Getting to Know the Director of Product for Airbus UTM, Michael Torres
What were you working on before you joined Acubed?
I started my career as a graphic designer and moved to front-end engineering, then back-end engineering and ultimately landed in product management. I’ve been in software product management for 15 years; in that time, my skill set and thirst for learning have allowed me to work in several industries, from social media and enterprise retail to the government.
My role in government was especially interesting because I was part of an innovation center in the GSA, General Service Administration, which President Obama started. My goal in that role was to help modernize technology and process within the government. We were assisting government agencies in adopting modern software development practices, including embracing product management as a discipline, which was a new concept for many agencies. In government, there is a lot of project management, which is primarily about staying on schedule. On the other hand, product management is about the end-user, delivering value to the audience and organizing priorities to create the desired outcome. Typically, government agencies don’t own the results of their technology initiatives because that part of the job is outsourced to vendors; we helped them bring ownership back in-house. It was fascinating to be a part of that mindset shift. My time at the GSA taught me a lot and provided the opportunity to learn about the agile process and how to marry that with user-centered design to generate a real connection with end-users and real-world outcomes.
Why did you join the Airbus UTM team?
I was initially drawn to Airbus UTM for its mission, “enabling autonomous and digital operations to ensure a safe, fair and efficient airspace.” It shared some similarities to the work I was doing with GSA in that it’s about creating public good through digital transformation. I saw an opportunity to bring the experience I gained from helping transition the government to a digital-focused future and apply that knowledge in an industry that aligned with my interest in aviation.
I was also excited about Airbus’ innovative approach. Traditionally, Airbus has not been known for being software experts. Yet, the company recognized the opportunity, and with Acubed, it’s hiring people to do cutting-edge work to help lead Airbus into a more modern, digital-first world. In particular, Acubed is driving change throughout Airbus, designing and implementing innovative solutions and using digital transformation to scale its impact on the future of flight.
What does your day-to-day work look like?
- Facilitate: As a product manager, much of my work is behind the scenes. Product managers often have a lot of responsibility, yet lesser authority. I help facilitate many discussions to ensure the right people are connecting, and those conversations result in actionable next steps.
- Structure: I meet with our leadership at Acubed, the team in Spain, our customers and I participate in some sales discussions. From those conversations, I gain a holistic picture of our product and the interactions different groups have with it so that I can help identify strategic goals and determine the best way to prioritize them. I also work with other team members to help them prioritize and structure their work.
- Hiring: At Airbus UTM, we want to have the best team of people working with us. I interview and hire people to create the right mix for our team of people who have the ability to work with different personalities and the soft skills required to get things done.
What is the biggest professional challenge you’ve encountered so far?
Product management is about having the right goals and working on the right things because if those aren’t aligned, the outcome is not as valuable. My biggest professional challenge is getting organizations to switch from a project management mindset to a product management mindset. When delivering against a project schedule, teams are focused on delivering specific features by a deadline and may miss the bigger picture. For product managers, It’s more important to focus on solving important problems for your customers and stakeholders than delivering a specific feature by a specific date. Product managers are more concerned with generating outcomes in the world and not as much about the details of how the outcomes are affected.
What advice do you have for someone interested in joining Acubed?
Working for Airbus means working for a company with good values and one that leads with those values, which is reflected in Acubed and its leadership team. As a product manager in aerospace, there are a lot of opportunities to make a positive change and create the necessary structure that will help push these important innovation initiatives forward. You have to be patient, but you still have to push forward.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I’m in the midst of my flight lessons through the Acubed benefits program, and that is a lot of fun. I schedule my lessons for later in the day, so I’m in the air around sunset, which is gorgeous. I also love cooking. My family is originally from Puerto Rico, and cooking is a huge part of our culture; it’s a fun way to tap into our family history and eat something tasty.
If you’re interested in joining our team and building the future of flight, do reach out via our open roles here.