Michael Zavarello

I'm an aspiring technical product manager, an experienced front-end developer, and a zealous UX advocate.

Go and check out my current resume and read about my journey into product management.

Who I am: Generalist, Refiner, and Believer

I consider myself a generalist and value that as a strength. I have a broad understanding of many technical disciplines, including usability and user experience, data visualization, mobile development (including responsive web design and progressive web applications), web analytics, information security, content strategy, and user interface design. I enjoy "connecting the dots" between concepts (business requirements) and reality (technical constraints), serving as the "technology ambassador" to business units. I feel that my generalist background and communication skills have greatly benefited my team's relationships across disciplines, departments, and business lines.

I'm also a refiner. I may not the person who generates visionary ideas, but I'm the one who can make those ideas more efficient, effective, and elegant. Being part of a team who is building amazing products, helping to level up those experiences, and thriving in that process is precisely what I want for the next phase of my career.

Lastly, I'm an unashamed believer and follower of Christ. My two guiding principles come from the New Testament; from Ephesians 4:29: "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." and Colossians 3:17: "And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

How I Work

One of my primary strengths is communication, especially in bridging the gaps between developers and subject matter experts. I work comfortably alongside developers, editors, product and visual designers, user experience researchers, economists, data analysts, content/product owners, and executives.

Credibility and integrity are absolutely vital to the work I do every day, and I feel that building trust, understanding motives, objectively questioning why things have been done the way they have, and showing grace are keys to professional success.

Product management is a skill I've been growing over the past several years. I'm able to coordinate requirements, manage assumptions, and build quality products that put the users first. A considerable amount of the responsibilities in my current role involve working with various stakeholders to learn and talk with them about their needs, establish common understanding and priorities, and work together with my team on feasibility, capacity, and timelines with an eye towards delivering accurate, efficient, and helpful products.

I hoard documentation, but in a good way. I save every email and enjoy taking detailed notes with every interaction, meeting, and conversation. I've authored and developed technology roadmaps, communications strategies, and numerous technical documents and procedures. I've helped guide and facilitate project meetings, managed tasks and the flow of work among several teams, and participated in high-profile, long-term prioritization efforts across multiple departments.

How I Lead

I highly value the servant leadership model. I don’t treat this lightly or as some sort of management fad. My mission is to serve the needs of my team so they can perform with maximum success and enjoyment of their craft. I want to understand what motivates them, what challenges them, and how they prefer to communicate. I always make myself available for insight, guidance, or whatever it is they need.

I strive to show grace to my team. I’ll never withhold the truth from them, whether that’s an observation or critique, but I’ll always deliver that truth with fairness and empathy. I provide oversight and quality control, as I value the integrity of the work, especially “fit and finish.” However, I refuse to be a micromanager. I despise micromanagement in all its forms and will work to destroy it whenever I find it.

I trust my team to work well, wherever they are. My entire career up until March 2020 was spent full-time in an office environment. Ever since I started working out of my home for what I thought would be two or three weeks, I’ve been absolutely fascinated with the massive rate of change in how companies function during the months that followed. As such, I’ve become quite vocal in my advocacy for remote and hybrid work. I despise the old-school “butts-in-seats” mentality and feel this way of thinking lacks full trust in your team.

I also feel that employees shouldn’t bear the full burden of trying to figure out how hybrid/remote should function as companies shift into “back to the office” mode. It’s up to managers and leaders like me to understand what the team truly needs to thrive, set the pace and expectations, and iterate upon that framework.

Nor should employees who are remote (whether all the time or part of the time) ever have to fight for visibility against those who aren’t. Again, that’s where I step in. I enjoy being an advocate for my team and making sure they’re seen, heard, and recognized for their hard work and thoughtful ideas.

I’ve seen how my team has not only sustained their work but exceeded their normal capacity in this remote era, so I know it can be done. As some commercials say, “now, more than ever,” it’s vital to make sure my team is setting proper boundaries for their time and avoiding the temptation to work just a little longer or check emails or Slack or Teams for just a few minutes before bed, etc.

This goes for paid time off as well. To me, those days are sacred and something you earn as an employee, and it’s yours to take as you see fit. I trust my team as professionals, in that they manage the work in the times they set and find coverage whenever they’re away from that work. It’s my job to defend their time (and their well-being) against overzealous stakeholders, ambiguous deadlines, and scope creep. It’s also my job to ensure my team is taking their time to decompress, mentally declutter, and enjoy their lives. No one should ever think they have to hoard their days or feel guilty for wanting to use them.

Where You Can Find Me

LinkedIn, where I advocate for remote work and share my take on the "return to office".

Stack Overflow, where I've been a key contributor for the Highcharts data viz library.

jsfiddle, where I tinker with my data viz concepts.

Soundcloud, where you'll find my curated playlists of synthwave and vaporwave.

Twitter, my first social media passion, but mostly a placeholder these days.

Bright Matrices, my long-neglected blog that could use a better name and fresh(er) batch of content.