Thursday, November 29, 2012

Product Manager Internship at Shoes of Prey

Shoes of Prey is a global online retail brand that allows women (including Prime Ministers!) to design their own shoes which we handmake and deliver to them. We’re changing the way women shop for shoes and we’re on track to become a significant international retailer within the next 5 years.

As our business continues to grow we're looking to take on an unpaid product management intern to assist our product manager Todd with improving the website conversion rate.

Some of the key day-to-day activities include:

  • coordinate website development and technology initiatives 
  • manage design lifecycle: conduct brainstorms, prototyping, design reviews, user testing, etc. 
  • write functional specifications
  • administer our JIRA project management platform 
  • attend weekly production meetings with Engineering, Creative, and Marketing teams 
  • review marketing and website analytics, compile internal company reports 
  • assist with monthly and long-term goal planning 

The role would ideally suit someone studying a business degree who wants to gain some practical technology and e-commerce experience. Having also studied engineering/computer science would be an asset but is not required.

Shoes of Prey features one of the best shoe design experiences on the web. With such a bright group of engineers, creative copywriters and graphic artists, marketing specialists, and shoe crafters behind this website, there is much you can learn from an internship with us.

We're looking for someone with:

  • Strong organisational and analytical skills
  • A great attitude and team player mentality
  • Technical aptitude
  • Creativity
  • Enthusiasm for technology or e-commerce
  • Achieved or pursuing a business or engineering degree
  • Able to work at least 20h/week
  • Minimum 3 month internship, ideally 6 months

The position is unpaid but will include lunch, snacks and of course, shoes! The role will be based in our Surry Hills office.

To apply for the position, please email your resume and cover letter to todd@shoesofprey.com.

The pictures are from a recent Melbourne Cup-themed happy hour!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution

Fantastic presentation by Chris Anderson (author of The Long Tail) on how 3D printing and on demand manufacturing is about to spark innovation and change on the level of the industrial revolution by empowering anyone to manufacture nearly anything they want. It's a long presentation but highly thought provoking, well worth a watch. It's a topic we believe in strongly in the mass customisation space.

via @sammartino

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Click Frenzy

There's been a lot of industry talk this morning about Australia's answer to Black Friday and Cyber Monday - Click Frenzy and the fact the Click Frenzy site went down as soon as the 24 hour sale period launched yesterday.

Sneaking Duck but not Shoes of Prey participated in Click Frenzy and it's been a resounding success for us. Yesterday was a record traffic day for Sneaking Duck and this 24 hour period should also be a record sales period for Sneaking Duck.

One of the big issues it highlights is that Australian online retailers need to improve their technology platforms. Along with the Click Frenzy website, the websites of Myer, Dick Smith, Jeans West, Katies, Quicksilver and Kogan all experienced issues. We host our Sneaking Duck and Shoes of Prey websites on a combination of Google AppEngine and Amazon's servers which are able to scale easily to massive traffic demand, as we experienced with Shoes of Prey a couple of years ago.

The other issue for me as a consumer was that the value of the deals was very mixed. Some retailers like The Iconic (30% off storewide), SurfStitch (25% off storewide) and we at Sneaking Duck ($40 off every order) offered compelling deals whereas some retailers like City Beach and Dell only offered deals on a few brands or products. That's their prerogative but it won't help the event as a whole to be successful.

With so many consumers wanting to participate in the sale, the event has to be a positive one for promoting online retail in Australia, and no doubt it will continue next year, though graphs like this one from the SMH website highlight that consumers are very frustrated with the Click Frenzy experience. Hopefully that's resolved by next year.

You can read Click Frenzy founder Grant Arnott's take on the event from this morning here on Power Retail. Hats off to him for spotting a fantastic opportunity to promote Australian online retail, for helping drive our record traffic and likely our record sales day even if the execution didn't go quite to plan.

Education Policy - Australia Needs More Software Engineers

Hiring top software engineering talent in Australia is hard, there just aren't enough people studying computer science degrees. We need better computer science programs in primary and high schools to encourage more people to study this degree, then we need a lot more places in higher quality computer science courses at Universities.

Over the last 10 years we've seen a large number of industries shifting online. We don't buy CDs anymore, we buy digital files from iTunes or subscribe to Spotify. We buy less physical books, instead we buy eBooks for our Kindles and iPads and when we still buy physical books, we buy them from online stores like Amazon. Newspaper and magazine sales have been declining for a decade as people go online to read their news. A similar story is playing out with TV. And of course the retail industry we operate in at Shoes of Prey and Sneaking Duck is seeing a big shift online as well. All of these new digital industries require lots of great software engineers to build the products and tools that consumers and businesses in these industries use.

