At OSS Ventures, all roles are important, but the role of product manager is especially key. Product managers are a startup’s guide through product development and launch, providing daily and dynamic support. According to Baptiste Pinard, product manager for the past year, he touches all aspects of a startup, and his responsibilities evolve and differ depending on the needs of a startup.
When two cofounders arrive at OSS to create their startup, Baptiste guides them through the OSS product iteration process, which can be overwhelming because of the OSS-specific approach and the incredible amount of work to be done. Not only does Baptiste help the cofounders progress at the speed necessary for OSS’s process, he also clarifies and demands the level of involvement and quality of work expected by OSS. As the startup matures, the role of product manager diminishes naturally as the cofounders find their footing, and eventually Baptiste functions as an exterior adviser. The role is highly dynamic because in addition to the variability of daily responsibilities according to a startup’s needs, Baptiste moves to a new project at least once a year.
In a job as dynamic as this necessitates a diverse skill set from candidates. According to Baptiste, a base level knowledge about product management is required, especially the foundations of design and sales. Occasionally, a product manager may dip his or her toes into coding, though Baptiste insists this is rare. Most importantly, a product manager at OSS needs to have a love of discovery and a dislike for routine because the pace of work is so fast that every day brings a different set of tasks.
Baptiste also notes how far removed the role of product manager at OSS is from a “classic” product manager role in a startup incubator. Baptiste points out that there is a big difference between incubators and OSS’s startup studio model, which supports startups not only during the growth phase, but also during the conceptualization and creation of the product. In general terms, OSS helps the founders choose their product idea, then fills the gaps that could be present in the co-founders' skills until the cofounders develop the skills themselves or grow their business sufficiently to hire team members with the necessary know-how. This multi-pronged set of services and financial support means OSS occupies a unique space between an incubator, an accelerator, and an investment fund, and therefore the role of product manager is equally unique.
How did Baptiste come to do such a versatile job? Thanks to a varied career path which reflects his passions: manufacturing, strategy, operations, and tech. After a double degree in engineering and management of industrial operations, he wanted to bring a strategic dimension to his career, an ambition he achieved with a degree in international business strategy. According to Baptiste, to carry out the role of product manager, you need to have a basic knowledge of the different elements that make up the products of OSS startups: design, business and sales, and the technical aspect. With his degrees and professional experience in two major French corporations, he already had the first three, and the fourth was not long in coming. Despite the fact that he had never worked in tech before joining OSS, he had a strong desire to take part in the digital transformation of industry, which has motivated him to learn and gain new skills.
Besides allowing Baptiste an exciting opportunity to participate in the digital industrial revolution, his role also directly supports the social mission of OSS Ventures. OSS Ventures has made a bet that bringing new technologies into factories will revitalize industry and create innovation, job opportunity, and eventually, greater social equality and empowerment. By working directly with users to identify their problems, and with the startups to create their products, Baptiste contributes directly to that mission. And when one of the startups with whom he has been working succeeds in creating a solution that makes users’ daily lives more engaging and productive, Baptiste finds true satisfaction in his work. It’s a feeling that makes those 5 a.m. wakeups to visit factories worth it.
Though OSS’s business model and innovative approach are exciting and highly motivating, in Baptiste’s point of view, it’s the company’s social mission of improving factory workers' lives that inspires everyone on the team at OSS. Thanks to the close relationship OSS employees have with their partner factories, the whole staff understands the painful user processes currently in place in manufacturing. And by understanding it, the team necessarily has a desire to improve the situation at hand. This common cause unifies them and is, according to Baptiste, the reason why OSS will change the future of manufacturing in Europe.
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