The Green Sheet Online Edition
September 26, 2016 • Issue 16:09:02
Meet The Expert
Green Sheet Advisory Board member Peter Scharnell is Director of Product Management for Cayan LLC, a leading provider of payment technology products and services. He has more than a decade of experience in the payments space. He is also a member of the Electronic Transactions Association's Technology Council and an active participant on several payments technology advisory boards. In this interview, he shares aspects of Cayan's product development process, his professional journey in payments, agroecology and more.
As Director of Product Management for Cayan, what are you responsible for?
At Cayan, we separate our product line into specific areas since we have multiple products and services. My responsibility is for what we call "Core Payments," which includes everything a merchant will need to enable payment processing. This comprises things like certifications, processor relationships, EMV, the Cayan gateway and other components.
This means I work very closely with the other product managers who are responsible for our Genius platform, ecommerce and omnichannel, mobile, portals, and value-added services. We work as a closely knit group and don't have direct reports but rather utilize a cross-functional team that includes development, project management, knowledge management, marketing and operations.
We use this team to roll out every product, so nothing falls through the cracks and the entire organization is aware and involved with our product releases.
If we shadowed you for a day at Cayan, what would we likely experience?
My day starts early, as Cayan has a large agile development team in Belfast, Ireland. It begins with a Google hangout call with the feature teams, and we discuss the current status of the specific feature that we're working on. Next you might catch me writing a BRD (business requirements document) that will outline the framework and requirements for the next phase of development.
We have regularly scheduled Requirements Review Board meetings where the product managers present the requirements to the executive management team to get sign off in order to get development resources assigned to the project. It's a very iterative and fluid process, as we are constantly releasing new features to our merchants.
Finally, you could attend some calls with our POS partners to go over their roadmap needs and talk through the next product release so they are aware of what's coming next. I think, ultimately, you would see that Cayan is a fast-moving technology company that is constantly striving to ensure that our customers and partners' payments needs are being met while continuing to get ahead of the next big payments innovation like EMV or omnichannel.
How do you deal with the complexities involved in serving both U.S. and international markets?
Indeed, you hit the nail on the head with regards to international complexities in the payment processing world. Cayan has many mid-to-large tier merchants using our Genius platform, which ultimately means that they are global companies with locations across the globe. Because of this, Cayan has to ensure that we can accommodate country-specific processing needs. This means either partnering with local processors and integrators in each country as well as developing country-specific features within our application.
For countries like Canada, for example, we have developed specific product functionality that has French Canadian language options and country-specific settings, as well as regional certifications like Interac contact and contactless debit. That's just one country example, so multiply that by the numerous other European, AsiaPac and South American locations, and you can see that it can, in fact, get quite complex and expensive to deploy and maintain country specific solutions. Luckily, Cayan has the development resources, relationships and industry expertise to meet the international demands that our customers are relying on us to provide.
What part of the product development process do you like the best?
I love solving real problems for our customers because that's the real fun part of product management. Working with customers to identify a pain point and then designing the solution, developing the software, and launching the product successfully makes my job one of the most satisfying and rewarding careers I can think of. I love taking a concept from the conceptual stage through the development process to the product launch and ultimately creating customer delight.
What in your background prepared you for the path you chose?
I graduated college at the same time that businesses were beginning to use the Internet for commerce. I got involved with an ecommerce startup right out of college, and that was when the Internet bug bit me. I've been working for software companies ever since.
I entered the payments industry in early 2000, when I was hired by a large ISO to run their product management and product marketing efforts. I was responsible for selecting and assembling the solutions that we would sell, as well as developing the requirements for our own payment gateway. I really love being in the payments technology space since there is so much innovation going on, and the people are especially fantastic. I can't imagine myself doing anything else, and I'm OK with that.
Why did you decide to join Boston-based Cayan's Atlanta team?
As most payments professionals know, Atlanta has become the hub of the payment processing industry. With the majority of the processors and terminal manufacturers located here, it makes sense that there would be a lot of payments talent located in the Atlanta metro area.
Cayan has several other remote Atlanta employees. Since I own Core Payments from a product perspective, it actually helps that I am here and close to the processors and vendors that we work with on a daily basis. I do love to get to Boston on a regular basis, though, and our newly renovated office is amazing.
As a native Californian, what do you love about Atlanta and miss about your home state?
I am a fourth-generation Californian and moved to Atlanta for a career opportunity. It was tough to leave California as all my family and friends are there, but I have grown to love Atlanta. I really love the people and southern culture here, as well as the seasons, although I'm still getting used to humidity! I still get out to California on a regular basis to get my surfing and skiing fix, and to catch up with my family.
What does the ETA Technology Council do and why do you volunteer?
The council is responsible for identifying current and emerging technology-related issues and assisting with communication of these issues to the membership. It also provides information on technology trends and applications to ensure that ETA is established as a valued information source for members and for the industry. All of the members are industry veterans with a vast amount of payment technology experience so, selfishly, it's also a learning opportunity for me to continue to grow as a payments professional.
It's a chance for me to not only give back to the payments community, but it's also an opportunity for me to ensure that I am staying current on emerging technologies and innovations such that I can also assist Cayan when it comes to thinking about what we will or won't build and deliver for our customers. The ETA is a great industry organization, and Cayan has several folks on other committees and counsels and, in fact, our CEO Henry Helgeson sits on the board.
What prompted you to join The Green Sheet's advisory board?
I have actually been on The Green Sheet Advisory Board since the early 2000s. First with EXS, then with Verifone and now with Cayan. I enjoy contributing to the publication as well as learning from the rest of the board members. It's a great way to participate in arguably our ISO and acquirer community's best source of payments information.
Did you consider other career paths?
I studied agroecology in college, which is just a fancy word for organic farming. I guess I could see myself as an organic farmer, and I still am an avid gardener but, honestly, I can't imagine considering another career path at this point in my life. Software, and specifically payments technology, has been a great career for me, and I truly enjoy what I'm doing.
What are some of your outside interests?
I love to garden, and I play tennis and men's league hockey. I really enjoy the outdoors, so chances are I'll be camping or hiking on the weekends and, being from California, surfing and chilling at the beach are also high on the list.
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