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Interviews / Product Managers

Balancing the Grind with Kevin Lipsey, Product Management Consultant

Kevin Lipsey is a Product Management Consultant, with over 10 years of product management and digital strategy experience at companies in different stages of the life cycle, including mature, high-growth, and startups.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I am a digital product management consultant with over 10 years in the digital space. I earned a bachelor’s degree from Jackson State University and an MBA from Georgia State University.

I have worked for companies, large and small, from Fortune 500 to startups. Although the industries were different, from a product management perspective, there was a common goal: to drive business value by solving problems with customer-centric solutions.

My career highlights include launching the first ecommerce platform for Herbalife International and co-leading the digital transformation for Delta Air Line’s digital channels.

My path to product management was a bit non-traditional, but I guess that’s true for most product managers. I sharpened my technical skills while serving as a power production technician in the United States Air Force.

During that time I learned how to troubleshoot problems down to the root cause. When you’re deployed to a remote location, there is no “next-day delivery,” so we would go down to the components on the circuit board to resolve issues.

More importantly, the military taught me about leadership, how to motivate people to deliver, even when faced with challenges. And those are two attributes that I use every day as a product manager.

I also spent some time in the music industry. That’s where I honed my marketing and voice-of-customer listening skills. It was also where I learned how to be resourceful. It was finding ways to drive market awareness with a limited budget or activate a promotional tour without major sponsors. When you’re working with independent music labels, you really have to be creative with your approach.

I feel that my background and experiences have given me the tools to be successful as a product manager. It wasn’t a straight path getting here, but there are no set roadmaps for becoming a product manager. Great product managers are built from a blend of diverse experiences.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

My wife and I have young kids, so our day starts around 6:30am. We kick off the morning with a nice mix of music to get the energy flowing.

I look at my goals for the week and then it’s time to go time. The kids are having breakfast around 7:30am. During that time I read a quick article on HBR or one of the product blogs, then catch up on current events, and check email.

We are dealing with COVID-19, so I assist the kids in their virtual learning sessions from 9am to 10:30am. After that, I try to work in 45 minute sprints, one in the morning and two in the afternoon. This is where I create focused time for scoping products and doing additional research as needed.

I usually shutdown around 4pm for dinner prep and family time. Then, if needed, I’ll jump back online at 10pm, once everyone is asleep.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Currently, I work remote, which couldn’t have come at a better time. COVID-19 has been challenging for us all, so having the flexibility to shift priorities as needed has really been key to keeping the family safe as situations change. We struggled the first few weeks of the pandemic, but once the family locked in on the new routines, it has been great.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

For me, work-life balance is about setting boundaries for work. My wife and I actively work towards creating that work-life balance. As a medical professional, her schedule can be unpredictable, especially during this pandemic.

To help us commit to spending time together, we use shared calendars. Our goal is to live and enjoy the life we’ve built, so we protect our time together.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

Over the past 12 months I’ve tried to be more intentional about saying “no” to opportunities that don’t align with my professional or personal goals. This is just my way of carving out time and mental space for my top priorities. If we’re not careful, we can overcommit ourselves and reduce our effectiveness on the tasks that are most important.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Some of my favorite books, which I’ve read multiple times, are:

  • It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership (by Colin Powell)
  • Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (by Simon Sinek)
  • Hooked (by Nir Eyal)

My go-to podcasts are:

  • HBR Ideacast
  • This is Product Management

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

The one gadget that I can’t live without is my iPhone. I can turn it off and maybe not look at it for a couple of hours, but I need to know that it is readily available.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

I would like to read an interview of Michael Seibel, given his new role as a board member of Reddit

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

We are living through some difficult times. The pandemic and the social tensions have reshaped our world. So now is the time to bring those who are closest to you even closer, and cherish every moment with them. Use this time to find perspective and redefine what is truly important in life.

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About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.