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Meet a Product Manager – Gina Schneider Edition
Posted on Thursday, October 30, 2014
Meet a Product Manager – Gina Schneider Edition
For AV Month, we’re doing a series of blogs with our intrepid Product Management team. Today’s guest, Gina Schneider.

Gina Schneider – Product Manager – Racks, AV Storage Products and Power

Professional Life
How long have you been in the AV industry?
About 7 years. Prior to that, I was in sales and business development on the IT side.

How do you describe the work you do to people outside the industry?
I usually describe what the AV industry is – anything audio or video related, digital signage, boardrooms, video conferencing – to just give them ideas of what AV is. Then I explain what product management means – to come up with new products in Audio Visual. Then I explain how Milestone and Chief fit into the AV industry. Then break it down to my product category of racks people use to hold equipment.  Then they say, “Oh, you were part of that nerdy club in high school.”

What drew you to this work?
I was in IT first. Then I was home with my son for five years. After that, I started looking for work again. I started out with a dealer in AV. It was a more eclectic group of people, and I could fit in better.

What are the challenges of the job?
Product management has a lot of gray area. It’s not quite marketing, not quite engineering, it’s not sales. It’s everything in between. We try to define products the market wants and needs and work with customers to develop them. It’s a bit of project management. Defining what the role is can be challenging at times. The other challenge is the technology is changing so rapidly. It’s hard to get products from idea to the market. There’s so much competition now, and it used to be the time between one new tech and the next was years.

What are the rewards?
So many. I love being a part of creating great products that customers want and need, working with incredibly smart and talented people and working for a great company. I’m learning every single day I’m at work. Just being a part of something that’s being built – that’s one of the big things. And it’s fun. It’s a lot of fun.

Describe a typical day at work.
No such thing. There’s a lot of project management involved in product management. I have a challenging category because racks is a new and different area for Chief. And I’m new. I’m juggling to organize the racks area, but I also have storage and power products, which is very cool. I have POWER! Some days a typical day is brainstorming, researching and analyzing what’s going on in the market, talking to customers and RSMs to get feedback. Others its spreadsheets and analyzing how certain products are selling against what we anticipated or forecasted.

Those are what I call my “dots.” I put things into piles of dots. I feel I was given a gift to see or hear trends. The collaboration at this company is fantastic. Everybody is always bouncing things off each other and asking, “What do you think of this?” Then they become a bigger dot.

What makes something a good idea for you? What do you consider when evaluating a direction for a product?
It’s hard to know exactly, and it’s hard to be completely confident because nobody has a crystal ball. There are trends and things that pop up more often than others. But it comes back to that connecting dots thing. I think it’s clear displays are getting thinner and bigger. LED is growing and the price of those are coming down. I’ve been watching and reading about this trend for a while. It wont be long before they are the next thing. What kind of mount will they require.

A lot of ideas have to be validated by a trusted group of partner customer panels. We can do empathy work to find out what they need out there, but when you are deciding actual specifics of a product, the best way to do that is to have a validation panel.

Personal Life
Do you have other hobbies or interests?
I like science fiction a lot. At my house we do a lot of movies, comic books, board games and watch a lot of physics and science TV shows like Brain Games, that kind of thing. Love theater and improv. Prior to Chief I was in business development and sales, so I was on the road for 7 years an average of 4 days a week. I’m enjoying this job and a lot more time at home with my family.

Where did you grow up?
Right here in Eden Prairie.

What’s your first memory?
That’s a long time ago. Running down a sidewalk with a puppy dog. I do love dogs. I don’t’ know whose dog it was, but I know I had pigtails. I believe my brother was following me. Buster was the dog’s name.

What was your family like growing up?
Close family. Not big. Mom and brother and myself. My parents were divorced. Remarried when I was young. Lots of cousins and big catholic family gatherings. Close family.

What did your parents do?
Accountant. Insurance.

How did you first get into product management?
I have always been in sales and business development. I started out selling large format digital color printers. Then I went into IT. Sold IT up until my son came along. Stayed home with him five years. When he was six, went back to work in sales. Worked for a dealer in AV. Then worked for a manufacturer in AV. Worked for AV manufacturers in sales up until this job.

Is it usual to move into product management from sales?
It’s not typical to come out of sales, but it worked out well for me because I did a lot of biz stuff. Product Management is different in different companies. Product management is process. If you have a really good manager, which I do, he can help with the process. Nice thing for me is I’ve been able to watch the others go through various phases of that.

University of St. Thomas for Psychology

Final Thoughts
What personality traits work well with what you do?
Strategic thinking and a sales side was good for me. I don’t sit still well. Sitting at my desk nonstop is not good for me. When I read the job description, it was all strategic in nature.

What frustrates you?
People that aren’t kind. People that don’t try to at least see things from a different perspective, or understand that most people are pretty good people and don’t try to be intentionally annoying or hurtful. People react instead of pausing. One other thing that bothers me, I don’t like doing things inefficiently more than three times. The first time, I’ll say something. The second time, I’ll be more specific about process broken. The third time, I get f