us About Your Different Roles And How Long You've Been At Issuetrak?

Sure. I'm currently the Director of Product Management at Issuetrak. I have been with the company now for a little over six years. And during my time here, I've worn many hats. Actually, I started as a technical writer. I've gone through various roles in marketing and then eventually landed up here in the Product Owner role.

Day to day I’m working primarily with the Development team, serving as an intermediary between myself and maybe another stakeholder, whether that person is someone else in Issuetrak, like another department, or a customer, for example.

What Does A Director Of Product Management Do?

So, as the Director of Product Management, I work with the Product team, which is myself, the Director of Development, and the CEO. We put our heads together, collect feedback from internal and external stakeholders, and really guide the overall direction of the product.

That can involve a lot of different things, from meeting to discuss new features to drawing mockups, creating diagrams, and really working hand-in-hand with the Development team every single day.

What’s The Difference Between Being The Director Of Product Management And A Product Owner?

I get this a lot actually. Product Owner is a role within Scrum and technically speaking it is separate from a job title. Anyone could realistically be a Product Owner. In some companies, you have marketing directors or business analysts who have the role of Product Owner.

The Product Owner’s main job is to maintain the almighty product backlog: the list of features, wants, dreams, and desires you have for your product. They also collect feedback and write user stories and acceptance criteria.

My sole responsibility, the thing I live and breathe every day is the product and overseeing its direction, collecting feedback and prioritizing and working with the teams to make sure Issuetrak is the best product it can be.

How Do User Stories And Acceptance Criteria Fit Into Your Role?

User stories are units of work that the Dev team actually works on. So, a piece of feedback will come in from a customer, and the Product team will discuss it and decide, “Yeah this is a great idea!” and it perfectly aligns with our vision and is something we'd like to work on.”

Acceptance criteria are filled out so the developers know exactly what needs to be done: users should be able to do this and the interface should look and feel this way. I'm doing that a lot throughout the day.

How Do You Capture Customer Feedback?

I’ve been doing a lot more phone calls with customers, getting to know them, their businesses, and how they use Issuetrak. I then use that information to better inform where we see the product vision going and better align how we can have our product meet their needs. It’s our top priority.

How Do You Incorporate That Feedback Into Future Product Development?

We, generally speaking at a high level, know where Issuetrak is headed because of our Product Roadmap.

Our company, especially in the past three or four years, has really started to put customer feedback and customer input in the position it should be, which is right at the top.

And that is one of the key functions of the Product Owner — incorporating feedback into our next release and helping developers prepare for their next sprint.

What Feature or Release Are You Most Proud Of?

I think the obvious answer, at least for me, is Issuetrak 14. That was a major milestone release. It was in development for a significant amount of time and a lot of work went into it across many teams.

I remember the initial conversations: the scope, the mockups, the discussions. I remember having so many conversations about font weights and font colors and the size of windows and the width of things and bars and menus.

Anyone who has done anything big with a piece of software can tell you, the bigger the release the riskier it can be. So I was nervous about it, but also, at the same time, confident that we had done enough work and testing that it was going to go well. We were able to give the application probably its biggest UI lift in a long time.

What Do You Like Most About Your Role?

It's interesting because I did not come into Issuetrak ever expecting to be in the position that I’m in now, but it has been the most rewarding experience I’ve had at Issuetrak.

I remember back when we were still in the office, and Hank Luhring was CEO, there were times when he would come over to my desk and he and I were standing at my whiteboard and just drawing things out — mockups, diagrams, and asking questions about how things could be different.

Even working with the developers on some little checkbox, and finally getting it right. And watching that tiny seed of an idea grow and then eventually get released to the public. These are all little things that happen and add up to a really satisfying job experience for me.

What Do You Want People To Know?

I want people to know and understand that we hear their feedback — it goes straight to my inbox, actually. And we take how they feel about the product, how they use the product, what it means to them and their business, very seriously.


And there you have it! If Jon’s journey has inspired you to learn more about the Issuetrak team, our customers, or our software we have plenty more stories to share with you.

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