July 8, 2021
Get to know two of the Brainbase Team’s product managers, Herol Marjak and Justin Houghton! Learn more about their past experiences, and what they’re excited for at Brainbase, below.
1. Give a brief history of your previous experience, your current position, and what made you decide to be a part of Brainbase.
Herol: Before Brainbase, I worked at the European Innovation Academy (EIA) – the world’s largest early-stage tech accelerator program. Before that, I worked as a public servant for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the European Commission. So it has been a somewhat unorthodox route to where I am right now. However, I consider my first career to be a competitive athlete. I swam from age 8 to 24, represented the Estonian National Team at the World and European Championships, and won several national titles during that time. It earned me a full scholarship at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), where I studied History and International Relations.
Currently, I work at Brainbase as the Product Manager for Assist. After I left the EIA, I wanted to use all the theoretical knowledge and inspiration I gained by working with hundreds of mentors and thousands of startuppers there by putting it to work in a real life setting with real life consequences. Basically, I wanted to get my hands dirty and put my money where my mouth is. Brainbase stood out as the perfect opportunity as it was a fast growing startup with great ambitions and an international team. Also, it was obvious that these guys were ahead of the curve from their competitors in the industry. So, I wanted to be a pioneer together with them.
Justin: My career began as a digital designer and photo retoucher for e-commerce and lifestyle brands. Over the years, I became increasingly interested in the data behind my design decisions and have had the opportunity to work on several mobile apps and technical products within the entertainment industry – first as a product designer and ultimately as a product manager.
Most recently before Brainbase, I worked at a startup building embeddings and other NLP based machine learning solutions for the SVOD industry.
I joined Brainbase because I am excited about our mission to make the IP industry more open, efficient, and accessible!
2. Any upcoming projects you’re excited about?
Herol: Work-wise, I am excited about the biggest project of them all – getting Brainbase to the next level and onboarding all these large clients who want to use our product. It’s a challenge but a good kind.
Justin: I am particularly excited about building on top of Brainbase File’s foundation and introducing new features and larger initiatives that solve customer problems in delightful ways.
3. How do you think Brainbase is changing the licensing industry?
Herol: From a product perspective, I am amazed how many tools our clients were using on a daily basis to get their job done. Also, how archaic some of those tools look and feel. Thus, I feel Brainbase is taking the tools of the licensing industry to year 2021 – aggregating the tools that matter, stripping away the relics and making it all usable via heavy focus on UX/UI.
Justin: Although there are new tools out there that solve specific customer problems within the IP space in interesting ways, I have yet to see another player solve for the entire idea life cycle successfully in the way Brainbase aims to do through its existing product suite.
4. What motivates you?
Herol: I am a competitor and an achiever by nature. I like to come up against tough challenges and navigate the stormy seas, which Brainbase offers aplenty. In addition, the team is also important. We have a great one here at Brainbase, so one never feels alone with their troubles.
Justin: I tend to fall in love with customer and business problems. I’m always busy and I’m always learning!
5. What about working in product are you most passionate about? What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far?
Herol: I most enjoy the part where my rough notes and scrappy ideas are starting to take a visual shape together with the designer. It’s cool to see how a problem slowly converts to a solution.
Most valuable lesson that I’ve learned (and still am learning) is to get feedback as often and early as possible and never to fall in love with your own solutions. The product is not for me, it’s for the user. So just go out there, show what you got and take the feedback as it is. It sounds like a cliche, but it’s true.
Justin: One part of working in Product I really enjoy is having the opportunity to collaborate and build products alongside so many different talented individuals across so many different teams.
Two valuable lessons I’ve learned over the years are: ‘lead with influence, rather than authority’ and ‘go broad to go narrow’.
6. Do you have any after-work hobbies/activities?
Herol: I am a huge football (soccer) fan and the European Championships are currently going on (they take place every 4 years). So, I watch a lot of football these days. Other than that, I regularly work out in the gym, go swimming, and read (favorite topic is history). Also, I organize events every now and then – mainly parties or mini-festivals where I often play music as a DJ.
Justin: After work I’m either at the dog park, reading or working on machine learning projects!