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Meet the team - Kate Keable

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In DLG's Digital team, there's quite a range of job types, and even those with similar job titles might have very different day-to-day roles. 

Today we're chatting with Kate Keable, who is a lead product owner.

What do you do? 

I’m a lead product owner at DLG Digital, so I manage a team of 13 product owners who look after the digital optimisation of our websites across all brands and products. I also support larger projects as and when they come up.

The POs are responsible for prioritising backlogs and facilitating the requirements for each of the scrum teams, and I’m there as an escalation point, as well as supporting and mentoring them on a day-to-day basis.

How did you get to where you are now?

My journey with Direct Line Group has been quite long. I started here just over 20 years ago and have worked in various areas of the business. It’s felt like a complete career change each time I’ve moved jobs.

I joined Digital just over three years ago as a producer. The producer role wasn’t that dissimilar to a product owner role really, but we didn’t use an agile delivery approach back then: we worked our way through a backlog that contained everything for all brands and products, working on each job in order of importance with a shared resource pool. 

Then, about 18 months ago, we moved to the current set up of scrum teams, which is when I stepped into the role of lead product owner. I helped shape the teams alongside the other team leads. It was a really exciting time for us and has completely changed our way of working for the better – we are now delivering faster, cheaper and more safely. 

the role seemed like a natural next step

I’ve always had an interest in digital. I worked on the websites and a couple of big projects about 7 or 8 years ago, so I’ve been working in digital in some capacity for quite a long time. This role seemed like a natural next step, plus I really enjoy the people-management aspect.

When I joined Digital 3 years ago, we were just 20-30 people. Now we’re at 120 people. With the exception of maybe one or two product owners, I’ve recruited that whole team. It’s been nice to be part of that journey.

I feel very proud to have helped build and shape teams within Digital and get them to where they are today.

What is your favourite aspect of your role?

I like not knowing what I’m coming into each day. Some days I know that I haven’t got any meetings all day, and then my day will be taken up dealing with an escalation or supporting a team member. Or perhaps we’ll have an issue that we need to fix really quickly, so I’ll be helping to facilitate that. 

Quite recently, I’ve been involved in a couple of the bigger projects that are kicking off, and I’ve enjoyed helping shape the higher-level requirements and dealing with stakeholders. I still really enjoy that kind of engagement with the wider business.

What’s the biggest challenge you face?

Probably work-life balance, if I’m honest. I know I need to work on that. The demands of the job are such that it’s useful for me to be on hand for the team at any time, as well as be available to support other colleagues.

Do you think there are a lot of opportunities to grow and develop your skills at DLG?

Yes, absolutely. I started out in the call centre many, many years ago. I never envisaged that I’d find myself in the role I’m in in today. Opportunities have either presented themselves to me or I have found those opportunities over the years.

I started as a producer in digital and I’ve progressed to lead product owner in a short space of time. I’ve had to learn agile delivery from scratch, and I’ve helped shape the current team.

The fact that I’ve worked in various areas of the business has given me a really broad view. The skills and knowledge I’ve built over the years are very transferable.

I’ve also seen other people in Digital progress quickly through the organisational structure. With the right attitude and skills, anything’s possible.

What’s the culture like at DLG Digital?

Digital has a real agency feel, it’s got a great culture. There are a lot of different characters, but I think that as a whole we are a great team. People who come from our other office often comment on what a great atmosphere there is here. We laugh a lot. Yes, we do play hard, but we also work hard.

That’s the recipe for a great team.

As a busy working mum of four, how do you strike a life/work balance?

I think having a supportive partner is key. My husband works from home, which has given me the opportunity to progress my career over the last few years.

We also plan ahead. I’m the most disorganised, organised person, so it’s handy to plan meals a few weeks in advance. Online shopping is my saviour.

It’s hard not to check my phone at the weekends, but I think having dedicated time with the kids is really important.

I have a slightly different working pattern, which is really flexible. I start late and leave early on certain days, and work longer on other days. 

And if necessary, I can work from home if there’s a parent’s evening or appointments for the children. 

Management and other members of the team are also supportive, they understand that we all have lives outside of work.

You’re on the Digital Social Committee too, what does that involve?

The Social Committee was born a couple of years ago. We organised a couple of events and a core group formed quite organically. 

Now we arrange everything from small department events, like Halloween face painting and fancy dress at Christmas, or pancake tossing competitions. But we also planned the big Christmas party, which was really good. I love to see people having a good time.

We’ve also done a few volunteering events for charity, which is great.

Where do you stand on the current ‘women in tech’ debate?

I don’t believe we should make it an issue. I think it’s all about getting the best people in the right jobs. I’ve been incredibly lucky and I’ve worked very hard to get to where I am, and I’d like to think that my gender has played no part in that.

What advice would you give someone thinking about becoming a lead product owner?

Becoming a lead product owner is great as it gives you the opportunity to get involved in strategic thinking and improving our ways of working, whilst supporting product owners to deliver both on-going optimisation and larger projects. 

Through coaching and mentoring your team, you’ll help them to develop prioritisation skills and stakeholder engagement techniques that are transferable across any business. It’s a very rewarding job!

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