Nov 8, 2022

Product Leader Spotlight: Anton Doberschütz

Mitte PM Anton Doberschütz shares the journey to his role at a smart drinking water company.

Product Leader Spotlight: Anton Doberschütz

Heather: What product are you building?
Anton: Our product is basically a connected kitchen device that turns any tap water into great tasting mineral water. But unlike all the existing solutions it is not only filtering the water but also adding minerals back in. So we are creating a great tasting but also very healthy way of hydration. Out machine is also able to carbonate so if you fancy some bubbles you can choose between medium and high sparkling water. As a cherry on top our machine is connected to the internet so it automatically reorders all consumables if you like but you can also track how much water you consume.

Heather: What’s your role on your team?
Anton: Our ecosystem consists of our carrier, the cartridges, an App and the FW that runs the carrier. As a so called Mitte Home Lead, my main role is to bring those development streams together and make sure we are working towards the same goal. Most of the features we are developing don’t work just on the carrier or just in the app so its super important that we are always aligned. Besides that, I am also the driving force to develop our ecosystem further. So I am guiding the product team through the whole process from identifying opportunities for the user, through the development, to rolling it out and beyond. We are also always trying to improve our current offering. So when we see people don't use our machine or as often as we would like them to use it, we also try really understand why they're using it in a certain way or why they're not using it in a certain way to then come up with measures to engage them more.

Heather: How did you get into IoT?
Anton: I think I should start with how I got into products. That is a bit of a longer story actually. I have a background in Mechanical Engineering. But I never worked as an engineer. Except and internship at Bosch and Siemens where I worked in product development.But I found product management the much cooler job, and I will tell you in a second how I got there. I am actually not that much of a techy. I wrote my bachelor thesis for the German Aerospace Center, which is the NASA of Germany. I was sitting in front of a computer five days a week working on simulations and waiting for them to be finished. After a week you had your results and made some conclusions. I found that super boring to be honest. That was the point where I was thinking, I cannot do this my entire life. So I decided to do a masters in technology management in Stuttgart, the German Motor City so to say. After uni I went straight into product management and got a job in bike electronics. I was making GPS computers that you put on your bike, bike lamps and other accessories. And what’s super cool about being a product manager for B2C products is that you see a your product come to life and eventually see them out there in the field. After finishing a few product in the bike industry I landed my dream job. I was making hardware for music production and DJ’s for Native Instruments. I love music and am doing myself a bit so working for them was amazing. That journey unfortunately ended very abrupt when the company decided to stop making hardware. I came back from Fusion Festival and heard I don’t have a job anymore. Very sad moment actually. But through this change I got more into IoT and shortly after being let go from Native Instruments helped a small Smart Home Start-Up here in Berlin building their Product Operations. Then one day out of a sudden a former Native Instruments colleague contacted me and asked if I want to join Mitte. It was a no brainer as I really liked my old team so working again with them was a great opportunity. So now I am making amazingly delicious water. I also turned into a bit of a water snob I have to say. ;-) In general I would say great innovative product are those that change peoples habits and Mitte is on a good path to achieve that.

Heather: If you’re successful in your mission at Mitte, how will the world look different?
Anton: I think there are two things. One, I can tell you why I joined the company. I joined the company because I wanted to build a machine that makes tap water tasting so amazing that you don't want to drink anything else anymore. So no coke, no sodas, no whatever, just water. Maybe wine though. Everybody has tap water at home, and nobody drinks it, right? Even in Germany, where the tap water is actually quite good. It's cheap, it's everywhere. But still no one drinks it. So having this machine that makes the water taste great would be amazing.

The second one, which is even more important: If you can turn your tap water into mineral water you don't have to buy plastic bottles anymore, that's amazing. You save all the plastic. You save shipping bottles from A to B. You don't go to Fiji and bottle spring water there. Have it all in your kitchen, all from your tap water. That's a huge impact and a great mission to have I believe. Since launch the machines we have sold made over 640.000 bottles of Mitte water. So 640.000 plastic bottles less. And we are just getting started.

Heather: What advice do you have for aspiring product leaders?
Anton: I have multiple, so I think some of them are advice, but some are skills that you can develop or things you just should be aware of. I think the most important one is: no ego. You should never build products for yourself. You should always build them because you think it's the right thing for the user and you are actually solving a problem with them. So don't have an ego. And if it becomes apparent throughout the development that your product became obsolete you should not hesitate to kill it.

The second biggest one is: empathy. Not only empathy for the user, but also for all stakeholders, in the company and outside. Product management is so much politics and diplomacy. So you have to try to understand where everybody is coming from. Why does Marketing want XYZ? Where is finance say “no” to that? What do the developers want and why? Ideally your are able to dig so deep that you get to the emotional level of understanding your stakeholders. If you get there you will be able to leverage the teams skills best and build great Products.

The third one is: edge. Probably every job description - now it gets a bit buzz wordy - mentions the “mini CEO”. And as such you should always be open and able to speak freely and say what you think. Even if it is a very uncomfortable truth. You are responsible for the success of your product so have the edge to speak up. And I am not saying that you should stop working if upper levels push into a different direction than you. But if it happens you should have the ability to disagree but commit.

And last but not least: energy. The product manager job is tough and will take a lot of your energy. Depending on what you develop it might take you and your team a while. So you will also have to motivate them in tough times and will be the hub for all information around your product. Be aware of that and manage your energy wisely. Don’t spend your energy on things that don’t make any impact. Choose your battles.

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