My Name Is Michel Billard — This Is Why I Joined Aha!
It is amazing what you can do with a couple lines of code. I learned this as a teenager when I started playing around with basic HTML on our family computer. I must have gotten pretty good at it because my parents asked me to build a website for a hockey tournament they were organizing. They wanted to put the final scores online once the game ended — nothing a few lines of code could not do.
Programming is fun but being able to solve a real problem for people is even better.
I brought my interest in programming with me to university. I studied software engineering and interned at two small companies — one focused on web marketing, the other on gaming. I loved getting some real hands-on experience and having fun too, like when I helped build cell phone games. But as much as I loved gaming (and still do), I knew I wanted to get into web development.
So after graduating university, I started working as a developer at a small software firm in Montreal. I was the only developer at first, but the team eventually grew to about seven. (Two were the best men at my wedding a few years later.) We were mostly working on a single client, building financial dashboards to help them manage their budgets and plan accordingly. And our work helped simplify and improve their decision making.
It felt good to take a process that was incredibly complex and make it more accessible for our client.
I worked there for a few years before I was ready to find new methods of solving problems. To that end, I joined a development agency and moved from working with .NET to Ruby on Rails. I had very little Rails experience, so this was a big shift for me. But I quickly picked up the new language, as I found it to be intuitive and easy to write. And I was happy to put it into action — helping clients with things like timesheet management and capacity planning.
While the agency model was not for me, I learned a lot from that job and was able to take my new skills into my next few roles. I served as the CTO (and the only developer) for a tiny software startup focused on building websites for fitness trainers, before joining another startup as a web developer. I did not realize it at the time, but the latter would end up changing my life in a number of ways.
Most notably was the fact that this new startup, a virtual garage sale application, moved its office from Montreal to Toronto soon after I started. My wife and I were excited to start a new adventure, so we took the leap. I am glad we did — I got to lead the frontend team on the desktop side, while also working on the backend and the API for our mobile teams.
My four years at the company led to lots of growth, both for the company and my own career outlook. The company grew from eight employees to 100 and raised more than $30 million in funding. And I realized that there was another area that I wanted to get better at — setting solid goals and initiatives and understanding how my work impacted the business. This is when I became interested in product management. I wanted to understand not just the strategy aspect of innovation, but also how the discipline could benefit our customers.
I quickly learned the value of product management — doing what is best for both the company and the customer.
This was top of mind as I began looking for my next job opportunity. I wanted to explore my new interest in product management while also working remotely. My wife and I now had a son, and we were planning to move back to Montreal to be closer to family. So, when I saw the listing for a software engineer at Aha! — a fully remote company that builds software for product managers — I applied right away.
The interview process was very straightforward. I spoke with a few teammates who looked at my actual code and asked thoughtful questions. Each conversation was a meaningful give-and-take — everyone seemed genuinely passionate about the company, the product, and the customers. I knew I wanted to join the team.
Working at Aha! combines my greatest interests — strategic product development and solving real problems for people.
Since joining, I have built features that help product management teams develop strategic models and positioning. I also got to work on a feature that our customers had been asking for (and really needing) — the Android version of our mobile application.
It is incredibly rewarding to work at a company that maintains a clear vision, has transparent objectives, and puts people first. We truly understand what customers need and we do our best to deliver it to them every day. We are changing the way people work and build products. Once again, I am amazed at what a couple lines of code can do.
That is why I joined Aha! — and why you should too.