Sean Sullivan, Product Manager in Fair Haven, NJ, United States
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Sean Sullivan

Verified Expert  in Product Management

Product Manager

Fair Haven, NJ, United States
Toptal Member Since
October 1, 2019

For 20 years, Sean has turned ideas into market-leading products used in both small organizations and demanding businesses like JPMC and Google. He has been the first product manager and grown agile teams to 40+ PM/POs. Deep experience in all aspects of the product lifecycle, go-to-market, and data-driven product management. He can help you discover solutions to the most critical customer problems while coaching teams to repeatable success.

Project Highlights

Repositioned AI Platform
Positioned AI technology platform enabling multiple industry awards, unsolicited RFPs, and major funding round.
Created Category Dominant Product
Turned workflow capability into a premium product in a new product category that drove a decade of business growth.
ThetaRay Product Launch
Developed strategy, managed 3 design partners, and prioritized roadmap to successful 6-month new product launch.


Work Experience

Head of Product Marketing

2017 - 2019
  • Defined product strategy and updated positioning to differentiate AI/ML technology in a crowded market.
  • Established go to market plans and executed on 1 new product launches and 4 major updates.
  • Provided sales enablement tools like training, competitive battle cards, demos, and collateral to support a team tripling in size.
  • Developed robust market intelligence to support informed strategy and go-to-market.
  • Drove product discovery with end-users at global firms such as OCBC, Citi, Santander and ABN Amro.
  • Supported messaging and briefing for industry analysts such as Gartner, Celent, Aite, and Chartis.
  • Managed multiple design partnerships with customers.
  • Led RFP/RFI and Industry award responses that resulted in multiple recognitions such as Asian Banker Regulatory Technology of the Year.
  • Supported investor roadshow that resulted in a $30 million Series B.

Head of Portfolio Management

2016 - 2017
NICE Actimize
  • Led 6-month Agile transformation to SAFe involving 350 in R&D, 45 in product management, and many additional impacted external stakeholders.
  • Developed competency model and professional development training programs for product management.
  • Coached 45 product managers and product owners as part of a community of practice.
  • Managed portfolio strategy and planning across all four lines of business impacting annual and multiyear investment planning.
  • Defined standards and practices for strategic product planning, roadmaps, policies, communications, and team compositions.
  • Drove selection and commercial negotiations with Tableau, leading to a multi-year strategic partnership.
  • Worked to ensure all product lines effectively integrated and consistently commercialized Tableau integration.

Senior Director, Product Management

2010 - 2016
NICE Actimize
  • Managed 14 product managers across 20 major solutions.
  • Upgraded and launched next-generation platform leverage by all company business solutions.
  • Coordinated effective planning and launch of 3 major solution suites.
  • Aligned strategic plans on 4 lines of business.
  • Defined multi-year cloud product strategy.
  • Introduced UX design competency; built and led UX working group of lead customer users.
  • Created and managed OEM partner programs with over 30 technology and data partners.
  • Led product due diligence in acquisition talks with RedKite Financial Markets.

Director, Business Infrastructure Products

2008 - 2010
NICE Actimize
  • Defined product standards across UX, data privacy, security, quality, and lifecycle management.
  • Led product due diligence and post-merger strategy on two major company acquisitions: Fortent and Syfact.
  • Managed joint product offerings with strategic solution partners including Pershing and FIS Global.
  • Rearchitected and launched a new version of the platform enabling multi-tenant SaaS solutions.
  • Direct responsibility for roadmaps, requirements, and prioritization of all core infrastructure products.
  • Led packaging and pricing standards implementation.
  • Led or supported all key RFPs, strategic sales, and analyst/industry reviews.

Director, Case Management Products

2007 - 2008
NICE Actimize
  • Repositioned core workflow and operations tool from solution infrastructure only to a standalone enterprise product.
  • Launched four value added add-on products.
  • Positioned offerings into new market category.
  • Developed and led industry thought leadership in financial crime case management.
  • Supported post-acquisition product strategy.
  • Defined sales demos and other enablement tools.

Product Manager

2004 - 2007
  • Defined practice as first product management hire.
  • Introduced product lifecycle management.
  • Created and nurtured first user group.
  • Rapidly matured demoware software to production viable enterprise software in a highly regulated industry.
  • Developed training materials and trained customers.

