My Name Is Gary Cohen — This Is Why I Joined Aha!
How are products made? Growing up in South Africa, I was able to see the process firsthand. I spent school holidays working on the production line in my father's factory. He ran a successful food manufacturing business producing dry goods for retail and wholesale trade. It was fascinating to see each successive step of the production process up close. Someone was responsible for deciding how each product was made — transforming the raw materials into each finished item.
I wanted to be one of those people behind the product — making decisions that impact what is delivered to customers.
I pursued my interest in business and technology at the University of Johannesburg, where I earned a bachelor's degree in commerce. I followed this with a postgraduate degree in business management. As part of the program, I interned at a company specializing in audit and accounting software. The team I joined was tasked with bringing a new cloud-based financial application to market. This was my first exposure to product management — I was in love.
After the internship, the company hired me as a full-time product manager. I spent the next few years working on a billing software suite and a statutory management web app. I was thrilled to immerse myself in all things product — communicating the vision and strategy, researching customers and the market, and collaborating with cross-functional teams. It was also here that I discovered Aha! and introduced it to our product team. I devoured the product management guide, using it as my handbook for day-to-day work and inspiration.
My goal was realized — I was the one responsible for making decisions about products and how to best address customers' needs.
I stuck with cloud-based software companies for my next few product manager roles. First I managed the design and development of geospatial maintenance software, then I led product for a global management consulting firm. But I was ready to elevate my career by sharing my product management knowledge and experience with others. And I wanted to work for a company that made something I actually used.
When a former colleague, Madeleine Black, posted on LinkedIn that Aha! was looking for experienced product managers in South Africa, I applied right away. A few hours later, a member of the People Success team reached out to schedule an interview. This was my first glimpse into The Responsive Method and I was impressed. The interview process was refreshing. Each person I spoke to was thoughtful and candid. They made it clear that I was evaluating the company as much as they were interviewing me. We agreed that I could thrive on the Customer Success team by sharing my product experiences with others.
It is rewarding to play a part in helping hundreds of teams around the world build and deliver breakthrough products.
My work at Aha! is challenging and engaging. Every day I support product managers as they make strategic plans, capture ideas, and create beautiful roadmaps. There is always an opportunity to be curious and solve new problems.
This is my first remote job, yet I have never worked more closely with any group of teammates. Although we are spread across six countries and multiple time zones, we are all highly communicative and supportive. It never feels like I am on the other side of the world from most of my colleagues. And I am able to enjoy quality time with my wife and son that I simply would not have if I were commuting to an office.
It is a privilege to be part of a company making enterprise software that people actually enjoy using. It is a long way from the factory production line, but I still enjoy a behind-the-scenes view into how products are made and delivered. The process of building continues to fascinate and inspire me.
That is why I joined Aha! — and why you should too.