What is quickly becoming tradition, we are kicking off the first series of the year looking at our most recent winner of The Best Product Person. Chris Sarette, The Best Product Person of 2011, is the estimable subject of this series. Over the coming weeks I will be sharing a segments of a Q&A session I had with Chris — and lending some insight into why Chris truly is The Best Product Person of 2011.
In the now…
> Whose shoes would you like to walk in for a day? why?
I would love to see the world through the eyes of the industrial designers I get to work with. It fascinates me how they take everyday inspirations – something as nondescript as a bag of almonds – and pull beautiful shapes and functions out of them. Understanding the interactivity of proportions, textures, colors, and shapes as they do would be intriguing.
> What excites you about your current products?
With our Canvas Totes Series this holiday season, we aimed to reinvent what the public at large thinks a “cause bag” is, or is capable of being. We’ve been told that our machines, and our seamstresses, wouldn’t be able to work with leather – they did. Similarly, the prospect of setting up a screenprinting workshop in a remote area of the world was deemed lofty – and yet we have several hundred prints coming off the press on a weekly basis. I’m excited that we’re pushing the envelope of what people think this project should be capable of producing, and helping push a consumer’s expectations for African goods from craft to a durable and fashionable ware.
> What do you like most -and least – about being a product manager?
It’s easy to get frustrated at just about any step in a product’s evolution. Collaboration on design can get heated, when someone else is just as convinced as you are that another direction is better than what you have in mind. Then trying to match the particulars of a sample to the raw material factories in your knowledge base, while hitting the price points you need to hit, can leave you frazzled. To overcome all these obstacles, and then hit a snag in production because something like needles have suddenly become the scarcest commodity in Uganda, can leave you at your wit’s end. But while all these challenges are often the hardest part of being a product manager, the moment when you FINALLY get to check the box off next to any of these line items for a new product makes it all worth it. To finally carry around a bag that you helped bring to life, or better yet, to have someone compliment you on that bag you’re carrying around, is exhilarating.
Over the next few weeks I will share more of my interview with Chris Sarette, The Best Product Person of 2011!
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