Joe Catrambone is bringing a different perspective to Vibes.
He joined the fast-growing mobile marketing company last May, amid its race to go to market globally and accelerate its own investment in product engineering. As Vibes’ vice president of product management, Catrambone was consequently launched headfirst into a multiplicity of challenges assorted with helping Vibes to grow mobile engagement on a staggering scale.
Delivering billions of messages to mobile devices around the world through a variety of mobile channels — including push notifications, SMS, and messaging apps — Vibes is an engineer-driven workplace that prizes innovation above all else. In tackling the day-to-day challenges of heading up a team as vital as product management, Catrambone leads with empathy and often mentions another word: impact.
Aiming to empower his co-workers as they work to reach consumers, Catrambone believes that focusing on people first, then product, is what sets everyone up for success. Built In Chicago caught up with him to learn more about Vibes and why it’s such an exciting time to be a part of the company’s product team.
What drew you to Vibes?
Simple: the people and the product. There was such a wonderful confluence of culture and focus on the customer that I had to learn more about what the company did and how we impacted lives. As with most things, the more I learned, the more complex I discovered the business to be: sending timely and relevant text messages from brands to their customers worldwide. We send over a billion SMS messages a month. That’s massive. And after 20 years in the industry, we do it better and more securely than anyone in the world.
In a word, how would you describe the culture at Vibes? How does that word apply to your specific focus at the company?
Empathetic. One of our corporate values is “relentless focus on the customer,” and I can honestly say that every conversation and every decision that I have been a part of at Vibes has had that as a central theme. Everyone is focused on how we can improve the lives of our customers and those of the marketing, loyalty, commerce and operational teams that use our product every day. Empathy is at the heart of product management.
Product management is about alleviation of pain, solving problems that improve lives — and sometimes solving problems that people don’t know exist. To do that, you have to cultivate deep empathy for those who use your products. Walk a mile in their shoes, and all that.
Since joining, what has excited you the most about working at Vibes?
The most exciting thing about working at Vibes is the opportunity for our company and our product. We have a market-leading product with great market fit and huge potential in so many verticals. The goal is to have the Vibes name be ubiquitous with mobile engagement, whether you’re a marketer, developer, financial institution or healthcare provider, to give just a few examples. Getting there is going to be an enormous amount of fun.
What’s your approach to finding new talent for your team?
Building product and design teams is my favorite thing next to building great product. I start with finding individuals with similar values in life, and then I work my way to assessing product and design acumen. I had the pleasure of learning about a leadership style called conscious leadership. It teaches that recognition and acknowledgement of others’ experiences and feelings is the key to unlocking high performance. If you, as a leader, can be present with someone or with a team, and allow for free sharing of not only ideas but also of feelings, then the result is the creation of a safe space in which there is freedom for everyone to be vulnerable in the moment. Creating that safe space and trust yields truly great ideas, which translates to great product.
What is Vibes current product strategy?
As previously stated, it is to be ubiquitous with mobile engagement. Getting there is a long but extremely fun road. We start by reimagining our users’ experience within our platform and then visualizing how we can not only make their daily jobs easier, but also provide them with information that makes them better at their jobs. We do this by leveraging the data and heuristic information that we’ve amassed over our two decades in the industry to formulate models, recommendations, and AI/ML enhanced workflows and automation through every piece of our platform. Think of our experiences with streaming services. There are algorithms behind the scenes ensuring an endless supply of content for us as they learn more and more about our viewing habits. The New York Times recently said this about Netflix: “Netflix is commissioning original content because it knows what people want before they do.” That’s our goal. Our goal is to recommend actions to our customers before they ask for it.
How do you think your vision will influence the product roadmap going forward?
I would say that my vision brings a different perspective. In my career I have seen the impact data science can make on people’s work lives, how it can reduce cycles, and, yes, even make people better at their jobs by educating them as they execute their daily tasks. That nudge toward the possible will, I hope, allow all the incredibly talented people that I work with to dream up something greater than I ever could. As a leader I believe that is my job: to create space for those around me to do their best work in their zone of genius. If I am the smartest person in the room, then we’re all in trouble.
What project or initiative are you working on right now?
In addition to the other things I spoke of, I am focused on how we take all of the wonderful things that our product does and make those things more accessible to the developer community. As I mentioned, our product is a market leader with a powerful feature set. I believe that by enabling the developer community to take full advantage of all that Vibes has to offer, we’ll be able to expand faster into adjacent markets and integrate with many different technology stacks. Increasing the ease of integration will open many more doors for us in the coming year.