Being part of the Product team here at Futureheads means I get to spend a lot of time talking to people who have interesting stories to tell about their careers, the lessons they've learned, and their thoughts on the future.

We wanted to create a platform to share these stories – and so FFS was born.

FFS, or Futureheads Five Stories, is a regular interview series with interesting people in digital. 

And we couldn’t resist the acronym.

For this edition, we're delighted to be joined by Product Leader Bede McCarthy.

What’s the story of your career so far?

It starts as a music journalist in a small New Zealand town, and ends as a Director of Product in London. Along the way, I’ve been a reporter, editor, designer, CMS developer and product manager. I’ve helped cover the global financial crisis and led multimillion-dollar projects. I’ve done restructures, transformations, redesigns and reboots. I’ve fixed old products and launched new ones. I’ve met a boatload of customers and made a lot of board presentations. I’ve been very fortunate, and it has not been dull!

Right now, I’m taking a break to hang out with my 3-year-old daughter before she starts preschool. I highly recommend it (BYO child).

What advice would you give to yourself when you were just starting out?

Lighten up buddy; it only gets more serious from here! That and be bolder, I think. I passed up a few good opportunities in my early 20s because they were outside my comfort zone. Silly, when you look back on it. You literally have nothing to lose at that stage.

What do you love most about what you do?

It changes over time, but lately, it’s the little conversations you have with members of your team, you know, just checking in with them outside of the endless ‘serious’ meetings. As your career progresses you don’t feel more senior as a person, so you maybe don’t realise how much it means to people when managers make time for them. I learn loads from those conversations, and it feels great when you hear later that it helped in some way.

I also love working on strategy, which is never really finished, and of course, helping customers get more out of a product or discover a new one. Finally, I love new things, and digital product has a good supply of that drug.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?

There’s this concept – I don’t know who coined it – of ‘behavioural superheroes’. It means choosing how you behave in spite of the stress of the situation, your personal reaction to events or what buttons of yours are being pushed. I don’t mean have a constant poker face, but rather choose the appropriate response rather than just react with your gut. It’s a mark of great managers and leaders. I’ve always admired that quality in others and try my best to practise it too. It’s such a great skill that can be applied to any job, in any industry. It’s also a win for introverts, who can internalise their thought process more easily.

What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge in our industry over the next twelve months?

I could say Brexit’s effect on business confidence and the economy, but that would be too easy, right? So I think it’s probably going to be competition for people, especially women in tech as companies work on improving gender diversity in that sector. It’s a tough market out there if you’re recruiting. In London, Brexit may make it even harder as some European talent is taken off the table. But basically, the biggest challenge is everybody wants a bigger, better digital team. Demand may dwarf (quality) supply for years.

A little bit more about Bede

Bede McCarthy is a product leader with 20 years' experience in digital. He most recently led product strategy and development at Financial Times, where he has more than a decade of experience working as a product owner and manager in agile delivery teams and leading change in both the newsroom and the business. As a journalist, Bede held roles as a news editor and correspondent, and was Executive Editor of FT.com for four years, where he led digital strategy in the newsroom, navigating the transition from a print advertising to digital subscriptions business.

You can connect with Bede on LinkedIn.

Want to take part in our FFS series? Say hello at jamie.davies@wearefutureheads.co.uk.

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