Expert Interview Series: Victor Conesa of Justinmind on IT Careers Today

Victor Conesa is Product Manager at Justinmind, where he uses his business, tech and UX experience to refine and promote Justinmind’s interactive prototyping tool.

Here, Victor discusses his IT career and shares his insight on the type of training that would most benefit those interested in getting into the industry right now. Read on:

Can you tell us about your background and interest in IT?

Actually I didn’t start out wanting to get into IT! I started out thinking about a career in architecture; the idea of building something from the ground up really attracted me. Then as I got a little older I got into computers and studied Computer Engineering for my first degree. That’s pretty much when I realized that computing, or rather software development, has things in common with architecture: you make something from scratch, you build.

From there I went on to study a Masters in Computer Science and while I was doing that, got involved with Justinmind. Starting out as a Product Manager was a great way to go deeper into the industry and understand the realities of how to solve complex problems, whether design problems or business problems.

How has your career evolved since you got started?

I think I’ve evolved to have a clear understanding of the product in the round; as a Product Manager you have to learn how to monitor the competition, refine business strategy and stay focused on user needs. My early years were spent learning how to do all that.

When I moved up to VP of Product Development, I had to shift up a gear and really think strategically about the business as a whole. In the early days I was in the thick of it, directing the team through everyday challenges and getting my hands dirty; now my involvement in Product Development means I have a more global, strategic focus and a huge sense of my role in the success of the business.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned so far in your career?

I guess sort of like I mentioned above: the importance of strategic thinking. If you just stay at product level you’re missing so much; you have to think about the business angle and always take market pressures into account.

Another thing I’ve learned is about the importance of having a great team around me, and I don’t just mean you need to have the smartest people around you. You need to have smart people who are also hard working, responsible and who know how to work in a team. The success of a product depends on the success of the team; I’ve learned that the people behind the scenes are key to building good products.

How important is learning new skill sets to surviving and thriving in IT today? What have you found are the most useful resources for staying up to date on your IT training?

Well obviously the answer depends on what kind of IT you work in, or want to work in. IT is a wide field! But I would say that some skills are becoming essential regardless of individual specialization: take something like prototyping and wireframing, that’s becoming important even if you don’t work in the software industry because now every business needs to have an online presence, and we need to understand how to design digital experiences that meet business goals. The ability to conceptualize and prototype an application or website is going to become much more sought after.

As for resources, there’s just so much out there online. There are some great blogs out there for Product Managers, such as Mind The Product, David Skok’s For Entrepreneurs and On Product Management.

From where you sit, what are the most in-demand skills in the IT industry right now?

Tough question, but I would say that usability is becoming one of the most in-demand knowledge areas right now. The consumerization of enterprise software isn’t just a prediction, it’s here and software development has to get up to speed on it. Enterprises such as General Electric are investing heavily in usability teams, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

What advice can you offer aspiring IT professionals about what it takes to succeed in the field today?

There are so many opportunities in IT right now, but you’re right, it’s hard to know where to pursue career growth or boost skills. I think agile continues to be important, because you’re either going to have to work in an agile team or manage one at some time. Also, data analytics is important, because the amount of data we have now is just phenomenal, we’re way beyond Big Data; we need people who can synthesize and learn from the data we can collect.

What headlines or trends in IT are you following closely today? Why do they interest you?

Like I said, usability in both consumer and enterprise-facing applications. Employee’s tolerance for unintuitive interfaces and systems is falling all the time, and consumerization is a trend whose impacts we’re only just beginning to get to grips with. That goes for multi-device use in the workplace too, which is going to have a big impact on software development.

Basically, everything that already happened in the consumer software space is now happening in enterprise. The difference is, everthing is so much more complex and the risk of project failure is much bigger.

Why is it an exciting time to work in IT right now? What does the future of the profession look like?

Ah that’s an easy one. Because IT is everything nowadays. All businesses are now having to re-imagine themselves as software businesses, to a greater or lesser degree. Think about how e-commerce is obliging businesses to transform totally, from how they advertise and organize products online, to how distribution works in the digital era. Business logistics is now wholly tied up with software. In fact, everything is driven by software now and that’s why it’s so exciting to be working in this space.

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Rameez Khizer, IT Marketing