Noonies Interview: Luke Calton On Product Management and Writing by@lukecalton

Noonies Interview: Luke Calton On Product Management and Writing

Luke Calton is a Product Manager at a start-up in London called [Generation Home]. He is excited about Everything from space manufacturing, building homes quicker than they’ve ever been built before, to companies building technology that helps you understand and improve the quality of your sleep. He likes to learn about whatever makes him curious. When he learns something new, the ultimate test that he understands is whether he can explain it to someone simply enough for them to learn about it without any prior subject experience.
Luke Calton HackerNoon profile picture

Luke Calton

Product guy. Learns stuff and writes about it.

Hey Hackers! I’m Luke Calton, and I’m a Product Manager @ Generation Home.

First of all, a huge thank you to the HackerNoon community and staff for nominating me for a 2021 Noonies award!

I’ve been nominated in the following categories, please do check out these award pages and vote:

  1. Contributor of the year, Data Visualization:
  2. Contributor of the year, Data Analysis:

I believe that the most exciting technology of the present is home building technology because of how this can eventually scale down to help not just the rich. Building nice homes in a far quicker way than the status quo is essential to solve any form of the housing crisis. There is a company called Cover solving this problem. It reminds me of Tesla building an expensive sports car so they can eventually get the economies of scale to build cheaper cars - and in Cover’s case, cheaper homes.

I hope that’s their vision, but if not, someone else will take inspiration from them. I’m also super excited about the future of space manufacturing (led by Varda) - mainly because the idea of building stuff in space sounds like something out of a movie, and I don’t fully understand how on earth they’re going to do it. So it just sounds bloody cool.

Learn more about my thoughts and opinions on technology and my journey in the tech industry via the interview below.

1. What do you do and why do you do it? (tell us your story)

I’m a Product Manager at a start-up in London called Generation Home. We help people buy their first home by providing them options that no other mortgage lender does. Home Ownership, particularly in the UK, is a pipe-dream for a generation. I get to work on products that make it more realistic for people. People like my younger siblings won’t have fancy tech salaries and will absolutely have this problem in their lives. Before that, I worked at a fitness marketplace start-up called Hussle.

I started my career at Bosch, where I helped build autonomous robots that mowed your lawn for you. In all of these roles, I work with talented engineers to solve hard problems. Solving hard problems is fun. Home Ownership is one of the hardest, so I always had an inclination to join the fight at some point - and I joined Generation Home. The name says it all really about what we want to do, so I feel pretty lucky to have landed here as we’re going from strength to strength.

2. Tell us more about the things you create / write / manage / build!

I don’t really have a set rule for what I write about. And I don’t write that often. Oh, and I don’t consider myself a writer or a builder. I’ve published around 5 pieces publicly and mostly because I was furloughed for a bit of last year and had the time. I usually get really curious about something and then I want to learn about it, and once I’ve learned a bit about it, the ultimate test that I understand it is whether I can explain it to someone simply enough for them to learn about it without any prior subject experience.

I wrote about how to build an app without writing a single line of code because I wanted to learn more about this new tech that I think will become more popular with time. Everyone always has an app idea, so I thought it would be cool to know how to build one without being an engineer. I’ve written about writing at work to kick off projects because I think that if you write clearly, you think clearly. And thinking clearly is a pretty important skill for a product manager.

And also, because I spent £50,000 on an English degree, I need to make use of it somehow.

I’m a product guy, so I don’t build things - I help engineers build things. They’re the builders. My input is ensuring we’re building the right thing and that it’s solving problems customers actually have. When I was at Bosch, we built an integration with Amazon Alexa where you could mow your lawn by laying on your sofa and just saying, “Alexa, mow the lawn”.

That was pretty cool as we were the first autonomous robotic lawnmower to be voice controllable in the world. We built that when Amazon Alexa was still fairly new (by no means was it brand new) but it still wasn’t taking off for anything other than smart home products that operated on a WiFi or Bluetooth connection. That’s one of the moments in my career where I couldn’t believe I was being paid to work on getting robots to do stuff by talking to them. It was pretty fun.

