5 Minutes with Doug Blue, Product Director of Seek

Recently, Brainmates spoke to Doug Blue, the Product Director at SEEK to learn more about this role, his thoughts about Product Management and the future of online job boards in Australia.

Doug has an interesting background spending the first 10 years of his career as a Submarine Officer for the United States navy. His move to Australia with his wife also ignited interest in the commercial world. He completed an MBA at the Melbourne Business School and subsequently moved into management consulting at Unisys. He held various senior corporate strategy and product roles at Sensis and realestate.com before embarking on his Director role at SEEK.

Brainmates found it extremely refreshing speaking to Doug Blue about SEEK’s Product Management practices. From our discussion, it is clear that SEEK has a good grasp of the role of Product Manager clearly separating Product Planning and Product Marketing activities and ensuring that the Product Manager focuses on the needs of the customer.

Tell us about your role at SEEK Doug

I am the Product Director at SEEK and my role is to lead a team that designs, develops and maintains market leading product functionality and customer experiences that help the SEEK employment marketplace grow.

Our KPIs are formed around the users; “job seekers” and the buyers; “advertisers”. We focus on conversion numbers, engagement, upsell and overall customer satisfaction.

As a Product team we also want to enhance the size and quality of our job seeker database and deliver on committed projects and feature enhancements.

The business levers that our team controls are – the user experience, product functionality on SEEK and syndicated sites, on-site content including the onsite merchandising and how we channel traffic through to other SEEK sites.

We have a User Experience Team that design useful, useable and desirable experiences. We have Product Managers who are product owners, who deliver on product KPI’s. We have a Product Launch Manager who ensures that the business is ready day one when we make changes to our site. We have an Analytics team that is focused on monitoring site metrics and checking insights. We have a Product Strategy Manager who helps with product roadmaps and prioritisation.

You started your career as a US Submarine Officer.What are the similarities and differences between managing a submarine and Australian’s number one job site?

There are some similarities. Both are interesting and intellectually stimulating roles. Both roles require working in great team environments.

Also, he US Navy is number one in their category and they have a lot of really great people and you get to work with great teams, and SEEK has a very unique culture in Australia, and a lot of really great people, so that’s similar.

I guess another similarity is that technology is integral to both those businesses.

There are also big differences between “submarining” and working in the business world and at SEEK. At SEEK, there is positive reinforcement but in the US Navy there is a little negative reinforcement in that they encourage you not to kill everyone while operating a nuclear power plant.

You’re new to SEEK. Are there any big production plans that you can share with us?

Over the next 6 months, SEEK will go through a period with the largest set of product launches in the history of the company.

Site features we just launched

The latest innovative feature on the SEEK website is the ability for job seekers to search by salary. Advertisers will now be required to include an invisible salary for each job placed on SEEK. This will enable the job seeker to search for their job based on salary requirement and expectation.

We’ve also improved the location function. Location search is more granular allowing the job seeker to find a job in specific regional areas in Australia such as Ballarat & Central Highlands.

Job classifications are also more granular. For example, Sales and Marketing are no longer categorised as one group but are separate classifications. There are further sub classifications within the Marketing category. Product Management now resides as a sub category of Marketing.

Mobile development

Mobile is an exciting space for SEEK. SEEK will be optimising its site for mobile to ensure that job seekers can search, save and shortlist interesting roles.

The mobile offering will seamlessly integrate with SEEK’s Job Mail alerts. Users can receive an alert on their mobile phone and can easily go to the mobile site to obtain more information about the job.

Resume database

A major upgrade shall occur to the resume database offering job seekers the opportunity to upload their resume and create a profile on the SEEK database. This allows recruiters to target the right candidate for a job and allows job seekers to get head hunted.

How do you ensure that SEEK customers have the best end-to-end customer experience?

There are 2 ways for SEEK to deliver an exceptional experience. Through:

1. Design and

2. Operations

We have a User Experience team that uses a user centered designed approach. Their job is to understand who the users are and understand their core need. There are several ways that we do this. We conduct exploratory research, build prototypes, watch users interact with the prototype and take feedback. Once the product is developed and is going through rigorous testing, we engage with users again to seek further feedback which will be incorporated into the final product design. We also have strong market research capability and will spend time understanding our customers, the competition and the market.

To maintain the user experience, we constantly measure and monitor the service to understand the patterns and habits of job seekers and advertisers. If we find an anomaly we’ll take further action. It could be a bug or a flaw in the design. If its a flaw in the design, we’ll feed that back into the design process.

We have incorporated a job seeker philosophy throughout the organisation. This means that the needs of the primary user persona, in this case, the job seeker is embedded in the culture at SEEK.

What are your thoughts on Innovation & Product Management?

Innovation is not just about the bleeding edge or just about product. Innovation can occur throughout the value chain.

Product is part of the innovation piece but not all of it. Importantly, innovation is about delivering positive change for customers.

For any business to be successful, you have to have a rock solid core and you have to out innovate the competition. To do that though, innovation needs be a part of the DNA of any successful business.

And if you have an innovation culture, presumably you have a good structured process for filtering and selecting the best ideas. Organisations need to also have a structured approach for building and launching product in the market.

In my readings, it would appear that the stage gated approach to product development is the best way to deliver innovation. The stage gated approach allows organisations to fill the funnel with many ideas that really can come from suppliers, technologists, employees, customers. Organisations then have to sift through the ideas to find ones that are aligned with their corporate strategy and ones that are high value. It’s about getting the right mix of projects that would then go through the development funnel and making sure that scarce resources focus on activities that are going to make the biggest difference.

Organisations must create space for innovation. People must be given the time to come up with the next big thing.

How do you think the online employment and education industries will evolve in the foreseeable future?

There are several macro trends.

Increase shift from print to digital job listings

We will see the continued migration of job seekers and advertisers from print to digital. Over the last 12 years, 80% of job listings and job searches have moved to online. This trend will continue to increase.

Social media

The increase of social media will continue and will be complementary to SEEK. Whilst currently there is growth in audience and on profiles on the networks, SEEK is still seeing all time highs in usage, job listings and job applications.

We don’t expect that this situation will change for a few reasons.

For jobseekers, there will always be a need to look for roles that are being filled by advertisers. Social networking sites enable a jobseeker to search their own network for people who might be filling roles, but they are limited to that network. However, a job board is the primary place to look for roles because they are all listed in one place where it is easy to search and apply for jobs. In terms of being headhunted and registering interest in getting a new role, jobseekers want control over the job seeking process and over their privacy. This privacy and control is something that social networking sites don’t offer.

According to our research, job boards attract the most candidates that are looking for work. Its therefore easier for advertisers to source candidates through a job board than sourcing candidates through a social network.

That being said, if an advertiser can’t find a candidate through a job board, in some segments, the social network can complement the traditional search process.

SEEK’s new resume database product is designed to assist advertisers to find passive jobseekers with unique skill sets , and to do it in a way that is easier and more convenient than a social network.

Mobile

Mobile services will continue to grow. SEEK is actively monitoring this space and are keen to provide users more choice of interaction.

Search

The power of search will also continue to improve. SEEK will evolve as search capability evolves.

Brainmates thanks Doug for his time and commitment to good Product Management.

Learn More

To learn more about the kind of Product Management talent SEEK is looking for then you can read all about it here.