Senior Product Manager

1999 - 2004
Information Builders
  • Managed suites of business intelligence solutions with major ERP vendors.
  • Directly managed partnerships with PeopleSoft, Siebel, Oracle, and JD Edwards.
  • Defined products, roadmaps, and launches for 10 products.
  • Developed demos, collateral, trained, and support global sales.
  • Wrote test suite for products managed.
  • Defined web security standards across the entire company product portfolio as part of the central committee.

Repositioned AI Platform

Positioned AI technology platform enabling multiple industry awards, unsolicited RFPs, and major funding round.

Enterprise AI vendor was building substantial technology IP that was marketed as a development platform across many markets and categories with limited traction. Further, the product roadmap was unfocused having to deal with a wide variety of potential use cases that would change with every potential new deal.

Sean led the repositioning of the product to focus on the specific category of Anti-Money Laundering Solution within major banks.

This led to multiple benefits:
- Development became more effectively prioritized
- Design focused on a narrower set of user personas
- Recognized by Gartner Magic Quadrant
- Recognized by Chartis RiskTech100 & 2 MarketQuadrants
- Marketing spending ROI improved significantly
- Two industry awards based on customer nomination
- First unsolicited RFPs began arriving
- Customer-facing team easier to train to enable better CX

Created Category Dominant Product

Turned workflow capability into a premium product in a new product category that drove a decade of business growth.

Actimize sold risk detection solutions that included a workflow component to review alerted events. Market research and customer feedback indicated an opportunity to expand the workflow capability into a platform to consume risks detected by other systems.

Sean successfully made the business case to invest in a premium version and followed through in managing its strategy, plan, and launch to much market success. This new product:

- Generated $1.5 million in revenue in 3 months post-launch.
- 10 years later drove $100 million in direct and indirect revenue.
- Won multiple industry awards, annually.
- Product used by 9 out of 10 largest banks
- Highest NPS for portfolio product
- Enabled the acquisition and integration of 3 prior competitors
- Non-premium version remains core to all portfolio solutions

ThetaRay Product Launch

Developed strategy, managed 3 design partners, and prioritized roadmap to successful 6-month new product launch.

ThetaRay was focused on its core AI intellectual property but hired me, in part, to bring to market a complimentary product already committed to key customers.

Starting from a basis of sales led commitments, Sean worked to plan and direct a rapid development process through to launch of version 1 of the Investigation Center -- a tool for analysis and investigation of machine learning explainable results alongside source data.

Key development activities:
- Market and competitive research
- Ran design partnerships 3 key customers
- Defined and communicated delivery strategy
- Wrote requirements
- Built many prototypes with designer
- Established delivery priorities for R&D

Key go-to-market activities:
- Established branding, positioning, and pricing
- Defined messaging, sales collateral, and demos
- Briefed key analysts

The first live customer said it saved them 40% operational time over previous industry-standard tools in use. This amounts to millions of $ savings per year.

Created User Experience Working Group

Established a formalized user experience design working group of client end-users to research product design.

As company products and the industry matured the user experience became a more significant part of competitive advantage as it drove user efficiency, delight, and higher NPS when executed well.

In order to foster UX Design and its benefits Sean introduced and led the UX Design Working Group (UXWG) that included about 50 users from 30 clients globally. This body was used for:

- Ethnographic studies
- Prototypes and Beta Release Programs
- Focus Groups
- Yammer Discussion Groups, Surveys, and Discussions
- Lead Users to present our software during user groups

Early success supported the need to grow the internal support by hiring a dedicated design team.

Eventually, this team and UXWG operated across the entire company portfolio of 40+ business solutions becoming a point of pride for many end-users that got to participate.

Actimize Product Organization Competency Model

Defined and instituted a professional competency model for product managers, product owners, and product marketing.

As a growing organization, Actimize needed to establish a clear mechanism for professional growth and the right support to enable it.

Using industry research, internal surveys, and best practices, Sean defined a model for roles, responsibilities, and clear job progression based upon expected levels of competency mastery.

Covered product owners, product managers, product marketers, and up to the heads of each product line. The model was built with the support of executive management, HR, and other stakeholders to the extended product team.

