Ryan Singer

Product Developer, Advisor, Builder

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Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters

My Experience

I've worked on all levels of the software stack, from defining strategy to shaping projects to designing interfaces to writing code to marketing.

In 2003 I was on the team of three at 37signals that created Basecamp and deeply influenced the early software-as-a-service industry. Over 17 years, I designed features used by millions and invented processes our teams used to design, develop and ship software. Always looking to understand the bigger picture, my role evolved from UI Designer to Product Manager to Head of Strategy.

At each step, I had to solve problems in a new field using methods that aren't taught in schools. This led me to acquire a unique toolkit of research and strategy tools to "see in the dark" when no one else knew where to go.

My expertise lies in the zone between the demand and the supply side. I figure out what potential customers are struggling to do, map that to technical expertise, then shape a product concept that teams can implement.

In 2019, I wrote a book about managing software development: Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters. Widely read by leaders in the industry, Shape Up changed the way many software teams talk about shaping projects, making bets, and targeting unknowns.


I've been mentored by the best of the best.

Jason Fried honed my intuition for product design through years of working side-by-side. He challenged me to simplify and eliminate until I constantly made choices about what mattered: what to elevate and what to push back, what to include and what to leave out.

David Heinemeier Hansson and Basecamp's early core of programmers schooled me in software design practices, especially the art of separating concerns and designing code to be read by the human over the computer. I learned to program in the tradition of people they looked up to, like Kent Beck, Martin Fowler and the Pragmatic Programmers.

Bob Moesta, co-creator of the Jobs To Be Done framework with Clayton Christensen, personally trained me in demand-side interview methods, demand-side research and system design techniques. I consider myself lucky to have received insights passed down to him from one of his mentors, Genichi Taguchi, on the role of function and variability in the design of systems and quality measures.

Current Work

I'm currently working with a small team to invent the next generation of creative and planning tools for the early stages of software projects.

I reserve a limited amount of time to advise leaders of software teams on product development. I usually hear from them when they're growing and their product development process is slowing down or getting stuck.

I like helping people articulate their problems. Feel welcome to reach out even if you don't yet have a clear question in mind.

My email address is rjs@hey.com.


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