Spark23 Product Advisory
Product Advisory

Spark23 Blog

Observations and advice on product strategy, product management, innovation, and business culture.

Culture leads strategy

Quick background

I spent 15 years—my entire professional career—in the music & audio tech industry, shipping over 100 software and hardware products as a Product and Business Development leader. It was exactly the career I had wanted, tracing back to when I was in high school and learning first-hand how computers were transforming music creation.


A personal disruption…

My career in music & audio tech came to an abrupt end this past November, when Gibson shut down Cakewalk, the 30-year-old music software company that pioneered music composition on PC's. I had been leading Product at Cakewalk at the time, and I was among the majority of those who were sent home packing the morning we got the news from Gibson.

…led to an important realization:

Looking back at my career, the times when I was both happiest and most productive was when I was working with great people. I realized this was much more important to me than what industry I was in. So, in kicking off my next job hunt, I simply searched for "best places to work in Boston."

I interviewed with a lot of great companies, and my experiences during this process were more pleasant than when I had in the past focused more narrowly on a specific industry. This time around, I opened my mind and my heart and let myself be guided by the universe.


A new home in Fidelity Labs

It turned out the best fit for me was with Fidelity Labs, a small business unit within Fidelity Investments. Fidelity Labs is responsible for creating new products and services outside the core of what Fidelity typically does, all in service of bettering people's financial lives. I was inspired by Labs' practices using lean innovation & design thinking, and Fidelity's devotion to its nurturing and supportive culture.


Culture leads strategy

We all know the Peter Drucker "culture eats strategy" quote. It's been a remarkable journey for me to experience just how true this is—though I would restate his sentiment as culture leads strategy. I've come to learn that an organization's culture is the dense mass at its center, pulling every employee, every strategic initiative, every product plan, and every customer into its core. When the core is healthy, happy days. When the core is sick… well, you might go bankrupt.

What is your experience?

How would you describe your organization's culture? And how is that manifesting in your experience as an employee, and how your customers experience your brand, your products and your service?

Alex Westner