Meet Todd Touesnard, who joins the Foursquare team as VP of Enterprise Product. Residing these days in San Francisco, Todd will help Foursquare refine and build out our suite of enterprise products to help businesses leverage location technology in new and exciting ways.
Read our Q&A with Todd below to learn more about his career and vision for growing our enterprise offerings.
Tell us about your background and career path.
I was born in Canada, and grew up in a small town where sports were a big part of the culture. I played baseball and hockey growing up, ran track at university, and I now coach Little League and basketball (and cycle whenever I can!).
As far as my career path, it wasn’t the straightest line. I’d wanted to be a veterinarian from the age of eight, so that’s the path I was on for a long time. There was a vet clinic a block from my house, and I ended up working there as a teenager. I studied science, worked really hard, and was accepted into veterinary medicine school.
Around that time, I became interested in computer science. I started taking classes, coding, and playing with data. I went deep–my friends and family got used to seeing a lot less of me for a while! What started as a side interest had begun to pull me from the path that I’d planned on my whole life. I found it really exciting, so I ultimately made the decision to walk away from my first passion to spend more time understanding why I was so drawn to technology.
I started consulting, worked for big companies, then smaller ones, explored different sectors, and traveled quite a bit. Then I got bit by the start-up bug.
Please describe your primary area(s) of expertise. How will you apply these skills/expertise to your work at Foursquare/with location technology?
Early on in my career, a mentor of mine told me I could choose between being a specialist or a generalist. At the time, it made sense: This was how technical paths used to be. You chose a path and kept going. But once I dipped my toes in the water, I realized I wanted to do both. In the beginning, I was an engineer, and later I was with clients on the front lines.
Eventually, that’s how I started working predominantly in product roles. What I love about working in product is that I get to partner with so many different functions. I work with market-facing teams and customers. And, because of my technical background, I also really enjoy going deep with engineers. I look forward to doing all of that here, and finding ways to create deeper connections and cohesiveness across teams.
What are the greatest opportunities for impact/innovation you see for location data and technology?
The technology around location evolved quickly, but adoption has always trailed behind. Now, location technology is critical to many industries and part of our day-to-day lives. As the understanding of location technology deepens, the momentum is really picking up. And the opportunity is growing like crazy. Imagine the impact location can have in new areas of innovation like AR, autonomous vehicles, and climate.
As a product leader, you’ve experienced firsthand how new technologies can be created to solve some of the greatest challenges facing businesses and society today. What are some areas/challenges that you see as ripe for innovation, and what might that innovation look like?
Climate comes to mind because of its incredible impact on all of us. It wasn’t that long ago that basic recycling programs didn’t exist. Today, we are seeing new technology and investment aimed at reducing carbon emissions, building renewable infrastructure and producing low-carbon electricity. It also feels like leaders in this space have started breaking the problem down into its component parts (carbon accounting, carbon intelligence, carbon offsets, etc.) which, hopefully, will lead to game-changing technologies that will make a real difference.
What do you think are the most important skills for a product manager to develop/maintain in order to have a thriving career?
I think number one is to have empathy. As a product leader, you’re constantly talking to people with points of view, objectives, and context that’s different from yours. Keeping that in mind is essential–and it also helps you reframe and remain flexible when needed. So beyond just translating technical information to the business teams, being a good listener and communicator is critical to success. Empathy can make good product leaders become great.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
To follow your passion, even when you don’t understand it fully. If your heart’s in it, work doesn’t feel like work. And when you don’t understand it fully, it means you can stay curious. That’s what one of my earliest professional mentors–the veterinarian I worked for–told me when I found myself at the crossroads I mentioned earlier. It was solid advice then and now. I also find that when you’re happy and fulfilled doing what you’re doing, people are drawn to that energy, and they’ll get right in the trenches with you.