Perspectives: MengJiao Liao, Product Owner

MengJiao's shares her story of an impossible project to create a brand new software, using technology the company had never utilized.

 

GoTRG is made up of more than 2000 diverse teammates across the globe operating under one vision: to revolutionize returns. With experts in every field from software and engineering to ecommerce and supply chain, we want to highlight the skilled teammates who elevate this company’s mission every day. Each month we’ll hand over the metaphorical mic to a new goTRG teammate so you can better understand our perspectives and how we continually evolve as leaders in the industry. 

Over to you MengJiao Liao…

 

My Role at goTRG

My name is MengJiao and I’m a product manager at goTRG. I joined the company two-and-a-half years ago as an account manager, working closely with Home Depot and other major retail clients. Today as a Product Manager based out of the Toronto office, I communicate with teammates across various units, time zones and languages, as well as with our clients directly. This is such a unique role because I’m not just on the product team talking to product experts all day. I get to collaborate with nearly every team at goTRG to build the most effective returns solutions for our clients. 

An Impossible Project

One story that really stands out to me symbolizes goTRG’s culture of teamwork, innovation and partnership. This story is about a massive project team I was part of to build an upstream returns disposition app for one of our largest retail partners. To accomplish this mission, we needed to implement technology that we had never utilized before.

As a product owner, this wasn’t my first major project. But it was the first time I can remember vividly seeing the shift from a task-oriented team model to one inspired by a shared vision. This made all the difference in our ability to successfully collaborate.

A Shared Vision Left Room to Disagree

Don’t get me wrong. Cooperating with a diverse team to invent an app that makes smart decisions from the point of return bread several countering opinions. We had so many sessions where we debated, and disagreed on everything from design, to wording, to user flow. There was a lot of healthy conflict between leaders, designers and developers who each came to the table with his or her own perspectives. But amidst the disagreements, we were always comfortable sharing our opinions because there was always a level of trust and respect in the room. 

Before we began the project, we communicated about its purpose and our reasons for doing it. Unlike previous projects where stakeholders might say “here’s what we need to do, please go do it,” this time we defined the problem we needed to solve first. Then, we agreed to build out a solution in-line with our why. Whenever we disagreed on details along the way, we would always circle back to that vision because we all believed in it. This vision is what drove us and carried us through every disagreement and hiccup along the way. 

Mistakes & Sleepless Nights

This was the first time we developed an app that would be used in 1700 stores across the U.S. It was a lot of pressure to build this process from scratch. For instance, we didn’t know what it would mean to push an app to someone else’s network. And what would the support process look like? We made some errors in the initial phase of development, but the team really pulled it together. I remember we all worked tirelessly through Christmas and New Years. Every day we were trying to be better, and every day we succeeded.

As a company, our vision is to completely handle the return process for clients, so the vision for this app was to start as early in the supply chain as possible. Prior to launching the app, our client utilized a legacy system that they managed manually. Their store associates would spend hours in back offices checking-in returned products, inspecting their quality, and analyzing policies to determine whether to re-shelf or return to the vendor. This was an extraordinarily time consuming process that led to manual errors and lost profits. With goTRG’s application solution, our client would have the tools to make instant, profitable disposition decisions. 

The Finish Line

The process to create this solution took several months of sleepless nights, but our shared vision carried us through. In January ,we began to launch the application nationwide and the results have been extremely positive. Our client is now getting much higher recoveries from returns because of the increased efficiency and reduced errors the app offers from the start. 

This project was so rewarding–not just because of the results–but because it was a symbol of how far we’ve come as a company. We’re not perfect, but we are constantly learning. In the 2.5 years I’ve been at the goTRG, I’ve seen so much growth. 

We are better equipped to utilize resources at our disposal and we’re pushing each other to think critically as opposed to being “task takers.” We’ve come such a long way and I’m really excited about the journey ahead. 

 

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