AMA SESSION WITH DOLAPO AMUSAN

On 17th February, 2022, we had Dolapo as the PM guest on our bi-weekly #ProductDiveAMA.

Meet Dolapo

Dolapo is a Product manager with Cowrywise, where he is part of the awesome team responsible for democratizing savings and investment products for the millennial African.

He transitioned into tech after being a practicing medical doctor for 4 years. He started his transition as a data analyst role in Hygeia HMO, then data consulting in various projects across the health, retail and services industries. Dolapo has worn many hats: marketing, HR, product and design as a business owner when he co-founded Zavandi Jewellery, a digital luxury retail brand.

Dolapo holds an MBA from the Lagos Business School/IESEG School of Management in Paris, France. He is a fan of reading Malcolm Gladwell for self-development and Ted Dekker for fiction. He spends his spare time playing football on FIFA, and still somehow believes in Arsenal football club winning a UEFA Champions League trophy.

ProductDiver: 

How would you describe the product culture at Cowrywise? Also, can you share some of your experience with idea validation, who’s involved in and how do they contribute?

Dolapo: 

Product culture at Cowrywise is fantastic. Very data driven and open communication about the whole process from ideation to design to development. At Cowrywise, we run on the philosophy of having ideas come from anyone at the company, not just the C-suite. We are always implementing fast, which means we have to deal with change quite quickly too. So in summary, it is fast-paced, exciting and rewarding.

ProductDiver: 

How do you prioritize Product discovery efforts?

Dolapo: 

As regards product discovery, it’s important to prioritize what users do over what users say.

If we have analytics already setup on our product, I want to look there for answers first. You can already see what the users are doing, what their behaviors are like and how they are interacting.

Then, you can go out and get data either by observing users in their natural state of interacting with the product or by using tools that can do this for you.

Finally is asking the user directly, in the form of surveys, questionnaires etc. I put this as the last resort because technically it is the most unreliable. What people say they do often varies wildly from what they actually do. Also, how you ask your question can affect the way users answer the question. So I rate this the least effective product discovery step.

ProductDiver: 

1. I’m a product manager with a commercial bank, we mostly do excel sheets and PowerPoints to show the current situations on our existing products and make presentations to management, however, we don’t try to create. It is my bias that our leaders are unable to see reason to try and innovate or be first in line, how do I systematically change this perception as an entry level staff.

2. I have made the decision to go with PM for my career however, I see on LinkedIn that Product management requires lots of basic tech skills which I don’t have, can you please direct me to some quick affordable resources to gain these skills

Dolapo: So there is this concept of companies being either business-led or product-led. A very simple way I personally use to differentiate between them is whether the company has an active manpower-heavy sales team. If human beings are the ones selling the company, it is business-led. If the product itself, or the users are the ones driving growth, I see the company as being product-led. Most (if not all) commercial banks in Nigeria are business-led as opposed to being product-led and it can surely be a little more challenging to innovate with the product as the PM. They are financial institutions that have a tech department, as opposed to tech companies creating financial solutions.

Q1, you may want to identify clear ways your innovation can affect the bottomline, whether in the short-term or long-term. You’ve got to creatively understand who the stakeholders are and how to win them over to your side which allows you to innovate on the product.

Q2, I think the primary skill a PM needs is what I’d call tech-smart. You need to be quick and eager to learn new tools, organize your productivity, research information, make reasonable data deductions and understand a little bit of design. So if I were to make a list; task organization, web research, basic data analysis and basic design. You can build on this.

ProductDIver: 

Do you think it’s A MUST to have another tech skill ( eg web dev, UI/UX,)before becoming a PM? I’m asking this because I’m transitioning too and learning 1000 and 1 things dey scatter person brain right now

Dolapo: I think there are multiple paths into being a PM. For me it was data and design. I had been a graphic designer + UI/UX designer for over a decade. I had also taken a liking to data (MS Excel) even in my previous jobs. So it was quite easy for me to use this as an entry point.

It is not a MUST, but it certainly helps you sell yourself better if your first role in being a PM will be handed to you (as an employee). However, if you decide to forge out creating your own product and building a business in the process, you don’t necessarily need extra skills. You can pick them up along the way.

These skills are good to have because as a PM, you will be acting as a bridge between various teams; the better you can understand the various stakeholders, the smoother your work is.

ProductDiver:

Hi Dolapo, How was transitioning for you from health into tech..I am transitioning from health also and I’m beginning to feel like there’s so much to take in all at once…Any advice as someone who has had to switch careers also?

Dolapo:

It can be a gradual shift and you can work at your own comfortable pace.

“Pick up one transferable skill at a time and develop it” will be my advice. Data was the key transferable skill for me to transition from health to product. I decided to be the best data guy in the room (room full of medical doctors, mind you!). Basically, you want to pick up a skill that is very useful in software and technology firms.

As a PM, I understand that getting the document complete and accurate is my responsibility so I often work on it first, thinking through the entire flow and identifying the needed steps. Then I came up with a first draft. I then share with my fellow PM who also looks over and gives her insight (She is fantastic! Tip: Work with great people). Then I’d share with my team and have them review before we get to implement it.

In summary, I make it a team effort as much as possible. But the process starts with me. It’s primarily my work.

ProductDiver:

Do you write the functional specifications and acceptance criteria for new features on a product? If yes, what is the process like? Do you send it to everyone in the team involved to get their feedback or do you work on it with your designers and engineers present? How do you decide what specifications to add to a feature and user story?

Dolapo:

As a PM, I understand that getting the document complete and accurate is my responsibility so I often work on it first, thinking through the entire flow and identifying the needed steps. Then I came up with a first draft. I then share with my fellow PM who also looks over and gives her insight (She is fantastic! Tip: Work with great people). Then I’d share with my team and have them review before we get to implement it.

In summary, I make it a team effort as much as possible. But the process starts with me. It’s primarily my work.

ProductDiver:

How did you get in for your MBA , was the process tedious, any special requirements

Dolapo: 

First of all, God’s grace!

I wrote GRE and tried my best to get a good score. Thankfully, I did (after countless nights of quant practices). I also had to write essays to display my communication skills and also prove why the school should accept me. Top it up with positive confessions.

ProductDiver:

How were you able to transition into product management considering your educational background? Was there anything that piqued your interest and informed your decision to choose this path? Or was it like you “stumbled” it and discovered that you enjoy doing this?

Dolapo:

For me, my design background & love for data was key to my transition. I also happened to have co-founded a “tech-business” which exposed me to the world of product management. So I enjoyed design and data already, product management allowed me to combine it all.

ProductDiver:

What does it take to write scrum exams. and learning seems to be challenging.. How can I simplify it?

Dolapo: 

I am not SCRUM certified as of today, but got my basic training in SCRUM through the Product Dive course I did. I added a bit of study to it and now I am able to comfortably run sprints in Cowrywise. So, the question of prepping for the exam may be better answered by someone who has done the examination!

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