Life and Times of an SRE Product Owner

by Isabel Lilles September 14, 2018 | 4 min read

“The PagerDuty value ‘Team’ is important to me because if we are to achieve anything of enduring value, we need to combine our unique strengths and perspectives to a shared goal.”

– Marguerite des Trois Maisons, SRE Product Owner, PagerDuty

We’re back with another employee spotlight! Last month, we spoke to Senior Front-End Developer Mark Smith, who works out of our San Francisco office. This month, we (virtually) crossed over to the opposite coast and spent some time getting to know Marguerite des Trois Maisons, who works out of our new Toronto office as the product owner on our Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) team.

Marguerite started a little over three years ago as a developer on our Devtools team and is one of our early Toronto employees. Today, she is the product owner of a team of eight, whose mission is to provide common infrastructure, tooling, and expertise to PagerDuty’s developers so that they can focus on delivering value to PagerDuty’s customers.

Not Your Typical Product Manager

Marguerite’s ancestors hailed from a little hamlet in France called Trois Maisons (the origin of her Game of Thrones-esque last name), but she was born and raised in Toronto. A little fun fact: Marguerite is an expert in languages—and I’m not just talking about coding languages. She is fluent in English, French, and Spanish; has dabbled in Portuguese and German; and is currently teaching herself Hebrew using Duolingo.

That gift for languages has also helped her advance in her career at PagerDuty. How? When it comes to learning a new language, the general advice is to spend as much time as possible listening to it and conversing with native speakers, who can provide immediate feedback. Marguerite applied this approach on the road from developer to product owner: She listened to the needs of her team and of the Engineering department and asked for feedback and insight—and learned how to be a productive team player and great leader in the process. “One piece of advice that impacted me is that leadership doesn’t have to be about management,” she said. “I got this advice here at PagerDuty when I was a developer. I wanted things to be better, but I also wanted to love the people around me; to listen to them, to ask them questions.”

As an SRE product owner, Marguerite’s role is very different from that of a typical product manager. “My role is geared toward internal development rather than developing a product that we ship externally out to our customers,” she explained. “I set the direction of where we’re going as a team and what initiatives we’re going to take on to improve the lives of PagerDuty’s developers.”

The Challenges of Moving Into Product Management

Just like switching disciplines or learning a new language, transitioning into an unfamiliar position or circumstance can be a little daunting. “Being a product owner of the SRE team was difficult at first,” Marguerite shared. “I never had formal training, the role wasn’t super well defined, and the team didn’t have processes in place that existed on other teams. But as I worked to define that role and build out those processes myself, I learned that I’m not expected to have all the answers, and that grew to be one of my assets.” Instead of doing everything on her own, she relied on the people around her. “I trust them to show me what their versions of Truth and Good are—and I synthesize all that and come up with something worthy of investment.”

Moving forward, as PagerDuty continues to rapidly grow, Marguerite is excited to achieve new levels of collaboration—specifically between the infrastructure teams. “We’re asking ourselves hard questions now, and we’re trying to break our silo mentality. We have to break down the way we’re used to thinking and do things differently to get there. It’s not that people are being consciously resistant; it’s just about breaking down subconscious patterns.”

Interested in being a part of our incredible team? Check out our current open roles—we’d love to have you!