Behind the Scenes: What it Takes to be a Product Manager in a Sports-Tech Startup

We sat with WSC Sports’ VP of Product, Heydar Katz, to try and understand a little more about the dynamic and demanding role of a Product Manager within a sports-tech startup.

Here’s what Heydar had to share about his experience as VP Product and how his team of Product Managers operate.

Heydar Katz, VP Product at WSC-Sports

Heydar Katz, VP Product at WSC Sports

The first thing we learned was there’s no typical day in this role…

What Does a Day in the Life of a Product Manager at WSC Sports Look Like?

Each day is different, so our schedule is easier to describe on a weekly basis rather than daily. A typical week for us will be split between conversations with clients, working with our Design, Account and Business Development teams on new features, planning launches with Product Marketing, and writing specs for R&D.

I like to say that as Product Managers we live in the past, present, and future. We look at KPIs for key features we’ve developed in the past and how they perform. In the present, we’re taking care of issues that come up while deploying new features. At the same time, we’re constantly planning the future.

Can You Share a Bit About the Decision-Making Process for New Features?

Product Managers at WSC create lists of potential ideas for their domains. These include their initiatives along with ideas from the different departments in the company, which could be new features, improvements to existing features, and sometimes defining system for a whole new sport.

We have many people here that are passionate about sports, are experienced editors, and even some that used to work for rights owners, so we use their expertise.

Product Managers constantly liaise with our clients to better understand their needs and hear about trends which could lead to improving existing features or creating new ones. We also monitor our competitors and similar product offerings for additional inspiration to help us stay ahead of the game.

Next it’s time for Product Managers to prioritize all their ideas. They do this on a scale of 1 to 5 based on value, effort, and users’ input, and define their goals for the quarter. That way we have a clear roadmap that guides us and helps us reach significant achievements. At the same time, we acknowledge that everything is dynamic, and we might push something out or do something new that we didn’t plan earlier.

So How Important is Client Feedback for Product Managers?

Extremely. We find that our users always have the best answers — sometimes they validate what we think and other times they give us new directions to look at. Also, it’s not rare that a user says: “I have another idea relevant to this part of the product” and the conversation rolls.

What’s Unique About the Role of a Product Manager in WSC Sports Compared to Other Companies?

Well our Product Managers are not only managing products. They have a bigger role to play by actually defining sports within our platform. They need to understand how a sports works, how it’s played, scored etc… then decide how to harness our tech to tell the story our viewers would want see. So a Product Manager can find themselves watching sports content as a job!

Product Managers at WSC Sports are also in charge of disruption and innovation in a market that has seen little change in several decades. We are replacing a manually created content system with an automated one, a kind of Turing test for sports video editing.

As the VP Product, Are You More Hyper-aware of Other Products?

Sure, I think that part of your role as a Product Manager is to strive to look at similar products and other leading products. It should come naturally and with a critical approach to make you sharper and more aware.

So this often gets me thinking, how a feature in Instagram was developed, or I’ll find myself criticizing Gmail for not having a specific feature, or asking why Waze designed something one way instead of another.

As a Product Manager it’s important to also keep up with trends like stories, dark mode or AI-based features. I believe you don’t have to invent the wheel every time you develop a new feature, you should look at alternatives and similar products to get inspiration and create the best solution for your product.

What‘s Your Favorite non-WSC Sports Product?

I think Google Maps is amazing. It solves so many issues and serves so many user personas in one product. You can be a traveler who wants to find a bar or restaurant, maybe you’re a local looking for instructions on how to get from point A to point B with public transportation, or you want to navigate by car and it highlights traffic jams and informs you where you’ll pay tolls.

Even if you don’t know what you want to do, Google Maps helps you discover new things around you. You can plan and map out things as you travel, or sit in your apartment and search for anything.

…And finally, As You’re Coming From the Tech World, Is There Any Advice You Would Like to Give Our Readers?

Believe in automation. I think it’s really hard to start counting on software to do your work, but we see it in every industry. It starts by replacing tedious work and then becomes more interesting and more complex. And I think users need to get used to it. Control it, but also count on it.