The AND buzz is still ringing in Leeds amidst the launch of our second Club, and now we're gearing up to host some exciting events at Leeds Digital Fest!
We'll be delving into how we're addressing the gender gap in tech, how we're maintaining our award-winning culture in the age of remote working, and how we're making work rewarding beyond our benefits. As a preview, we caught up with Leeds based Product Analyst James French to find out how he's grown his career here at AND, after transferring from London to Leeds in the midst of the global pandemic.
Name: James French
Title: Product Analyst AND Duathlete
How long have you been working at AND?
Just coming up to 4 years now, which is considered a veteran at AND. I joined when we only had 2 clubs in London - we are now up to 15 across 3 countries.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what do you do at AND?
While I’ve been involved in technology throughout my career, the roles and industries I’ve worked in have varied. My experience has ranged from leading development at a small software startup, to helping big corporates like Royal Mail and British Airways deliver change in their digital products. Since joining AND, I’ve been fully focused on product and I’m actively working with clients on the ground to deliver products, while helping to upskill their product management function.
Could you describe your work? How would you describe it to your family?
This is always a tough one! If you asked my parents what I did, they would say that I help companies build apps and websites. Which after many years trying to explain I think is not a bad description. The only thing I would say is that it’s not truly about helping clients to build a website or app, it’s about solving customer problems through technology and that is really what I am passionate about.
You transferred from London to Leeds - how did you find that move?
It was always the plan to come back to Yorkshire, but the decision was made even easier with the opportunity to continue working at AND. There was never any question that I would move on, and the process of transferring to AND’s north hub was so straightforward (even in the midst of a global pandemic.) There’s a really tight-knit tech community here in Leeds, and I’ve gotten to enjoy that even more as we’ve moved into our blended working model.
What is the tech community like in Leeds?
Despite the scale and diversity of the tech industry here, it feels like such a close community. There is a real mix of people within the digital sector who have worked together in the past or have connections across multiple organisations and sectors. I think these relationships really help with collaboration within teams and across companies, and are a driving force behind the tech community here.
What’s it like working at AND in general? What do you like best about working at the company?
It’s very different to other companies I’ve worked at, in that you are constantly challenged by something new; whether that’s working on a different client, a new industry, a slightly different role or even working to improve AND’s internal capabilities. You are constantly learning and for someone like me who can get restless easily, it’s the perfect place to work. Not only that, but AND's Club model creates a real family vibe, with a start-up feel that other large organisations have lost as they've grown.
What have you learned while at AND? What new skills have you developed?
Too many to list! As I said before, you are regularly tasked with different problems and new environments, so you definitely become more well-rounded in your skills. One of the really helpful things for me was becoming a qualified ScrumMaster, along with the opportunity to practice the role for a period of time with product responsibilities. Even though my key skillset in product management, having a better appreciation of delivery processes and problems really helps in my day job and allows me to spot issues or help solve problems which I might not have seen otherwise.
What kind of clients do you work with?
Over the last 4 years, I’ve been lucky to be immersed in a whole range of projects, a few of which have been focused in travel. My first AND project was a discovery for a white label integration between two large travel companies. I had the opportunity to facilitate lots of workshops and collaborative sessions which was a great way to settle into my new role. I’ve also taken on the role of Product Manager for a large airline, leading discovery for a new loyalty platform across mobile and web.
Currently, I'm taking on the role of iOS Product Manager for a sports betting company. I've been getting into the detail of the work required for an MVP, and focusing on managing the team's backlog for day to day delivery.
What are the biggest challenges working with clients?
I think for me, the biggest challenge is establishing trust with clients, and this can naturally take a while on new engagements. When we have that two way level of trust I think it allows us to really work to solve problems together, utilising the client expertise of the business and customer along with our expertise in product discovery and user experience design to create something really powerful. Of course, you have to respect the client’s decision to go down a particular direction or work in certain way, but I think it’s best for both parties when we have that collaborative way of working.
What makes a project really rewarding and interesting?
The obvious thing is being able to see something through from idea to reality, as a team navigating all the challenges and hurdles that are put in your way, and finally seeing your product used by customers and impacting their lives. It’s very much a cliche, but it’s not just about the end result but it’s the journey to get there that makes it satisfying.
Interested in kicking off your own career journey? Check out our Open Roles to find your next step.