The next 10 years is going to see this move towards digital accelerate. 3D printing is going to do to a large number of industries what mp3s have done to music and eBooks have done to the book industry. Rather than buying physical products we'll buy digital designs online and print them ourselves, or just scan existing products and print copies. If you haven't read up on 3D printing you have to watch this video:

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The production of everything from tools, toys, household appliances, electronics and even human organs are going to be completely disrupted by this technology. And if Australia is to be at the forefront of game changing industries like this we need lots of great software engineers to build these technologies.

As a country, we're investing a huge amount of money in the National Broadband Network. The speed of the network is going to allow lots of cool new technologies to be developed but not without lots of great software engineers. Without software engineers to build the software to run on the network we're not going to be able to use it to it's full advantage.

5 of the top 10 world's largest companies by market capitalisation are technology companies. Apple (1), Microsoft (5), Google (7), China Mobile (8) and IBM (9). 10 years ago there were only 2, Microsoft and Intel. The future will belong to technology companies and the question for us as a country is whether we will be a significant part of this. I love the ideas put forward by Paul Graham in his article, 'Can you buy a Silicon Valley? Maybe.' In the article Paul describes how for an investment of around $1b, a city could bring in 1000 good quality tech startups potentially kickstarting a Silicon Valley type industry in the city. I think Paul's approach is highly plausible here in Australia except for one issue - there wouldn't be enough software engineers to work at the influx of startups. At Shoes of Prey and Sneaking Duck we already struggle to hire enough top quality software engineering talent, there just wouldn't be enough software engineers for another 1,000 tech startups!

So how do we get more people studying software engineering? Our co-founder and CTO Mike Knapp was inspired to study software engineering by his IT high school teacher Peter Whitehouse at St Joseph’s College Gregory Terrace in Brisbane. He loved his IT classes so when he finished school with the marks to get into Computer Science at University this was an obvious choice for him. We need more Australian students to have experiences like this. We need inspiring and talented IT teachers in high schools.

I was speaking about this issue with Finn Age Hänsel, the Managing Director of The Iconic and he was explaining that a decade ago the German government was concerned that not enough people were studying engineering. Great engineers help form the backbone of the German economy so the German government launched a program where engineers from companies like Porsche and Mercedes took their products into high schools and showed the students the great engineering work that goes into these products. The program saw a near immediate uplift of 300% in the number of students applying for engineering places at University! 10 years later and the German economy is one of the few economic success stories in Europe. We need something similar to encourage more people to apply to study computer science here in Australia.

Once students have developed a passion for software engineering we need more computer science places at University and we need to improve the quality of the education there. Mitchell Harper, co-founder of BigCommerce does a great job in this SMH opinion piece of describing how the computer science curriculum at our Universities needs a major update to keep up with modern software engineering techniques and programming languages.

The issue of more people studying computer science was a prominent one at the recent Prime Minister's Forum on the Digital Economy with everyone from industry leaders like Google to startups singing the same tune that we need more people studying computer science in Australia, and the Prime Minister took the issue away from the day as one of her 3 key points. As a follow up Senator Chris Evans, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research is chairing a discussion on these issues in Canberra today. It's great that the issue is getting the attention it deserves from Government and I would urge the Minister to ensure that changes are made to computer science education in Australia so that rather than being left behind, Australia is at the forefront of the exciting new industries that are going to develop in the coming decades.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Why Startup Founders are Always Unhappy

Great article with some excellent insights into startup founder psychology: Why Startup Founders are Always Unhappy. For what it's worth I think the title is an exaggeration, I think I'm happy about 90% of the time but the psychology definitely holds true.

Marketing Internship at Shoes of Prey

Shoes of Prey is a global online retail brand that allows women (including Prime Ministers!) to design their own shoes which we handmake and deliver to them. We’re changing the way women shop for shoes and we’re on track to become a significant international retailer within the next 5 years.

As our business continues to grow we're looking to take on an unpaid marketing intern to assist our marketing team in scaling our customer acquisition.

Some of the key day to day activities:

  • Assist and work with the Shoes of Prey Marketing team on a range of online marketing projects
  • Assist with article writing and Search Engine Optimisation
  • Maintain and grow the Shoes of Prey e-mail database
  • Design online marketing campaigns
  • Analyse results of Shoes of Prey marketing campaigns

The role would ideally suit someone studying a marketing or related degree who wants to gain some practical experience. We have a world class marketing team and there's a lot you can learn from an internship with us. We've had some significant online marketing successes and in 2010 won the Online Retail Industry Award for Best Online Retail Marketing Initiative. As we continue to grow our team the role has the potential to turn into a permanent paid position.

