Benji Portwin is the head of product at health software company accuRx. He cut his teeth as a modern product manager working at some of the most exciting digital companies around, including Spotify and Monzo. He also spent time advising the UK government on digital technology as part of the cabinet office technology transformation.
Originally from London, Benji studied engineering science at Oxford University, specializing in biomedical, civil, and production engineering. After graduating, Benji found his way into product management and agile coaching. Since then, he has worked with an impressive array of organizations across a wide range of industries, from politics to healthcare to fast-moving consumer goods (otherwise known as FMCG).
Benji Portwin is perhaps best known as an agile coach and product management expert. He has worked for several of the most innovative and exciting startups and digital services and has advised and coached a diverse range of organizations, helping them generate company-wide change and agile transformation.
He is a certified scrum product owner and an accredited agile trainer. He also has a background in managing teenagers (he was a math teacher in 2011!), so unruly software development teams don’t faze him!
The foundation of Benji’s approach is that the best teams are built on trust. Agile coaches can use a variety of different tools, tricks, and techniques to manage their teams, but the most important thing is that everyone has confidence in their teammates’ ability to get the job done and to support each other when necessary.
However, Benji doesn’t shy away from encouraging a little conflict. One unusual aspect of his approach is his belief that conflict can actually help build and nurture trust. Truly effective teams don’t rely solely on direction from the team leader. Rather, they get things done as a group.
Each team member must be able to be proactive, take initiative, and not be afraid to speak up or even to disagree. Benji argues that a team can only become highly effective when its members feel confident enough to speak openly and not just silently nod along. "Beneficial conflict" makes teams tougher and more likely to develop their own solutions, rather than relying on a manager to make difficult decisions for them.
Benji writes a Medium blog at https://medium.com/@benjiportwin. It’s an excellent mix of practical advice for agile teams, coaching recommendations, and some great writing about his own personal experiences working with teams like Spotify, Monzo, and the UK government.
He’s also an active social media user and posts (semi) regularly on Twitter (@benjiportwin).