Refresh meets Rebekah: Connecting products with humanity

Rebekah Mueller believes it is possible to build products that provide balance in person's life.

Rebekah Mueller believes it is possible to build products that provide balance in person's life.

Rebekah Mueller is a Senior Director of Product Management for Audible, a division of Amazon. She manages a team of PMs for iOS and Android surfaces, and develops the long-term product strategy.

She will be on Product Stage at Refresh Conference and discuss a new way of building products - by connecting with our humanity.

We interviewed Rebekah, and she was very happy to share her visions, personal experiences, and how products can be combined with humanity.


Rebekah, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a product manager who specializes in entertainment products, living in the New York City area. Currently, I manage the international and emerging business product teams at Audible, an Amazon company. Audible’s mission is to release the power of the spoken word - a mission I hold quite dearly.

Prior to Audible, I worked at Comcast and Viacom, building TV products ranging from client-side mobile / OTT apps to data middleware.

Outside of the office, I travel as frequently as possible, consume any book or film I can get my hands on, and hike wherever I may be.


Do you have a vision in life?
My vision is to bring art to as many humans as possible. Whether it’s film, high quality TV, books, audiobooks, or more. I believe that cultures grow by sharing expressions of life with one another. It’s often forgotten that it’s not common for everyone across the globe to have contact with all art forms, which could inspire them to endless possibilities.


I’d like to help break down the barriers that prevent a person from accessing art.



What makes a good product?
“What makes a good product?” is something I believe everyone knows, but doesn’t want to admit.


A good product is one that solves problems for a group of humans, without creating residual problems.


So often what a customer truly wants or needs is right in front of your face, but it may go against a company’s goals. Or it might require working hand-in-hand with a competitor to break through the industry norm. Or perhaps it’s “too hard.” There are many reasons to avoid doing what’s right, but when people cast ego, preconceptions, or excuses aside, and work together - they can do incredible things.


How can we find and keep the humanity in products?
Remember the humans! Easier said than done, right? In the end, you have to consider how what you are building will impact someone’s life. And not just the happy path … What long-term effects can occur from what you are releasing into the world? So often you can hear all the wonderful things that can come from what a team is building, and so quickly will they jump to build it, yet rarely do they stop and think “but how could this negatively affect someone, or the world around them?” This is not to say that there are always negative effects from each and every project, but it’s always surprising how little they are considered.


How can a product provide a sense of balance in a person’s life?


A product can provide balance to a person’s life, by not trying to consume it.


It’s a delicate line. For years in the tech industry, I’ve heard talks or read books on how to make your product addicting. That word, or theory, never sat well with me, because it’s not a positive word or premise. So many things contribute positively to a person’s life, and a product should not strive to incrementally take over that life. If a customer is fulfilled by what I bring into the world, I am happy.

When creating products we should not strive for creating addictive products, but products that make customers feel fulfilled.

When creating products we should not strive for creating addictive products, but products that make customers feel fulfilled.

How has your work experience in TV and film influenced you and your work? Can you apply some of that experience to your current work? 
TV and film are all about building a narrative and communicating that message to others. Product managers relate to others in a similar way. I’ve mainly worked on the entertainment side of product, which has incredible similarities within itself. At the end of the day, entertainment products are all about helping folks cast aside their worries and enjoying a relaxing moment. They inspire. They help people learn and grow. I’ve found this connection in all the products I’ve worked on.


What is the most exciting part of working for Audible?
The most exciting part of working for Audible is that we are continually bringing joy, knowledge, and experiences to a person’s life. Whenever I mention where I work, there is an outpouring of love. It’s really magical to see a customer’s eyes light up talking about how we improved their day.


Last but not least some fire questions. Please complete the following sentences:
Never be afraid of …
… the future.

Success is …
… making a meaningful impact on the world.

Failure is …
… what makes us better.

It makes me happy …
… to see people enjoying their work.

I should do more often …
… “unplugging” during travel.


Refresh Conference is a product, design and front-end conference. It will take place on September 7 for the fourth time already and will bring 20 great speakers and 700+ attendees to Tallinn, Estonia. Refresh provides inspiration for building great product experiences and design on the web.


Author: Katharina Sowa
Social Media Marketing & Content
Refresh Conference