The story of the unlikely duo who helped create Account Center
Take one glance at the unlikely duo of Christina Bourne and Dan Smith, and you might be left wondering how these two ended up in the same meeting room, much less working together here at CallRail.
Where Christina is plain and direct in her speaking, Dan is more enigmatic and metaphoric. Christina is a product-marketing pro with a background in advertising, while Dan originally cut his teeth in finance and law before leaving the practice to become a software engineer.
This duo likewise came from vastly different employment backgrounds before making the transition to tech and joining up with Team CallRail. Christina formerly worked at the Weather Channel’s website, where she learned the ins-and-outs of ad scheduling and best practices for advertising products.
“It was kind of an organic growth into [the tech industry], and I love it,” she explains. “I love working with the people who actually make things work. And I love seeing an idea go from just an idea into a real live product, and being a part of the team that makes that happen.” And so, Christina became one of CallRail’s newest Senior Product Managers.
On the other side of the table, Dan initially earned a degree in finance and worked as an analyst for a spell before making the transition to law school. But halfway through his law education, he realized that he didn’t really want to be a lawyer — he wanted to code.
As a self-taught master of the Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) coding language, he took a gig building integrated apps for Microsoft Excel. From there, he deepened his education to include the Ruby on Rails programming language, which ultimately led to his joining up with CallRail as a Software Engineer.
Joining forces to zero in on the needs of our users
Recently, Christina and Dan worked side-by-side to create an exciting update to CallRail that we’re particularly proud of: The new Account Center. With this update, agencies and other multi-user accounts now have a streamlined and simplified way to manage all of the logins under their organizational umbrella.
It might sound complicated, but to hear the two of them tell it, the new-and-improved Account Center came into being because of a supremely simple realization: More than anything else, our product should be making life easier for the people who use it.
“We are heavily investing in making this product easy for you to use so that you don’t have to waste your day compiling a bunch of different reports or waste your day doing the same action multiple times for every single client,” Christina explained. “We’re going to make it easy for you to make changes across all of your clients at one time if you desire, and easy for you to get all of the information you need in just as few clicks as possible.”
Initially, CallRail was built and configured around the idea that each user would have one main account, which then manages all of the various sub-users underneath it. But as we soon discovered, CallRail’s agency users needed more granularity and control when it came to managing logins and sharing data across multiple accounts.
“We wound up with larger marketing agencies who maybe had several accounts spread across multiple locations, like with franchises” Dan observed. “So then that’s really where Account Center really started, which was to be able to service those types of people who wanted to have multiple accounts and then potentially other locations underneath those accounts, but still keeping it all unified within CallRail.”
Which is exactly where Christina — and the rest of the Product team — saw an opportunity for CallRail to better serve a huge segment of our audience: “We have done a really good job of getting lots of small businesses across the country to adopt CallRail,” but there was still work to be done when it came to making our platform the first choice for agency marketers. “So then we started to look at CallRail and say: ‘Well if I’m an agency and I manage multiple clients, how does this app work for me?'”
And thus, the new-and-improved Account Center was born.
Pooling our skills to build a great experience for our users
To hear Dan tell the tale, the story of Account Center (if you’ll forgive a slightly shopworn bit of phrasing) is a story that is equal parts evolution and revolution.
“It’s been an interesting journey because a lot of the stuff we’ve kind of had to shoehorn into working with what we already had,” he said with a chuckle. “We couldn’t just up and say, ‘Okay, well we’re going to throw everything away and rebuild from scratch,’ because we just don’t like how it’s done.”
But getting there required a great amount of effort and love across the entire company — the software engineers who code and compile, the QA testers who break things and bugfix, and the marketing mavens who sell our audience on the value of CallRail.
It’s a process that requires near-constant communication, collaboration, and iteration. Someone comes up with a great idea, and then the implementation process gets set in motion. The Design team kicks things off by offering wireframes or mockups of what the proposed feature or page will look like. Then, Product and Marketing put their heads together to figure out a development roadmap, along with the marketing milestones we’ll need to hit in order for the project to be considered a success.
“As soon as I have something that he can look at I’ll show it to Dan and be like, ‘Tell me what doesn’t work here, or if there’s a more efficient way to do it,'” Christina explained. “Sometimes we have to talk about things at a very high level before we even get to the wireframes or designs.”
She continued: “For Account Center, we knew we had to have a user that could make changes across multiple accounts. So, implementation was a question of the Engineering team figuring out how to create that user in the CallRail database, and then how to turn that into a feature the end-user can take advantage of.”
While this setup does require the occasional bit of back-and-forth, the end result is a work environment where we can be confident that we’re always supporting each others’ efforts and working towards the same goals. It’s just one example of how CallRail is committed to building a workplace where its employees can complement and boost each others’ strengths, while still having the flexibility to fill in skill gaps wherever they might appear.
Or, as Christina put it at the end of our interview: “We wouldn’t have a great product if we didn’t have a full team.”