At Generation Home, I work on anything that makes the process of buying a home not absolutely suck. There are so many things wrong with the process, and I get to work with some clever people to solve them.

3. How did you end up on your current career path? Do you like it?

No grand plans. I totally fell into it. I always loved products and just had, and still have boundless curiosity. I love understanding how things work and why things are built in certain ways. I love all aspects of building products. It’s messy, it’s a form of art - there are no strictly right ways to do it but lots of wrong ways. I can nerd out on engineering things I don’t fully understand, get passionate about go-to-market strategies, and I love speaking to customers.

I had no idea a product manager role existed, but once I found it, I was sold. It’s perfect for me, and I get to serve as the intersection between subject matter experts. I will probably work in the product most of my career and/or any adjacent roles. I think I will always have to be close to product building, regardless of how far I go up in my career.

4. What tech are you most excited or passionate about right now and why?

I think I’ve answered this already, but I’m interested in any company solving hard problems, whatever industry they’re in. Everything from space manufacturing, building homes quicker than they’ve ever been built before to companies building technology that helps you understand and improve the quality of your sleep (e.g., Eight Sleep).

I remember reading this article which basically got me excited about innovations in multiple areas - e.g., what are the compounding benefits of having nearly all the world’s scientists working on vaccine technology? What impact does this innovation have for the future (or current health problems we have)? I generally get excited by hard problems being solved by people way smarter than I am. So this article was perfect, even if I didn’t fully understand it all.

5. What tech are you most worried about right now and why?

I think the classic answer is artificial intelligence, but I don’t have strong opinions on that. I’m also probably quite naive about it. However, I’m particularly concerned with how easy it is for people to be influenced to think certain ways.

I think this problem is only going to get worse as technology develops which makes it harder to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not (e.g. deepfakes). It’s already a pretty pervasive problem that leads people to do stupid things, like vote for parties and policies that will quite literally make their lives worse. It’s probably always been a problem, and the Internet has exacerbated it.

6. If we gave you 10 million dollars to invest in something today, what would you invest in and why?

It depends if I was investing in something with the goal to make guaranteed returns or not. Or if I was taking big bets, that might come off, or not. But if I didn’t care about making returns, then I would invest in anti-aging technology and various health-tech start-ups with interesting hypotheses. I think this is the next biggest tech trend, and understanding what happens and why we age could lead to massive breakthroughs in other areas of healthcare. But since this is not my money, I haven’t done much research to validate that!

7. What are you currently learning?

I generally learn about whatever makes me curious. I’m reading about system thinking at the moment because it was recommended to me by someone who thinks about things in interesting ways. So I like to learn how smart people think. But in general, I’ve just started a new job - so I’m allowing myself a few months of just letting my head focus on that and learning job-specific things before allowing it to try and think about other things too.

8. What’s the best advice you’ve ever given someone?

I’m not sure I give good advice. The best advice I’ve probably given someone is telling them my opinion, why I think that way, and stressing that they should take it with a pinch of salt. I have as much bias as anyone else and to take it or leave it. Just because I think about things in certain ways doesn’t mean they need should.

9. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I was once told by a co-founder of a start-up that “everyone is just making it up as they go along”. And obviously, taken literally, this is probably not true. Some people have some idea about what they are doing. But the way he meant it was to encourage me to have independent opinions and thoughts about things that affect our business. And that even if I have imposter syndrome, to remember that not everything is decided by people who have all the information and expertise. That’s how I took the advice anyway.

About HackerNoon’s 2021 Noonie Awards

The annual Noonie Awards celebrate the best and brightest of the tech industry, bringing together all who are making the Internet and the world of tech what it is today. Please be sure to check out our award categories, nominate, and vote for the people and companies who you think are making the biggest impact on the tech industry today.

The 2021 Noonies are sponsored by: bybit, Dottech Domains, and Avast. Thank you so much to these sponsors who are helping us celebrate the accomplishments of all our nominees.

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