Go new ways

AS AT 2018

From Gira trainee to product manager for eNet SMART HOME: With a great deal of diligence at work and a keen interest in sport outside of work, Jan has continued to develop both on a personal and professional level. Today, he accompanies the entire new product development process – from the initial idea, through the market launch, and right up to the discontinuation of the product. In the interview, he tells us about the challenges he has faced and the new directions he wishes to take together with Gira.

Topics of this article

Studying and Gira

Processes in product management

New products

Jan, what made you decide to choose a dual study programme in industrial engineering?

I completed my vocational training as an industrial business management assistant after just two and a half years at Gira. I then changed to another department, where I worked for three and a half years while also studying in parallel. During my vocational training, I noticed that I have a liking for technology and I want to understand how Gira's products work and what's behind them. I decided to study industrial engineering so that I can answer these questions. Upon completing my degree, I switched to product management.

Was the double workload worth it?

For me, it was worth combining work and study. On the one hand, you gain practical experience in the company and can continue to develop as a result. On the other hand, studying improves your hard and soft skills, which you can apply directly to your everyday work. I'm not saying that dealing with the burden of both career and study isn't a challenge. However, because of this experience, I am probably better equipped to deal with the more intensive phases in my everyday professional life today – without neglecting my private life and leisure time.

You are a keen snowboarder. To what extent is this an opportunity for you to achieve a work/life balance?

It is important for me to do things out of work that allow me to switch off from time to time. Snowboarding is excellent for this. There are two crucial aspects for me: the mountain air and the scenery.
When I was studying, snowboarding was the perfect sport for me alongside other sports. Even though I didn't have much time. In those days, I worked during the day until the afternoon, then travelled to Cologne three to five times a week to attend lectures. This is exhausting.

"You have the opportunity here to be a part of shaping a market that is still in its infancy."

You work as a product manager. What exactly does this entail?

The product manager is responsible for accompanying the development of a product, from the initial idea, through the market launch, right up to the product's discontinuation.
It is also the product manager's job to see how our competitors are positioned and how the market is developing in general. For example, can we identify any technological trends which we can incorporate into our products?
It all starts with an idea in your head, which is described, developed and of course aligned and adjusted together with our market partners and end customers. On this basis a "market specification sheet" is then created in which the market requirements are described and specified in the form of user stories and derived use cases. These specifications are handed over to the development department. This is where the design and development of the product begins. This is an intensive and varied process, depending on the product. This not only includes product development, but also a well-prepared market launch and training for colleagues in service and sales.
This means that we always work in close cooperation with the different departments. It is therefore important to communicate sufficiently and clearly. Challenges can always arise within projects which we can only solve by working together.

What does it feel like when a product is finished and is ready to be presented to the public?

It always makes me feel proud to see a product in which a great deal of time has been invested being used by retailers or even by end users. With software products, important new ideas mostly emerge after the launch which lead to the implementation of additional features in the software products or the enhancement of services, for example. It's always great when end customers choose Gira. Most of all, it makes you feel like you are doing important and valuable work.

How do you deal with new ideas at Gira that are perhaps not yet fully-fledged?

Despite the many years of experience in our market and the many high-quality products that we have developed and introduced to date, we are always open to new ideas. Over the years, we have developed a skill that helps us to adequately assess ideas. I believe it is extremely important not to say yes to everything but also not to flatly reject ideas. We focus closely on new opportunities. In doing so, we never lose sight of our customers and end users.
Of course, the motivation to drive a good new idea forward is particularly important. After all, there are always opposing voices that are critical – however, if you are convinced about something, you have to stick to your guns.

"A pioneering spirit is extremely important for Gira – also for new products, because we like to be one step ahead."

Would you describe Gira as a bold company?

Yes, Gira is a bold company. To achieve high quality, we sometimes choose the more arduous path. In doing so, we try out many things and attempt to convert initial ideas into marketable products. Being a forerunner or having a pioneering spirit is of key importance. We do not want to re-create similar products, but instead do something new and market-relevant which does not exist today in this form. This is innovation and is what distinguishes Gira and us as employees.

You have been working for Gira for quite some time now – what was the deciding factor that convinced you to stay with Gira after leaving university?

I stayed on because I firmly believe that Gira is an excellent company to work for and has a lot to offer. Gira is of great importance for Radevormwald and, as I come from this region, it's important to me too. Nevertheless, it was important to me to gain impressions of other places. This is why I moved to Cologne to further my own personal development.
Generally speaking, Gira operates in an area that I find extremely interesting. As product manager for smart home, I get to experience exciting new developments and changes every day. Working at Gira, I have the opportunity to contribute to these changes – in a market that is not old or well-established, but is instead in the midst of change. This was one of the deciding factors for choosing to work for Gira.

What can you still expect from Gira – and what are you looking forward to personally?

We are currently working on new, interesting projects. Some of these will be unveiled soon, while others still need some time. I especially always look forward to the moment when we are allowed to present our new products – most of all, I can't wait to see the reactions of our customers.
It is also extremely interesting to see the direction in which the market and other established competitors are heading. Which new companies are popping up? Where do we stand compared to these? Are we on the right path? Do we have the right projects in the pipeline? These are questions that are always at the back of my mind.

Profile of Jan Klee


At Gira since

Industrial engineering at the University of Applied Sciences Cologne (Rheinische Fachhochschule Köln - RFH)

After completing vocational training as an industrial business management assistant at Gira, Jan began studying at the University of Applied Sciences Cologne (RFH). Alongside his studies, he worked in the applications and partnerships department. Upon graduation, he moved to the Gira product management department.

Career at Gira
Jan Klee has been product manager for eNet SMART HOME since 2016.

[as at 2018]

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