Alumni Q&A: Product Manager Emily Tate

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Emily Tate, Product Manager at TripCase
Emily Tate, TCU MBA ’07, is a product manager at TripCase, an itinerary management app owned by Sabre, a leading travel technology company. She describes her role as: “An energetic product strategist with expertise in marketing strategy, product positioning and messaging and product development.” But her daily responsibilities encompass far more than what fits into her LinkedIn description.

Below, Emily shares some details about her job, how she ended up in product management and what she likes most about being a product manager.

Tell us a little bit about your position. Describe the scope of your responsibilities and provide a preview of your day-to-day activities as a product manager.

It’s kind of an unusual position. It sits at the center of business, user experience, design and technology. You tend to start off in one of those areas and then move into product management. I came in through marketing and strategy. The main function of my role is to keep things moving in a strategic direction. As a part of my job, I look at our product roadmap—what we’re going to build, the market research, the marketplace, planning and what our strategic plan is—and then build a course to get us there, paying particular attention to what features are needed in the product. I work with the design team and the development teams to actually make it happen. It’s very strategic and very tactical. I go from doing ideation and big picture thinking to being in the weeds with the developers.

You recently spoke at the Product Management Festival in Zurich, which brought together product people from 23 countries and more than 150 companies. What did you share with that audience?

“Moving Beyond the MVP,” a talk about how to build product features without taking too long or cutting it too short and not delivering value. There’s this concept of MVP (minimum viable product), which involves moving fast, iterating on the product and improving it as you get market feedback. But it’s almost become a curse word in the industry because it has been used so poorly. People have been putting out such poor first drafts, and customers want more than just terrible first drafts. There’s an emphasis to shift to “minimum valuable product.” 

How did you decide to go into this field, and how did your MBA set you up for success in your career?

While pursuing my MBA, I had the opportunity through TCU for an internship at Sabre, and I’ve been there ever since in various capacities, ending up at TripCase. I definitely fell into my current role. I volunteered to help redesign a TripCase product based on my many business travels. My MBA gave me the ability to learn how to think critically, taking a problem and knowing where to go with it. The case studies and Neeley integrative project real helped me tackle obstacles and move quickly. I’m able to think very nimbly.

What advice would you give MBA students looking to go into product management?

Do a lot of reading and get involved in local product management communities. It’s a field that’s starting to solidify, so there are a lot of great resources out there to understand what product management truly is. MindTheProduct.com is a great site. There are also local meetups called “Product Tank,” which bring together product managers for learnings and speaker series. Product Tank launched in DFW this past August. It’s been so neat to see this community come together. 

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?

For me, it’s been figuring out what matters in work-life balance. I needed to find the line between work becoming my life and maintaining a separate life while still succeeding at work. There’s this feeling that there has to be either work at the center of everything or that it’s just punching a clock. You can be successful while still having other things you care about outside of work. Also, knowing the importance of working with people and networking. Tackling the challenge of diverse perspectives and accepting that you might not always be right.

What do you like best about what you do?

It’s great to see a product doing well and succeeding in the market. It’s not just your mom or your grandma using your product. It’s fun to see you product in the hands of other people. 

Are you looking to make a career change? Learn more about the Neeley School of Business or apply now

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