Job Swap: May I Borrow Your Eyes?


“We begin to learn wisely when we’re willing to see from other people’s perspective.” – Toba Beta, Master of Stupidity. When people heard about my job swap from Product Owner (PO) to Support, it raised a lot of questions and created a lot of tough dialogue. My usual reply was, “…to know the bottom-line impact (on our users) when we implement changes.”

This is the first in our series of guest posts… an article about the job swapping experience for one of our very own Product Owners- Gerald!

The practice of Job Swapping has been around for years, but the idea of doing so may not have crossed peoples’ minds before. Some reasons for practicing job swaps are to create innovations, to dig for talents or even to use as job promotion criteria. Aside from those reasons, swapping is more often used to increase employees’ understanding of how other departments operate and promote collaboration among departments.

When the PO to Support swap was proposed to me, although willing, I had doubts in being able to fit into the role or to achieve the goal of this arrangement. However, as time goes by after starting my “new” job, all that negative assumptions were not found. This is mainly due to the transparent culture of the company, coupled with the open and positive communication within and outside of the team.

To put some observations into perspective;

Product Owner First-Line Support
Leads requirements gathering effort on the epics as needed – consulting domain experts, developers, clients and etc. Talking staff or clients through a series of actions, by any communication means, to help clarify the use of the systems or resolve issues.
Documents story details based on the epics and reviewing with development. Clear and concise documentation of the life cycle of the issues, reviewing with development, and devising preventions.
Monitoring and understanding the users, the market and the competition, and of future trends for the domain or type of system being developed. Monitoring and maintaining systems and operations.

The interdependent nature within an organization was felt much more deeply during the job swap period. All of us will have different skills and responsibilities; it is having a common goal and objectives that aligns us to work together. We all know something within our domain that others may not know. When that knowledge is readily exchanged, we can gain greater understanding of our processes and the people that we are working with.

Other obvious yet overlooked observations of Support;

  1. Support team is a center of communication in a fast-paced, high intensity and exciting environment, which involves different departments and customers. They help to filter out the “noise” in the communications, collecting only the relevant information that will help to resolve the issue. At the same time, they help to manage the communications, allowing the relevant parties to focus on resolving the issue.
  2. Although there could be numerous possible causes (e.g. network, code, hardware or etc.) to an issue, Support team has a “sixth sense” to diagnose and resume the service in the shortest amount of time with the assistance of others. Skill is having the knowledge to do the job; Experience is knowing what to do to get the desired results.

gerald comic

Moreover, the role in Support allowed me to know a little of what our customers are experiencing when using our products. This new perspective helps me fundamentally adjust my usual work to accommodate the larger view. For example, from the customers’ call records, we could identify users’ pains when using our system, which we may not be able to collect using technology alone.

4 months passed by with much for me to reflect upon, be it professionally or personally. The main takeaway from this exchange is that as a PO, every decision has a bottom-line impact. Who will be feeling this impact? It will not just be our users alone but us as well.

From this opportunity, I got to have a clearer understanding of the value of the 5th habit and humble enquiry. We all have our roles to fulfill in the company and sometimes we should also ask ourselves, “What else could I do?” or “May I borrow your job?”.

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