Directly impacted:
- 45 product managers and product owners
- 10 product marketing managers

Results included:
- Increased employee job satisfaction
- Simplified hiring and promotion practices
- Improved standards of communication

Lead Agile Transformation

Led agile transformation to SAFe to improve market agility of very large software development organization.

Actimize grew from traditional waterfall new product development methodologies with sporadic instances of agile methods interspersed. This was becoming less viable in terms of responsiveness to market opportunities, hiring and talent management.

While the COO selected SAFe as a scaled agile framework for scrum, Sean was trained as an expert coach and became a lead transformation evangelist.

- Over 40 scrum teams aligned on 6 agile release trains
- The transformation from training to initial launch in 4 months
- Completed initial transformation in 7 months
- Ran Product Management Community of Practice to coach and mentor employees during and post-transformation.
- Coached product managers and product owners

Product Management Tools Selection

Increased visibility and alignment of business strategy with R&D execution via modern product management tool.

ThetaRay was constrained by two key challenges in a rapidly evolving startup environment:

(1) Lacked visibility between strategy and development execution
(2) Document, track, and provide tracability to engineering on product backlog items

Sean conducted a market survey and recommended Aha!, a modern product management tool for implementation to solve these challenges.

- Collaborated to design process definitions in the tool.
- Launched idea portal for employees and customers
- Converted legacy data over
- Expanded all competitor profiles and user personas in the tool
- Lead product strategy review using the new tool.
- Trained broader stakeholders on reporting from the system

The new system was implemented in 3 months, with integration into Jira, fully transforming the product development process.

M&A Due Diligence of Fortent

Recommended acquisition of Fortent based on product and technology due diligence - resulting in successful acquisition.

Actimize was the dominate market provider of AML solutions to major banks around the world. However, it lacked the ability to scale and features demanded by the top 10 retail banks.

Fortent was the leading provider to these largest retail banks and we performed due diligence to consider acquiring them. Sean was responsible for two analysis tracks of product and technology.

This covers:
- Understanding fit with existing portfolio
- Modeling potential post-merger product strategy
- Assessing product and technology maturity and risks
- Assessing product partnership risks and opportunities

The team decided to move forward with the acquisition and it became a significant new addition to the Actimize product portfolio.

Actimize Visual Analytics with Tableau

Partnered with Tableau to build and launch Actimize Visual Analytics providing major portfolio extension innovation.

Major enterprise software providers like Actimize need to demonstrate innovations that drive substantial new value to customers over time. One particular weakness they had was around business intelligence across their portfolio.

Based upon customer research on needs, internal business drivers, a market survey of leading technologies, and technology feasibility Sean shortlisted and later selected Tableau as a strategic OEM partner.

Major activities included:
- Learning all major market players
- Negotiating business terms with shortlist options
- Driving technical due diligence through CTO team
- Coordinating and negotiating an acceptable final contract
- Obtained major funding to close a multi-year deal
- Sold vision and strategy internally
- Drove multiple product teams to the aligned roadmap
- Trained sales, marketing, and other stakeholders for launch
- Established branding, pricing, and packaging
- Launched in time for major company marketing event

FIS RCM Classic Launch Strategy

Advised FIS Global on strategy to sunset and replace legacy product with branded alternative.

FIS Global had acquired a company and product called ICMS that was used by over 100 banks for security and risk management operations. ICMS was built on legacy technology and they did not want to invest in rewriting the product but they did want to maintain happy customers.

As such, they partnered with Norkom to replace ICMS but hit major issues in delivery and market friction eventually retracting the plan from the market, ending their partnership with Norkom.

Subsequently, they came to Actimize and Sean worked with them to define a comprehensive technology replacement strategy and communications plan that would provide their customers with a better end result, preventing attrition.

Key Joint Activities:
- Strategic plan for delivery and technical transition
- Integrated joint roadmap plan
- Advised on pricing and feature packaging
- Advised partner on end-of-life and support communications

24 months after launch, FIS was able to successfully transitions 70% of the customer base to the new offering.
2000 - 2002

Master's Degree in Information Technology

Stevens Institute of Technology - Hoboken, NJ

1992 - 1996

Bachelor's Degree in Information Systems

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute - Troy, NY


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