When it comes to overseeing product strategy and teams for software companies, Ryan St Hilaire has seen it all. He has served in key product management roles for enterprise companies like SAP, leading products that generated over $100 million in revenue while establishing integral new internal processes. On the flip side, Ryan has helped grow up-and-coming brands like Vision Critical and PAI Health by introducing innovative new technologies and building out product management and UX teams.
As the VP of Product Management, Ryan will lead our product and UX teams, defining the product strategy for a visitor management platform that is mission critical to the operations of global enterprise organizations.
“We are incredibly excited to have Ryan join the team,” said Cameron Wiebe, CTO of Traction Guest. “With over a decade of experience leading product vision and roadmaps, as well as working with key stakeholders to ensure the highest possible value for customers, I believe Ryan will be instrumental in helping us keep growing fast while maintaining our customer-centric focus.”
We’ve asked Ryan to share his career path, his thoughts on joining Traction Guest and the passion he shares for his craft and life in general.
Tell us a little about your background and how you got into the software industry?
I was an early adopter of computers and started writing code when I was 8 years old, so I was naturally interested in software all my life. That led me to getting a degree in Computer Science from the University of British Columbia. I’ve been working in the software industry for 20 years.
I have had the pleasure of being part of really large organizations, so I know how they run. And, I’ve been in really small startups, so I understand what it’s like to wear multiple hats. These combined experiences have allowed me to understand different stages of growth and acknowledge when it is appropriate to introduce new technologies, people and processes.
You have over 15 years of product management experience, what excites you about building and introducing new products to the market?
As a software engineer, I was always asking the question “why are we building what we are building?” which led me to transition into product management. I love learning more about how people use software products and what makes [the products] great.
I also enjoy bringing organization to a company. I think being able to track and have structured documentation and road maps are crucial for all technology companies.
One of the nice things about product management is you get to interface with every team in the company. You get to collaborate with the engineering, sales, legal, marketing and customer success teams. Many of those departments are direct conduits into customers.
The most exciting part of product management is seeing customers use the products you manage and receiving positive feedback from them.
You speak about the relationship between the customer and the product experience. How as a Product Manager do you ensure you are getting the proper insight and feedback?
There are certain principles of product management that I follow and one of them is around the idea of you should always assume you are wrong. You always need to test your ideas by going out into the market and validate your assumptions and what you think you know.
It is that hands on approach that goes along with the quote, “nothing interesting happens inside the office.” You have to go outside of the office and figure out what are the things the customers are doing, and what is the market is doing, so you need to be cognizant of these factors. It’s just about being responsive to customers.
How do you define success?
I’ve grown and led teams of product management and UX professionals at several companies. I’m most proud when I see the team, that I have helped build, working well together and performing at the highest level.
What is it about the visitor management space that intrigues you?
It’s a new and exciting category growing at a fast pace. Few competitors and lots of opportunity to expand on our technology and forge partnerships and integrations. I love that we are making what is normally a painful and slow experience something easy and fast that can actually delight people.
Why did you feel that Traction Guest was the right fit for you at this stage in your career?
For my next role, I was looking for a company that is growing quickly, has products that customers love, is number 1 or 2 in their space, and is backed by reputable investors. However, most importantly, I was looking for a company with the right cultural fit. It is so important that the people and teams I work with have the same values. Traction Guest had all of these factors, so it was an easy decision for me.
I am also very impressed with the Traction Guest Visitor Management System and how it is constantly expanding its market reach and product capabilities. I saw them as leaders in the space, and I will work with my team here to ensure we continue to push the boundaries and solve major security and operations problems unique to large companies.
What kind of trends or technologies do you think will impact the VMS industry in the next few years?
Security and privacy requirements, adoption of mobile technologies, machine learning and AI advancements, augmented and virtual reality technologies, and IOT (Internet of Things) will all have impact on the VMS industry. So many possibilities to create amazing guest, host, and administrator experiences.
What do you do to unwind?
I love sports, fitness, and the outdoors. I am into mountain biking the north shore trails, boating and wake surfing in the Okanagan, skiing at Whistler and the interior mountains, and CrossFit. In the evenings, while at home, I’m a bit of a video gamer and like e-sports.