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A day in the life of a product manager at Duffel

A day in the life of a product manager at Duffel
Mark Howarth
Jonny Blackler
Mark Howarth, Jonny Blackler
1 April 2022

Mark Howarth is a Product Manager at Duffel – he has been on the team since April 2021. We recently sat down with Mark to chat about his furniture-making hobby, love for the people side of technology, and life at Duffel.

What are three things you enjoy outside of work?

I love to be outdoors and stay active. My home life revolves around being outside, whether getting stuck into gardening, walking the dog, cycling, kayaking, or paddleboarding.

I try to learn something new every day, and I love to tinker. Over the past few years, my most recent hobby has been to get into woodworking. Starting with some basic do-it-yourself projects, I’ve now progressed on to making some furniture like desks and bedside tables.

My kids are my life. It’s easy to take for granted the fundamentals that we rely on every day; I cherish being able to tap into their curiosity and explore everything with a fresh perspective on how they work and why.

What has been your journey into Product?

I’ve had a range of roles, starting my career as a Java developer, moving to business analyst, systems administrator, and technical sales engineer before finally moving into Product.

I love to help people, and software enables a scale of impact on society no other way can. Two significant moments in my professional career caused me to go into Product.

Firstly, I got exposed to the importance of accessible design during an implementation project to bring centralised knowledge management to a 5,000-person company. The software I was rolling out hadn’t considered blind users. As a result, I was lucky enough to wear dual hats, both a business analyst and developer, spending time retrofitting accessibility features into the software. It was amazing to iterate a project quickly with the end-users and get first-hand feedback from a blind user on how he could now participate fully with his colleagues.

Secondly, I spent a lot of time demoing products to both economic buyers and end-users during a period in technical sales. The product sold well as it ticked many boxes, but it was only through adapting it hands-on with clinicians and nurses in the NHS that I learnt what it meant for a product to succeed and make their lives better.

What does day-to-day life in your role look like?

I work across two product delivery teams: flights and payments. The nature of product management means that I work closely with practically all aspects of the business daily, including engineers, sales and marketing, finance and legal, and our leadership team.

The airline industry today is built on decades of history and technical legacy. It’s fascinating with many challenging, complex problems that are ripe for innovation and disruption. To be successful in my role and for Duffel as a business, I am constantly working on building a deep understanding of the industry and empathy for our customers' problems – I really enjoy this part of the role.

At Duffel, we’re lucky enough to have both rich product usage data and direct access to customers and end-users. This helps us focus on solving the right problems and get fast feedback on our product by having access to developers, customers’ travel operation teams, or our internal teams.

As a small team of product managers, we’re constantly looking at how we can evolve our product management practices. We meet regularly to reflect on how we operate as a function and where we can improve using books and blogs on product management as inspiration.

What do you like about the culture at Duffel?

100% the people. Everyone gets behind you to solve problems and make sure everything we deliver has a real impact for our customers.

I also get to be myself knowing that I work with supportive colleagues. There is a real sense that everyone is working towards the same goal. And when I inevitably get things wrong, there’s a culture of reflection & feedback to help me succeed and grow.

Which achievement are you most proud of delivering at Duffel?

Launching Duffel Payments. The six-month project started with us identifying a fundamental customer problem: processing payments was a hurdle for travel startups getting started in the industry. With a cross-functional team, we designed & built a product from scratch, launched it, and customers are now using it to process payments for flights. It was an amazing journey!

Describe your working life at Duffel in three words?

Exhilarating. Captivating. Dynamic.

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