For AV Month, we’re doing a series of blogs with our intrepid Product Management team. Today’s guest, Luke Westin (left in the attached photo).
Luke Westin – Product Manager – ceiling accessories, projector mounting solutions and automation
How long have you been at Chief?
Almost eight years. I spent four years on the manufacturing team and the last four years on the product management team.
How do you describe the work you do to people who many not be aware of AV?
I say that I support a variety of technologies in the AV industry. They go “what the heck does that mean?” Hopefully we are in a good environment where I can point out a flat panel and say we support those. I was out the other night and they had four LCM1Us right in front of us. Most of what we do is hidden and not the focal point so it takes a bit for people to get it. Most people can relate to the retail side, so sometimes I’ll lead in with Sanus mounts and then say we work on the commercial side. It’s funny but when most people (outside of the AV industry) think about TV’s and projectors, they do not think about what is holding them in place.
What drew you to this work?
I didn’t know that much about product management when I jumped into it so I’ve been learning a ton. I looked forward to working with more departments and more people. Another thing I love about product management – our job is cool because we can take ideas and work with teams of brilliant people to help turn those cool ideas into products. You can start with an idea and watch it move through a definition, a concept, a prototype and eventually a product. It’s way cool to see how the products solve people’s challenges. It’s a full circle. You get this problem or issue, understand it, dive deeper, how do you make it better. In the end, you present the product and see people get happy. You have an impact on what they are doing. If you go on a road show and watch installers look at a product at the first time, you can tell if they like it or not right away.
What are the challenges of the job?
It’s always a challenge for me to try to inspire people on the team to get things done on stringent timelines. Another challenge is sifting through customer feedback, trends, and market data to find the fertile ground to develop in.
Was it tricky to move from engineering to product management?
In engineering everything is black and white. Moving into product management, it’s a bit more ambiguous. You have to use tools around you to make decisions that are not always clear. It was really hard for me to make decisions that were not black and white. The marketing side is a bit more colorful and can be a nice break from the development side.
What are the rewards?
Successful product launches are definitely an awesome part of it – when you can see a product launch ramp up the way you planned. To see the product you’ve been working on be a success, and not just for you, but for the rest of the people that helped at the company.
Describe a day at work.
There’s not really a typical day. The frame of mind I come to work with is usually far from when I leave. Anything can happen.
What makes something a good idea for you? What do you consider when evaluating a direction for a product?
There’s three big things to every product. 1. Do customers want it and can we sell it? 2. Is it something we can make? 3. Is there a business case behind it and does it financially make sense to do it? We are all trying to find the sweet spot when balancing those 3 things.
How did you first hear of Chief?
Monster.com. I didn’t know who Chief was. When I came for interview, it was CSAV Inc. I had no idea what I was getting into. I was just out of school and in middle of an internship. I planned on working here for a min of two years, and that seemed like the longest timespan ever back then.
Do you have other hobbies or interests?
I love just about anything outside, preferably in the sun. I love the Minnesota fall, winter and spring months as well. I love fishing, being on the water, boating, being on the beach, hunting in the fall and ice fishing in the winter.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in southern California. I was born and raised in Orange County. Most of my family is from San Diego. We moved here when I was 14 during one of the coldest winters Minnesota had. My brother and I took to the fishing and being outside. It was kind of hard to skateboard outside in the winter so I got into snowboarding.
What’s your first memory?
Probably playing on a sandy beach as a young kid.
What was your family like growing up?
Very non-traditional, but very real and very fun. Nothing near beaver cleaver. Lots of swearing, lots of love, lots of fun.
What did your parents do?
My family is very blue collar. My dad has been a glazier (glass worker) for 35 years and is partly retired now. Growing up my mom worked for a cement company and actually started out driving a cement truck. She later moved into the office as a dispatcher and currently owns a bar in a very small town in northern Minnesota. My stepfather drove a cement truck and is now retired. You can probably assume how they met. :)
Do you know when you first got interested in Engineering?
All through high school, I was interested in math and science. I was always was interested in how things worked. I did some job shadows to learn more about engineering with a friend’s dad who did it. I thought it was cool and wanted to be one once I realized I wasn’t going to be in the NFL or a professional fisherman.
What personality traits work well with what you do?
Curiosity for sure – just being interested in how things work by investigating and digging a bit. The analytical side definitely helps when you are trying to work with the design side of things.
What frustrates you?
All sorts of things. Quality issues are always frustrating but I think Chief has great processes in place and great people in place to catch these things before they become serious issues.
What excites you?
Making new products. When you are in a project, you go through a lot of levels. I love the beginning of a project when everything is wide open and in a dream state.
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