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Coffeebreak chat with Aaron Doherty, Roomex Agile Product Owner

Aaron Doherty is an Agile Product Owner with Roomex. He’s a product manager in both name and nature - even when he’s not on the clock, he’s likely to be reading and thinking about Product Management.

He is interested in the topic as an idea and concept and so he follows a number of blogs. One he recommends is www.mindtheproduct.com. He follows dedicated sites like www.roadmap.com and is inspired by industry experts such as Roman Pichler. For Aaron, Product Management is always in the background. He says, ‘When I’m not thinking about specific work items I might be thinking about the idea of Product Management in general.’

However, when he’s able to fully disengage about work, Aaron can be found plucking the strings of his guitar or hiking in far off hills such as in Peru or Madeira. He is soon to relocate to County Wicklow with his wife, where they are buying a house. However, Dublin has a special place in his heart - he loves music, going to gigs, festivals and partaking in all the culture on offer in the capital.

How would you describe to the uninitiated the complex industry you're in?
So in a nutshell what I do is take the feature requests that we want to introduce for the product and think about those, having  analysed the market, looked at trends and analysed user behaviour. Then I use that information to drive what we see as the next phase of our product. I translate that information into the tech requirements of our developers. So my role  kind of sits between the business and the development teams here at Roomex.’

Tell us about your background

I have always had a very strong interest in computers even from when I was very young. I started my  university degree at 17 and then took the opportunity to work with a local authority. During my time there I completed a Masters in Computing Science and thankfully that has opened many doors for me, including Roomex. I found Roomex was working in the corporate space in an area of the market which was very appealing, and so was happy to take the role when it was offered to me as the high-growth environment was something that appealed to me.

You’ve been there since November 2017. What would you say is the most exciting product or project that you’ve managed for Roomex?

‘Well, we are still in the early days concerning my product role, so we are trying to refine some of the pieces here and bring in some new things. There have been a lot of small projects, a lot of refinement and a lot of modernisation. We are working at a number of key initiatives at the moment around the architecture of the front end pieces of the product and so we recently moved a lot of customers over to the new angular based front end of the product and so that was a pretty interesting project. I think that’s one of the biggest ones we have done for sure and, in my opinion, one of the best.’

How do you see your projects and your role developing over the next 12 to 18 months?

‘At the moment the product functions are very much an inhouse role but as everything beds in I see a lot more interaction between product and client. I will get out there and meet people and see how they use the platform, what their pains are, what they enjoy, and build on that. I think a lot of our future initiatives will probably come from what our clients are feeding back to us. We have now gotten over that point where we were trying to just get the basics down and now its about refinement and building out what our clients want and need.’

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

‘Trying to understand the priorities of the work. One of the key components of my job is to prioritise what the developers focus on based on what we feel is the need for that particular piece of functionality or feature. And as we grow, develop and build out, and as the client base expands, we all have new needs and requirements to tend to. It’s about finding the best way to drive the platform forward to get the best of out of it for both us and our clients in the shortest possible time.’

Who are your competition - who is challenging you the most?

Travel is one of the most competitive industries in the world and there are a myriad of ways in which individuals and companies can book work-related hotel stays. Roomex has been able to stand out and grow exponentially because we leverage technology to make efficiencies throughout the process. This means that we don’t have an expensive fee based model similar to large Travel Management Companies which have dominated the travel space for years.  However, we do offer a level of corporate service that companies using the well-known Online Travel Agents do not get, our benchmarking, visibility, control, live-reporting and Duty of Care sets us apart there. So in a very competitive market we have managed to find a way to be competitive and to disrupt a very established industry.

And what do you think is the most rewarding thing about the work you're doing?

‘When the things we envisage eventually come to life. When I start to think about a particular feature I have an idea in my head of how it will look and work. When we actually bring that to the development stage and it is completed and you see people using it, particularly if it’s something people really like or really enjoy, I think that is the best part of my role.’

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