My Name Is Madeleine Black — This Is What I Achieve at Aha!
What is the best way to accelerate your career? Work in a high-growth company that challenges you and puts learning first. An unwavering motivation to continue improving and achieving is also key. The highest performers constantly pursue new ideas and seek to understand the experiences and motivations of the people around them. We can learn a lot from them.
Curiosity fuels growth — which is why we want to bring you personal stories of achievement from talented people. Our hope is that some of their ideas are useful and maybe even inspirational as you work to become your best.
Meet Madeleine Black — director of Product Concierge within the Aha! Customer Success team. Madeleine enjoys guiding the Product Concierge team in providing highly personalized and hands-on support to our largest customers. Her work at Aha! builds on over a decade of product development experience. She lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, with her family.
Read on to learn more about how Madeleine finds meaning and joy in her work — in her own words.
What kinds of projects do you enjoy working on most?
"I love the projects where our Product Concierge team works directly with our product management team. This happens often — we bring learnings from our customer calls back to the product team. I particularly enjoy identifying common themes from customer feedback so we can get them on the product roadmap.
For instance, we recently released support for program increments in Aha! Develop. It was very satisfying to work on this together with a designated Product Concierge team member and a product manager. We defined requirements that support what we hear from our customers that use SAFe®. For example, we know how challenging it can be to align product and engineering in large enterprises with massive portfolios. These teams need real-time visibility of priorities and progress. With that in mind, we helped plan this update so that product managers using Aha! Roadmaps can assign prioritized features directly to a program increment in Aha! Develop — keeping everything in the same environment."
Which recent accomplishment at Aha! are you most proud of?
"I am a results-driven person. I feel a sense of great pride when hard work produces meaningful outcomes — especially when those outcomes make a difference for others.
I recently led our initiative to begin offering product development capability assessments for customers on the Aha! Roadmaps Enterprise+ plan. During these assessments, we use a scorecard to evaluate the effectiveness of an organization's approach to each stage of product development — allowing us to provide even more consultative guidance. This has helped our customers understand how to build more lovable products and gain greater value from their investment in our software."
What have you done to help your teammates succeed?
"Helping my teammates succeed is my number-one focus every day."
"I strive to be as responsive as possible. I prioritize supporting my teammates and peers over anything else on my agenda — the principles of The Responsive Method (TRM) are foundational to this approach.
We move really quickly and sometimes need to help steer our progress in a different direction. In these moments, I always do my best to be kind while providing direct feedback. Meeting our goals is important but so is helping my team to learn."
What is the most surprising but useful career advice someone has given you?
"I was given some unexpectedly good advice in my first full-time job. The owner of the company told me that I would advance quickly in my career simply by working hard from 8am to 5pm every day. He saw how ambitious I was. But at the time, I thought this advice was hilarious. The proverbial 'bar' seemed incredibly low. Now, I look back and see this was excellent advice. Work hard and work consistently every single day if you want to succeed.
The majority of my career has involved leading people. Over the years, I have observed that the people I can trust with additional responsibilities are those who deliver consistently and reliably. You cannot do that unless you focus on your goals and commit to finishing every important task."
What advice do you have for an aspiring or early-career product builder?
"In my first product role, I learned the most on the front lines — working with our sales and support teams to help solve problems for our customers. In doing this, you can develop a deep understanding of your customers, stakeholders, and their needs. This is important."
"Observe how other product managers practice empathy in order to understand different perspectives. And do not be shy to shadow team members who talk with customers daily — so you can hear directly about the challenges they face."
"Also, make sure that you quantify the value of everything you deliver. Be relentless about it. As the saying goes, you cannot manage what you do not measure. The best product people I have led and worked with always spend the time to analyze results and take action based on what they uncover."
The What I Achieve series spotlights the achievements and contributions of the Aha! team. For insights into how we got here, read our Why I Joined posts.
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