Alasdair Hibberd, product manager at Frontier Developments talks about how his indie experience provided a broad knowledge base to lead marketing on Elite Dangerous
What is your job role and how would you describe your typical day at work?
I’m the product manager for Elite Dangerous at Frontier Developments. My key role is to set the marketing strategy of the game and manage its execution, working directly with the development team to make sure we’re doing everything in our power to give our players a great experience.
My typical day at work is pretty varied, but it always begins with a daily stand-up. These meetings are crucial to keeping communication within the team open and ensuring our focus is on the right areas, and on schedule. For a game like Elite the stand-ups are also a great opportunity to reflect on what’s happening in the community on any given day, and take any reactive action that may be needed.
What qualifications and/or experience do you need to land this job?
A product manager’s role involves coordination of all marketing disciplines, making sure they’re not only moving together and aligned with the overall strategy, but also ensuring each discipline has everything they need in terms of both assets and knowledge of the product.
Product managers are forged by their experience more than their qualifications. They need to be able to demonstrate that they have a practical understanding of each of the key areas, and are able to put together a cohesive product plan that works to the game’s strengths. This often means demonstrable experience of having run campaigns previously, as well as being able to present your vision for a game campaign as part of the interview process.
If you were interviewing someone for your team, what would you look for?
The ideal candidate, for me, would show they can maintain consistent attention to detail whilst demonstrating an understanding of the bigger picture. Time spent in games is always advantageous, but if someone can display competency in these areas from the off, then the specifics of our industry can be picked up pretty fast.
When it comes to product management specifically, I would say you can think of each game as a step on a ladder. It’s good to cut your teeth on smaller titles as a way to prepare you for the next step up. Time spent in the indie games space prepared me well for my role at Frontier and the compact teams at indie publishing houses mean you’re often more hands on in different areas, giving you a really clear understanding of what you’re asking of your colleagues.
What opportunities are there for career progression?
A good product manager has a fundamental understanding of each of the marketing disciplines along with budgeting, project management and more. Ultimately, this makes the logical next step to move up to a senior product manager but positions them well to as natural team leads.