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A Product Perspective

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June 23, 2014

In continuing our employee interview series, we chatted with Product Manager Alon Bartur to discuss why he decided to join Trifacta and what makes product management at the company unique. 

What made you decide to join Trifacta?

There were a lot of compelling reasons to join Trifacta but the moment that really stands out was my first time playing with Data Wrangler, Trifacta CTO Sean Kandel’s graduate research project at Stanford. Even though Data Wrangler was a prototype, and a little rough around the edges, it felt so obvious. I’ve always been taught that the best ideas are the ones that seem inevitable in hindsight.

What were you doing before Trifacta?

Before Trifacta I was at a software as a service, business intelligence company called GoodData. I started out helping build their solution provider channel and then later worked as a product manager on the platform. Before that, I was at Google working on Google Apps. At Google, I got some experience both in pre-sales as a sales engineer and post-sales working on technical deployments.

Data played a large role in my day to day work at both Google and GoodData. At Google, I was exposed to how critical a well-functioning data infrastructure is to a large company’s health. At GoodData, I was able to talk to and work with customers and partners across varying levels of sophistication. I saw first hand how challenging data transformation is for most organizations.

Where do you see Trifacta fitting in the big data landscape?

A lot of companies are barely scratching the surface with Hadoop. Any time a new technology starts becoming pervasive you have a great opportunity to rethink and redefine existing workflows. The question becomes, “Am I doing things this way because it’s the best possible way, or because this is what I could do with my legacy tools?”

With Hadoop enabling a shift to a world where companies now store all of the data they are generating and collecting in its raw form, there is an enormous opportunity to make the data transformation work happening today more accessible for everyone. A lot of companies that invest in this exciting new technology are immediately hamstrung by a shortage of people that can productively work with it. By making current Hadoop users more efficient at the data transformation work they’re doing and by lowering the barrier to entry for new users to start doing this type of work, Trifacta helps address a very real pain.

Longer term, there’s also an exciting chance to work with our customers to realize brand new workflows and interactions in Hadoop that can’t be accomplished with today’s tools.

What does a normal day look like? 

Day to day work can vary pretty widely, it’s mostly a function of what stage of feature development we’re at in the various product areas I’m involved with. Depending on the day I might be: brainstorming how a new feature will work with my engineering and design counterparts, playing with other products to understand how they’ve decided to approach solving certain problems, doing future planning to figure out what we want to bite off next, or working with customers and prospects.

The most critical part of my job is understanding what problems people run into when they work with and transform data and what they’re doing to solve them today. The better handle I have on this, the better every downstream product decision becomes.

How do you balance design, customer, and engineering inputs?

The best part about working at Trifacta is how much everyone across the organization brings to the table. We have a great group of extremely bright people with different backgrounds coming together and collaborating to solve some pretty pervasive problems. As an example, we’ve recently added new data sampling techniques to the product. Even with something like sampling that seems relatively well-defined, there were a lot of interesting and challenging questions we had to solve such as, how do you take a random sample of rows when your guess about the row break delimiter might be wrong?

This has a lot of implications that touch each group – engineering considerations such as how we treat samples in the metadata and manage the batch jobs that collect these samples, design considerations such as how we expose the concept of varying sample types to users and proactively message their availability, and product considerations such as what customer use cases we’re trying to support with sampling and what role it plays in the broader context of the tool.

Solving these problems takes input from every group – engineering, design, and product. I can’t overstate the value of getting a lot of really smart people in a room working together. Good ideas come from everywhere and each role contributes a unique perspective to the discussion. Product is ultimately accountable for making sure these discussions converge around concrete next steps and a clear path forward. What’s great about product management at Trifacta is that the whole company is so engaged in this process. We’re not the kind of place where requirements are blindly thrown over a wall. The product is far better for it and it’s more fun for everyone involved.

I’m extremely excited about what’s next for Trifacta. There is no shortage of interesting problems to solve here and I couldn’t think of a better team to work on them with.