Let's Talk Product with Wesley O'Hara
To get a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes, we talked to Wesley O'Hara, a product manager at Bits of Good and a fourth-year student at Georgia Tech studying computer science.
As a product manager, O'Hara is the single cross-functional owner directly responsible for the success of a product, responsible for establishing the product vision and goals, and driving execution throughout the product's lifecycle.
Wesley's first project with Bits of Good was with Georgia CORE, a statewide 501c3 that leverages partnerships to improve cancer care and support cancer research and cancer patients in Georgia. The project involved building a user-friendly navigation assistant for users and admins to find the information they are seeking when navigating Georgia CORE's website.
"That was a brand new project being built from the ground up. Part of being a PM is dealing with all of the unforeseen things that come at you," O'Hara said. "Our product vision changed a couple of times in the beginning."
After several brainstorming sessions, Wesley's team decided to create a chatbot to guide users through the website and provide relevant information. His team also put together a section called "Are you looking for..." with links and information to the different sections of the website.
Angels Among Us
Currently, Wesley is leading a project with Angels Among Us, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving dogs and cats from shelters and high-risk situations in Georgia. The nonprofit means a lot to Wesley, as his mom and sister have adopted over 20 animals through Angels Among Us.
"As soon as I saw Angels Among Us on the list of nonprofits, I wrote a huge paragraph on how much it meant to me as well as how much it meant to my family," O'Hara said. "It makes [being a product manager] that much more special."
The project involves creating a matching system to improve the organization's ability to match dogs with suitable foster homes. Wesley's vision for the project is to streamline the process and make it more efficient and user-friendly for both foster parents and the nonprofit's staff. As of right now, the process of matching foster dogs in need and foster parents is being done on Facebook.
"It's insane that that is how they operate," O'Hara said. "It's just not a good system for trying to find good matches, especially now that Facebook shows [you the “Top Posts" by default] instead of the posts in chronological order."
The solution is going to consist of a matching platform where you can log in and select your preferences as a foster parent.
"You can input what you can handle as a foster parent," O'Hara said. "For example, if you can do large dogs and dogs with certain sicknesses, the tool will show you the dogs in need that fit that description. To move forward in the fostering process, foster parents have to answer a number of questions, ranging from 'Why are you a good fit?' to 'Do you have a cat at home?'"
In order to automate the process, after collecting all of the relevant information from the foster parent, a "compatibility percentage" is calculated and used by the Angels Among Us staff to decide on the next steps for the foster parent.
"That could not have been done before through Facebook," O'Hara said. "I think it'll make them more confident in their decisions and make fostering easier as a process."
As a product manager, O'Hara says his priority lies in keeping everybody, especially the client, happy.
"Your job is to make sure that the developers are happy and completing their tickets on time, that the leadership team is happy, and, of course, the client," O'Hara said. "On top of that, you have to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. It's so easy for the small things to go unnoticed. If you talk about a feature at a meeting and don't write it down, chances are you'll forget about the feature until later on when you're like, 'Oh, we talked about that but never did anything about it.'"
"The first couple of weeks I was nervous, for sure, and I didn't know if I was doing things the "Bits of Good" way. I didn't know if there was a textbook I was supposed to read. But you pick up on what you need to do. People can tell you what you need to know, but you won't get it until you're thrown into it."