by Colin Hanner
January 18, 2019

When you have a product that’s worth investing in — and a team that supports it with confidence — obstacles are hard to find. 

At Shopgate, a mobile commerce platform, a scaling team is building a collaborative product from scratch: a task that requires teammates from all corners of the company to work toward a shared vision. 

We spoke with three Shopgate members about what it means to lead a team, how to communicate with members from around the world and what exciting things the new year has in store.  

 

Shopgate offices
photography by Keith Trigaci
Shopgate employees
photography by Keith Trigaci
Shopgate Austin
photography by Keith Trigaci

 

FOUNDED: 2009

EMPLOYEES: 104 globally; 34 locally

WHAT THEY DO: Shopgate offers a suite of customer-centric commerce solutions, designed to help retailers increase in-store traffic, drive revenue and build the ultimate customer experience with a consumer mobile shopping app, clienteling and in-store fulfillment.

WHERE THEY DO IT: Austin

IDEAL CANDIDATE: The best Shopgate candidates “radiate passion,” have a “hunger for learning” and “aren’t afraid to ask questions,” says team member, Nicolette Mead. 

 

Shopgate employees

Nicolette Mead Shopgate

 

Nicollette Mead, Product Manager 

As the product manager, Nicolette drives priority and development for the team scrum day-to-day and maintains a short- and long-term roadmap through research, wireframing and feature definition. 

BEYOND WORK: Nicolette is a huge music fan – ask her about how many hours of music she listened to on Spotify in 2018 – and loves how Austin is such a hotspot for great bands and music. 

 

You’ve worked at Shopgate for nearly four years. What experiences have made Shopgate a good fit for you?

In short, it comes down to the product and the people. The Shopgate I started at had no established processes and no real office, but we had a vision of creating unique and valuable experiences for our merchants — we believed in the product we were building. That vision has always been our foundation. In my opinion, everything else falls into place. I consider everyone I work with to be a mentor in a way — we all have different experiences, knowledge levels and ways of approaching problems — and we all learn from each other.

Shopgate has a wonderfully horizontal culture: Proposals and ideas from individual contributors are valued and celebrated. If you see a process or a pattern that isn’t working, you have the power to change it. This culture of openness and flexibility allows employees to keep growing and gravitating to roles that fit their talents and passions.
 

How does your team collaborate with each other or with other teams? 

Product regularly collaborates with a lot of the obvious departments: design, marketing, sales and customer success. But because we have so many unique perspectives across departments, sometimes I like to talk through a problem I’m facing with a person in a non-stakeholder role.

A recent example was a member of our accounting team. They helped me look at a problem from a totally different angle and asked a different question to give me that lightbulb moment I needed.

 

That vision has always been our foundation. In my opinion, everything else falls into place.”

 

When was the last time you felt like you were actually “part of a team” with your team members?

Much of our product and engineering team is located in our office in Butzbach, Germany, so a majority of the people I collaborate and work closely with are multiple time zones away. This can be a challenge, but we always find ways to make that distance feel obsolete. Often this takes the form of sending GIFs in Slack or not judging me when I mangle the pronunciation of basic German words. 

Last time I went to our office in Germany, I brought American treats for my team – they requested chunky peanut butter – and they introduced me to Apfelwein – the regional specialty that is basically a super tart and light apple cider – which is now my favorite drink.

 

Mike Haze Shopgate

Shopgate product

 

Mike Haze, VP Product and Strategy 

As a leader behind the product team, Mike’s goal is to create an engaging and industry-leading product and platform.

BEYOND WORK: Taking advantage of the Austin weather, Mike is a self-proclaimed hiker and outdoorsman. 

 

You worked at a handful of companies prior to Shopgate. How do those previous experiences stack up to what you’re doing now?

The team at Shopgate is what makes it stand out from a lot of other companies. The team is passionate, invested in the product and clients and focused on doing the right things. In my experience at most companies, there is normally a central core group of people who are like this but very rarely is it the entire company. 

 

You run a product team in Germany — how do you go about meshing that culture with the Austin-based team? 

I think it really comes down to a few key things: a clear and shared vision for the product and goals, relationships built on trust, collaboration and tools. With such a highly-engaged team, the first step is to ensure there is a clear and shared vision that everyone can get behind and connect with. 

Of course, to do that, we have to enable them with the right collaboration and communication tools to achieve this. Getting the right mix takes a little time normally, but once it’s dialed in, the magic starts to happen.

 

In my experience at most companies, there is normally a central core group of people who are like this but very rarely is it the entire company.” 

 

Tell us about a project your team recently executed – why was it a success?

Recently, we wanted to do a large refresh of our analytics dashboard for our clients. While the existing dashboard was nice, it was in need of some updates, both visually and feature-wise. At the same time, we were just rolling out a new planning tool and introducing new team members and new roles, so there was a lot going on. However, there was a clear vision as to what we wanted to achieve and why, so the team got to work and focused on the outcome. 

The process started from that vision and we rapidly built out feature definition and UX in a super collaborative way — and even updated the tech stack to improve our capabilities. We ended up leveraging this effort to really help us evaluate and improve our team communication and processes, all while very rapidly adding great customer value.

 

Shopgate team

Louis Lepine Shopgate

 

Louis Lepine, Global Art Director

The leader of the design team, Louis manages the visual identity of Shopgate to produce effective, captivating software and products. 

BEYOND WORK: Spending time with his 10-month-old is Louis’ main hobby right now, which has helped him become more patient and cognizant of others’ needs and time. 

 

How do your previous work experiences stack up to what you’re doing at Shopgate?

I would say it's more varied here at Shopgate. Because of the size of the design team and the needs of the company, we’re exposed to a variety of projects. So, even though design is technically with marketing, we’re able to work with all the teams within the company.

 

Whether it’s designing ads or design packages for clients for CS, or offering design feedback and screen designs for product, collaboration is constant.”

 

Can you speak more to that cross-collaboration that takes place between your team and others?

We work closely with the other members of marketing on campaigns, content and website, but we also support the design needs of the company. Whether it’s designing ads or design packages for clients for CS, or offering design feedback and screen designs for product, collaboration is constant.

 

What kind of values are held on your team?

Probably the same values as the company: teamwork and integrity. I appreciate honest candid communication and feedback and hard work. Sometimes to hit a deadline or a handoff, we have to work late or come in early — it’s not ideal, but it’s appreciated by me and Shopgate to keep our promises and deliver what’s needed.

 

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