As tech companies lead the way in building Canada’s innovation economy, BetaKit does its part to help fill the talent gap with our BetaKit Job Board.
To highlight some of the great roles prospective employees can fill across Canada, we put one company in the spotlight to find out what makes it tick.
Currently, TWG is looking for an experienced Product Manager. We talked to Oz Nazilli, Director of Product, about the Toronto, Ontario company and what makes a good PM.
What kind of software work does TWG do?
The work we do at TWG is really varied, which is part of what makes it appealing!
Recent projects include working with a major car manufacturer to figure out how to incorporate wearables into their in-car experience, a VR proof of concept, a cryptocurrency trading platform, and an AI-enabled research discovery platform. We also built a B2C mobile app that helps Canadians get healthier using Scene and Aeroplan points as an incentive.
We’re lucky. We get to solve real product challenges for funded startups and large enterprises, and the range of the work we do is quite vast.
What is a new employee’s first day like at TWG?
Your first day at TWG is usually spent learning how to turn off the alarm if you’re first to arrive in the studio!
On a more serious note, our onboarding consists of a bunch of standardized activities, plus some specific product management knowledge transfer. For your first three months, your main goal is to get to know the team, ask lots of questions, and start to learn our process. We hire people who are smart and passionate about product, and understand that the intricacies of a product development studio take a while to fully absorb. That’s why we don’t really judge on performance in the first 90 days. However, we are big fans of continuous improvement, so at the three-month mark, we ask our team members what we can improve at TWG, based on their past experiences and what they have observed.
Something we hear often when we do our 90-day check-in with new hires is how available everyone is to help. We love that.
What are some company perks that new employees can expect working at TWG?
There’s the standard ones, like free food, health insurance, and a dog-friendly office. You’ll also get a free smartphone of your choice plus a paid plan, and hardware credits for a laptop that you get to keep. Everyone can work from home one day each week, and we offer paid parental leave – maternity and paternity.
We also offer studio yoga, our annual team retreat, sane and flexible working hours, and an education budget for you to invest in growing your skillset.
What makes you stand out from other software companies?
I get this question a lot when interviewing candidates. As someone who’s worked with many companies both big and small, I can confidently say that TWG has three key ingredients that make us stand out:
1. The genuine care the leadership team has for all employees
One of my favourite anecdotes from early in my tenure was when one of the Managing Partners approached me following a disastrous failed coup attempt in my country. He wanted to really understand how I was feeling, and he also let me know that I had his unconditional support if I needed to take time off, without having to use my vacation days.
“Diversity is important to us, and it’s ever-present in our conversations.”
The fact that he knew what was happening, and came to me with real concern and a desire to help, was incredibly touching. This trait is embedded deep into our management style across the studio, and is probably responsible for our impossibly low employee churn rate.
As a product development studio, some people expect us to be similar to agencies where the norm is to maximize the number of hours you can get from each individual, push them for as long and hard as you can, and let them burn out. At TWG, we have weekly resourcing meetings where we check to make sure everyone is still happy on their projects. We also keep an eye on what skills each individual wants to develop, matching them to the right project if possible. Our people are our greatest asset, and there’s an intense amount of focus on doing right by everyone on the team.
2. The people you’ll meet
TWG has been growing significantly over the last two years, going over the 100-people mark recently, and there is no end in sight. Our projects are getting bigger and more impactful all the time, which is helping us continue to hire the most talented people. Everyone here cares deeply about their craft, and always wants to do right by their co-workers.
3. Serious growth opportunities
Our team has the explicit goal of being the best product management team in Canada, which means there are endless opportunities to take on meaningful initiatives that have a real impact on our business.
From helping us build our UX lab to creating new BI initiatives within TWG, Product Managers are expected to not only do an amazing job with the products they take on, but also identify and execute on opportunities within the studio that make a real, positive difference to the way we do things. This kind of performance is constantly rewarded.
TWG recently published a video highlighting the diverse background of some of your employees. How important is diversity to the company?
Diversity is incredibly important to us, and it’s ever-present in our conversations. We’re learning, and we’re committed to sharing those learnings – for example, a group of Norwegian startups, in partnership with the DMZ, visited us recently to learn more about our efforts in this area.
A couple of months ago we wrapped up the first phase of an initiative with TechGirls Canada, where we partnered to test a range of diversity strategies with their guidance. Our team went from 9 percent women to 30 percent women as a result (for reference, Apple’s workforce is 32 percent women).
Our work in this area is far from complete. It will never be, as diversity is not a short term project, but a way of doing business for us. It will continue to be core to our identity at TWG, and for Phase 2 of this initiative, we’re looking at expanding the scope and focussing on building a diverse leadership team.
What kind of problems could a Product Manager expect to tackle at TWG?
Product Management at TWG is an end-to-end process; for a big chunk of our clients, we start from idea validation (i.e. the client comes to us with an idea and we make sure they’re solving the right problem for the right audience) and go through product strategy, design, UX testing, and development. In a big percentage of our engagements, we also help the client hire their own team and transition the project over to them.
So in general, we are brought in to solve real problems for meaningful user segments and apply core product management principles for a wide range of organizations, from established enterprises to funded startups like Wealthsimple, Hubba, and Borrowell.
How does TWG foster personal and professional growth within its team?
We take pride in investing in employee growth – for example, there’s a conference and education budget designed to support those who want to further their craft. Personal and professional growth is as key as successful delivery of client projects.
Our review cycles are focused around the question of, “where do you see yourself in one, two, three years and how can we help you get there?” (We don’t do one, three, and five because our industry changes too quickly for that!)
Setting tangible goals and connecting annual reviews to the goals you want to achieve for yourself is an effective way to foster personal and professional growth. TWG likes to hire people who are very driven and self-critical, and support them in their goal of becoming an even better version of themselves.
How is TWG involved in Canada’s tech and startup community? What are some of the initiatives that you support?
One of the things that people notice about TWG before all else is our commitment to being good citizens of the tech ecosystem. Ever since the company’s early days — which is a seriously long time ago, in 2002 — TWG has understood the value of contributing to community.
We host and support many events, ranging from Ladies Learning Code workshops to NASA Space Apps, to capacity-building events like ProductTO. We’re committed to leveraging our space, our time, and our resources to helping Toronto become the best environment to grow tech companies in.
As we expand, we’re also doing our bit to educate other markets about the amazing things happening in Canadian tech.
What’s the best part about working at TWG?
Honestly? I’m going to lean on a cliché here and say “the people.” We are a professional services company, one that kicks ass in product development, and one that is powered by over 100 amazing individuals.
If it weren’t for the care and passion that we have for the products we build and the trust and friendship we share, TWG would not be the best place I’ve worked at in the last seven years. If you’re looking to take on some of the most interesting product challenges in Toronto and beyond, reach out to us.
Those interested in pursuing a Product Manager role at TWG can apply here. To learn more, please contact email@example.com.