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MEET CONOR CUNNINGHAM: PRODUCT MANAGER AT MTT

Conor is Product Manager at MTT who is responsible for the solutions and the direction we are going in for the products we build for TMCs worldwide.

What is it like to work at MTT?

It’s a challenging environment but it’s also a real opportunity to learn and stretch yourself. It’s full of great, really smart people. In order to be successful or progress, you need to be dynamic and have the ability to get stuff done. That’s one of the things I like about MTT, there are a lot of people who go out of their way to get things done.

MTT has grown significantly in the past 3 years and I’ve been lucky enough to see it go from what was effectively a start up with a handful of customers at the time I joined to being an established provider of mobile solutions to a number of blue chip names in travel. At times it’s been challenging but overall it’s been a great experience so far.  We’re continuing to move quickly to address the needs of the various customer segments we support and adapt to the changing demands of the industry because both travel and technology are moving at breakneck speed.

What does your role entail at MTT?

As a product manager responsible for the solutions we provide to Travel Management Companies (TMCs) I work with a team to understand what it is we need to build and why. I think as an organisation we’re really quite close to working at what I would deem to be in line with true product management. That means identifying a need in the market, putting a business case around it, testing and validating assumptions, regularly talking to customers or potential customers in the market, understanding the value, how we position it and putting numbers around it in terms of cost to build, pricing, ROI and I suppose the overall direction of a product or suite of products. The regular interaction both with the market and internally at MTT is something I really enjoy. I don’t think I’m the smartest guy in the room but I don’t need to be. I just need to get answers to the questions that will allow us to build something great.

Part of my responsibility for helping to define the direction for the products we are building for TMCs means having a good understanding of that vertical within the market and the direction that it’s going. I’m working to understand how we position our products to best meet the needs of the customers and prospects that we are talking to.

In my role I get to have touch points across all departments from finance, sales and marketing right through to design, development and operations, I’m exposed to a lot! That in itself is challenging but in a good way.

There are also line management responsibilities which I quite enjoy because having come from a Product Owner role myself I understand the challenges that Product Owners have and feel that I can foster and help facilitate learning in that area, as well as provide a steer on the major boxes that need to be ticked in order to move your career forward.

What advice would you have for anyone that is interested in working on your team?

They need to want to be challenged, it’s quite a steep learning curve in a fast paced environment. We need to be able to change direction in response to both market and customer needs but MTT is a great place to learn. If you are the type of person who can see the big picture, likes to remove obstacles, want your voice to be heard and own your contribution to the growth of a product or set of products then this is for you.

What is the favourite part of your job?

I love that we are doing a bit of a reset on how we do product management in MTT. We’re laying the foundations for being recognized and operating within what I expect to be a true product management organisation. In addition, MTT is the place that I feel I found a lot of direction in what I want to do with my career in that my growth and learning in product has been really supported. There’s support there when needed but there’s also a lot of autonomy and trust to get the job done.

Another great part of my job is the people I work with - they are intelligent, creative, really good at what they do and genuinely great craic. There’s also plenty of experience both technically and in travel. No two days are the same and that’s great too because with we’re building for example I’ve a clear picture of how it all ties together and all of the different things I do each day are to meet that one objective. Maybe there’s an element of being a control freak in there somewhere but there’s also the understanding that this is a great team and we all need to row in the same direction.  

I also love working with our customers and understanding what the market needs are so we can better position the products we are building - it’s that direct customer feedback that helps us steer the direction of these products.

What is the best project you have ever worked on?

The project I am currently working on is by far the one I am learning the most on. As a team we are helping to facilitate a new direction for MTT and product management is going to be an integral part of that. There are exciting times ahead so watch this space!

What are you most proud of achieving in MTT?

The biggest thing for me being in MTT is establishing a direction in my career and finding a role that I genuinely enjoy. I originally joined MTT in project management and I was then given an opportunity to move to a Product Owner role which I took and there has been no looking back since. I believe that this is an area I have a real affinity for and MTT helped me pursue that.

Describe your typical day in MTT

I don’t really have a typical day but there are usually a lot of meetings as my role necessitates interaction both internally and externally. This usually takes the form of working sessions to help lay out the plans for the future and reprioritize where necessary. As I mentioned, I have touch points across a lot of departments in MTT so there are a lot of conversations to make sure we’re all aligned on what we’re doing and any changes to the plan are communicated or even over communicated. There’s a lot of interaction with project management, design, dev, sales and marketing and obviously communicating upwards as well. One consistent theme every day though is the overall objective -  every meeting, chat, powerpoint slide, price list that I’m involved in is to meet the same goal - building something that our customers want and travellers will use.

Where would we find you outside of work?

Home is pretty busy for my wife and I with our two young kids. Ben is 4 and Sadie is 10 months - they are such a great source of amusement! They’re great fun and I try to spend as much time with them as I can because they’re getting big so quickly, growing at a rate of knots.

I’m quite active. I cycle quite a bit, I try and get to the gym as much as I can and when I can carve out the time I like to play a round of golf. When time allows it I also manage to shoehorn in the odd pint!

What was life like pre MTT?

In college I studied Arts, doing a degree in sociology and classical studies in UCD, preceded by a certificate in Computing and Applications. I’m delighted to say that in a few weeks I will be graduating from DIT with a Diploma in Product Management.

Prior to joining MTT, my career was pretty varied. I never really felt my career had any significant structure prior to joining MTT. I went from selling accidental death insurance over the phone, to working in admin in the IRFU before working in project management which brought me to MTT. I started off here in project management before moving into a product owner role and that element of being closely involved with what we’re building and why is what I really enjoyed. Then I moved to the internal product development side of the house as a product manager which is what I’m doing now and as I said, it’s great.

How different is MTT to any other company you have worked for?

It’s very different in a lot of ways. The pace, the challenge, the opportunity to learn and stretch yourself, the growth of the organisation, the industry we work in and the caliber of people. I just haven’t worked in a place like this before. I don’t feel like I’ve contributed as much anywhere as I have here. That old employee survey question of “Do you feel like you understand how your work contributes to the success of the business?” is a pretty resounding yes for me.

Tell us something you have learnt working in travel tech?

The complexity of travel is something that stands out for me. It is hard to stay on top of all the trends as they are changing and moving so quickly but MTT do a great job collectively of understanding the market and the trends and translating that into something tangible for our customers.

What is the favourite place you have been?

I’ve been around the world and one of my favourite places has to be South America but in terms of the country it is a toss up between Argentina for their steak and wine or Brazil for their beaches and parties!

Describe MTT in 3 words

1.     Growing

2.     Dynamic

3.     Fast paced

 
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