We're looking for someone with:

  • Enthusiasm and a passion for fashion,
  • Strong writing ability
  • Creativity
  • A great attitude and team player mentality
  • Achieved or pursuing a Marketing degree or related field
  • Able to work at least 20h/week
  • Minimum 3 month internship, ideally 6 months

The position is unpaid but will include lunch, snacks and of course, shoes! The role will be based in our Surry Hills office.

To apply for the position please email your resume and cover letter to martin@shoesofprey.com.

Pics are from Halloween in the office last week!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Product Management at Shoes of Prey

This post is by Todd Osborne, our Product Manager at Shoes of Prey.

I'm the Shoes of Prey Product Manager, and recently started here in July. A while back Michael asked me to write a blog post on some of my "early learnings" as I'm transitioning into the new role. At the time, I figured I'd put something down on paper once the learning curve had flattened out a bit. As it turns out, that hasn't happened quite yet, but I'm happy to report that my learning here at Shoes of Prey appears to be perpetual.

I love a good challenge--in fact I'm usually bored in the absence of one, which is why I've extended a short-term internship into this full time position here in Sydney, 7,000 miles away from my home in San Francisco. I spent the last 6 years of my career in healthcare consulting, for US hospitals, at San Francisco-based Triage Consulting Group. There I fulfilled a hybrid role, spending half of my time managing client-facing consulting teams and the other half managing an internal team of consultant-developers who built and maintained a complex array of homegrown financial analysis applications.

I'm overjoyed that Product Management now encompasses 100% of my daily efforts. I'm also happy that there is no shortage of both big challenges and big opportunities here at Shoes of Prey. I'm learning a ton as I transition into this role, mostly thanks to the superbly talented group that I call my teammates, as well as the small size of our firm.

This talented team leads me to my first "early learning" in my role. The lesson comes from Silicon Valley blogger Andrew Chen, who sees a major function of the Product Management as an "editor". Here at Shoes of Prey I must deeply and continually understand our customers, but also need to grasp and embrace the story that Shoes of Prey seeks to tell this audience. With such a bright group of engineers, creative copywriters and graphic artists, marketing specialists, and shoe crafters, the challenge is less to come up with brilliant ideas, but rather to elicit, synthesize and execute these ideas from the team around me. What's great is that I'm often not saying "no" to bad ideas, but rather "not yet" to good-but-less-urgent ones. With so many interesting ideas floating about our office, my job as editor/storyteller is to edit in those ideas that show the greatest promise and that are congruent with the Shoes of Prey story. As Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey puts it, ≈ "to minimize the number of details, and then make those details perfect".

Then I need to execute those details, which is where I actually spend most of my day-to-day time. That's where managing the classic project management triangle of cost, time, and quality comes into play. Luckily my anal-retentive attention to detail and obsessive compulsion to organise are actually strengths. But the other edge to the sword is striking an appropriate balance between perfection and production. So in my sometimes painful pursuit of perfection, I've found it absolutely necessary to keep my eye on the time and cost corners of my project management triangle.

My third lesson comes from Joel Spolsky, author of Joel on Software, who nails my role in his description of Product Managers. Joel recommends that no one report to a Product Manager, and that this person's leverage to accomplish goals must rest solely on (1) the quality of their ideas and (2) their ability to laterally manage disparate functions, personalities, and viewpoints. My job has not just been to load, update, and administer our JIRA project management platform (although that's a large part). My job is more importantly to sell each of my teammates on our priorities every month, to convince them of the value of each initiative, and illustrate how their contribution to a project fits within the bigger picture of the company's vision. This has been the only effective way for me to ensure that assignments are completed, and that the baton on complex projects is swiftly passed from teammember to teammember.

My final "early learning" is still very much a work-in-progress, and I realise this each time I start planning our goals for the following month. As part of my role, I assist the leadership group in assessing our prior month's success, reporting on our performance and progress, and then developing our company goals for the next month (or quarter). It can be a struggle to pull myself out of the details of our current objectives, and refocus on that bigger picture. It's a colossal shift from obsessing over visitor interaction workflows or button padding, to then think about longer-term goals and set or adjust strategic direction.

Yet this is one of the fantastic, mind-stretching challenges of the position that I greatly enjoy, as it is critical for any startup to frequently evaluate progress and then swiftly and decisively pivot to better fit the business model to the environment.