Q&A with Tony Pagliocco
Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Tony Pagliocco, Chief Product Officer @RAI
How could you describe your career path in a few words?
My career path has could be compared to driving on a cross-country trip with some amazing attractions along the way. As someone who started out as an engineer, I saw my career as being a creator, a digital chef you may say. I always would look to write the best code and in essence, deliver a great meal. However, as time went on, I saw my role changing through the companies I was in, I went from cooking the food to writing the menu, deciding the specials, and finding out what type of lettuce to use in the salad (metaphorically speaking of course). I went from building the enabler of the experience, to building the end-to-end experience that our users would embark on. During this time, I was blessed to have amazing mentors who were not only razor sharp but also extremely patient.
Throughout my career, I've worked in media, market research, gaming, aerospace, and consulting, which is unique nowadays to see someone not pigeon-holed into one domain, but the beautiful part of it is, no matter the industry, the goal never changed, which was to identify the user, learn what makes them happy, and deliver a product that will delight them and make their life better somehow. I've delivered products to 50 people, and I've delivered products to 30,000,000 people in 9 languages, but it never has changed my focus when delivering: Keep the customer first by living their experience with your product.
What was your most challenging experience and it has changed your mindset?
About 8 years ago, I was at work and my biggest worry was whether we were going to meet a deadline on a product we were delivering, then I got the call my daughter had been struck by a car and was on her way to the hospital. In that moment, many lives were drastically changed and the impact on my daughter would be permanent. The impact of the car had severed her spinal cord, rendering her a paraplegic, unable to walk for the rest of her life.
In the spirit of a true gamer, one of her early statements was "This is the hand we're dealt, and we're going to play it." Those words alone were eye-opening and changed my life view of many things. Ways I used to handle things and prioritize my work-life balance changed, living for the moment and taking my best shot against longshot odds were some of the biggest changes. Her courage in facing this new life challenge has been beyond inspirational and continues to motivate me to always look at the positivity in situation, always appreciate what you have, and always play the hand you're dealt to the best of your ability.
When you get surprised by unusual or uncertain context, what do you think?
Agility is a term that is thrown around and overused a lot in todays business jargon but I feel that if you look back at the fundamental capability, it’s to be ready for change, to pivot, and to not waste time and resources building expensive overhead into your work.
I look at life the same way, almost like an online game, because when you are in a game, you never know what is going to happen next. Ability to assess, strategize, and execute in a small window of time is critical if you want to get to that “next level”.
The most important thing when thrown off course is to stay focused by teaching yourself to remain balanced and logical. I have consistently tried to personify these attributes when thrown a curve ball but sometimes yes, I do strike out but it’s never a negative experience. When some context is unusual and you make a mistake, just reflect, learn, and improve. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
What’s the most important key success factor for you based on your experience?
In my experience, the most important factor that has driven me to success has been being able to always stay competitive. In my high school years, I was an amateur wrestler, and the thrill of competition and working hard to take things to the next level was a huge motivation in my actions and my plans. In later years, I was a gamer, and that filled my competitive gap which kept me hungry to keep seeking the next big thing.
This easily rolled into my professional career because when working on massive products, you always want to achieve the next level. You have 50% market share? Let’s go for 65%. We had 100 new subscribers this month, let’s get 200 next month and so on and so on. I like to win and I like to put everything I can to make that happen, because with where I have been, where I am now, and where I see myself going, if I don’t keep focused on the next win, someone else will be. You won’t win every time, that’s a given, and as long as you utilize those losses as a way to get better, then you are still working on continuous improvement and that’s critical in my eyes.
What would be the major pitfall that may undermine the success of a leader?
As a leader, one major pitfall that could easily spell doom would be when one thinks they don’t have to learn anymore or in general becomes complacent. If you look at the coding industry, if you do not stay on top of the game, you get left behind and other languages will overshadow your skillset. The same goes for just about every domain, and it’s a reality, one that people do not learn sometimes until its too late. Look at professional athletes, take Tom Brady as an example. He’s the best quarterback ever and yet he still watches game film, he still has a quarterback coach, and he continues to look for ways to stay on top of the trends. Why? It’s simple, the minute he gets complacent, others who are working hard will catch up to him.
If you are a leader, you have a responsibility to grow your teams skills and lead them through wins and losses. That does not mean that you can sit on your laurels while everyone else works. A true leader will keep working, keep learning, and never stop until it’s time to step out of the game.