Welcome to A Day in the Life — a series dedicated to showcasing the ethos of an Indexer. This month, we sat down (virtually) with Maddy Want — Director, Product at Index Exchange — to talk product management, collaboration, and puppies.
First things first: can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role at Index?
I’m one of the Product Directors at Index, and I look after the parts of our product which handle exchange quality, fraud, policy, and privacy regulation compliance.
Day-to-day, what I do is work with my teams and our stakeholders to figure out what the most important things for us to build are, and then go build them. When I got my very first product management job ever, I could barely believe this was a real job I got paid to do. You get to work with people who have deep expertise in technology, mathematics, design, business development, and more, and you articulate visions for everyone to mobilize behind. It’s a huge amount of trust to be given, and there aren’t many individual contributor roles that have the same level of influence. Years have passed since then, but I still feel that way about product.
What’s an average day like for you? What motivates you to come in (or log on, we should say) to work each day?
It’s the momentum, for me. There are cycles of “understand, build, deliver” in any product area. When you’re working with a strong team of people who are really smart and really care, then over time, that builds into momentum. There’s no better feeling than crushing a problem, pausing to reflect, and then turning to dive into the next one. Even on less motivated days, the momentum of a team working and shipping together can carry you along until you’re ready to dive in again.
And if you had to describe Index in one or two words, what would they be?
I would say, ambitious and thoughtful. Index has big dreams, and we’re all here to make them come true. People who like to move quickly, take calculated risks, and be accountable tend to gravitate towards Index for that reason.
Thoughtful because everything here is done with attention to detail that is truly remarkable — everything from product launches to weekly internal emails has the spirit of “go-to-market” in it. At Index, I learned that product thinking goes way beyond just product management.
Speaking of product, can you describe Index’s product culture in a few words? What makes it unique?
Index’s product culture is defined by a level of autonomy that’s really rare to see. Having worked at a handful of companies in which product management took on various different organizational forms, it’s easy for me to see that Index is where product people have the highest degree of autonomy to identify, justify, and seize opportunities. It doesn’t mean you won’t be challenged about the decisions you’re making, but it does mean you have space, support, and indeed the onus to figure it out.
In terms of culture, know that Index’s product team spans a few countries as well. Can you speak a bit about global collaboration? What does this look like at Index?
My area of work is deeply global, because the sources of policy and regulation, not to mention the hometowns of our supply and demand partners, are global. My product delivery unit team alone is distributed between NYC, Toronto, Montreal, and London.
It means we have to be thoughtful about scheduling and time zones, but it makes us stronger in the way that diversity of perspective inevitably tends to do. We think instinctively about localization and the intersection of state and international policy; we then boil that down into product plans that will work around the world.
Any advice you would offer to someone hoping to enter the ad tech space, particularly in a more technical role?
Be humble and ask questions. Ad tech can be one of those spaces where people have been in it for decades, and sometimes it can feel like you’ll never match their knowledge. But that’s not true — all those people started somewhere. In many cases, domain knowledge gets stale and becomes less of an advantage. So as a new person, you can leverage your newness and ask every question, seeking to deeply understand how one tiny area of the system works. If you continue with that attitude toward everything, you’ll find that the bigger picture starts to stitch itself together over time.
And finally, how do you unwind outside of the office?
I am admittedly thin on “unwind” time lately — I’m doing grad school for a Masters in Public Policy on the side, so nights and weekends tend to go there. But everyone needs a break sometimes, and for me, those tend to involve any of the things that make NYC incredible: live music, wine bars, stand-up comedy, or more recently, city parks. My graduation present to myself will be a puppy, who I guess will take up the rest of my “unwind” time!