AMA SESSION WITH KINGSLEY NNOROM
On 20th January, 2022, we had Kingsley Nnorom as the PM guest on our bi-weekly #ProductDiveAMA.
Kingsley Nnorom is a Senior Product Manager at Interswitch Group. Within this role, he is majorly responsible for Product innovation though developing concepts, design and delivery of new products for the PurePay division. Prior to Interswitch, Kingsley was at Cellulant as a product manager tasked with developing the retail product, Tingg and the B2B blockchain-based solution, Agrikore. In addition to these, he worked on major platform redesigns from mobile apps to bulk disbursements and Offline payment solutions. Kingsley started his career at Airtel as customer service personnel and quickly rose to a key account executive before his exit. He then joined eTranzact, where he started his product management journey. His experience ranges from, but is not limited to working on the conceptualization, launch and scaling of products on Agency banking, Mobile banking, Payment gateways, mPOS and ATM, USSD, Disbursement Platforms, Fraud Screening, Switching platforms, Cards and Card Networks, Tokenization and Blockchain. He holds an MBA and several other certifications. Kingsley is passionate about solving real market problems and spends his spare time reading and football.
ProductDiver: In B2B, how do you go about releasing planning? Is it approached differently from how it is in B2C companies? I know short releases do not always work in B2B.
Kingsley: Thanks. Yes, release plans are a bit different for B2B projects as they tend to run for way longer (some, for years) and have more associated risks. One major difference marker is how much you involve the stakeholders (internal and external) with regards to managing expectations. Typically, we’d take the full project that spans multiple program increments and break it down to milestones achievable within sprints. This allows us to:
1. Clearly communicate measurable progress to management and non techy stakeholders.
2. Reduce risk of reworks and such.
3. Effectively plan and manage our resources
4. Commence pre Go-live activities way before we conclude QA.
ProductDiver: How do you answer the interview question, “What value are you bringing as a PM and how will you change things”?
Kingsley: I think the Value question is very subjective. Reason being that to effectively answer this, you’d need a lot of information into the type of company and their target market segment, where the company is in terms of growth, market penetration and visibility, internal process optimization and business continuity. For a start-up, that answer will be a lot more aggressive, involving a lot of performance benchmarks around growth metrics like ARPU, etc. For a mid tier company, you’d mostly have a mix of growth metrics and process optimization. For a fully scaled company, it’s going to be mostly process optimization, new market growth drivers, management and team building skills, mentorship capabilities, client relationships and networks, long term innovation and strategic planning etc.
ProductDiver: What was the challenge you faced in transitioning to product management and what do you think you did right?
Kingsley: I have a medical science background in school, so I’m sure a lot of us have that in common here. Firstly, I had to learn everything about I.T systems on my own. This is the easiest part. The second level is to get your hands dirty. Finding actual projects to work on and express those theoretical knowledge acquired. For me, I had a group of developer friends who were always building stuff. So, I volunteered to run product management for them. We managed to publish a few apps on the playstore and got demo time at CCHub. The next phase is securing a PM role in a company. This will typically come with the need to passively cultivate respect within the development team working with you. For this, don’t rush it. Lean more on your soft skills and excellent understanding of systems. They will naturally draw to you once they know you are the guy that cracks the hard egg. It is also important to gain their trust at this point. Then comes the need to grow your knowledge, daily. Interact, read, research, get a certification (it helps with self confidence!). In time, you’d be amazed at how much knowledge you’ve passively and actively gathered. From my experience, I think a few things I did right was focus on only companies where I was certain to learn a lot from. Once I felt I got a hang of things, I moved somewhere else. Moving allows you multiple viewpoints to product approach and increases your value in the market fast. I also took up a lot of stinking kinds of jobs. I always try to look for the next big thing and be in the forefront of it. This gives you good exposure. Be patient also.
ProductDiver: What advice would you give a generalist PM with less than 3 years of experience who wants to switch to fintech?
Kingsley: Get grounded in the next big thing. Fintech has come. Look at Web3.0 and DeFi (Decentralized Finance). Start now to grow your understanding. Align yourself with the right community and you will grow with the scale. For Fintechs, you should take short-term Fintech training to understand how the electronic money ecosystem works. With this understanding and your product knowledge, you’d be able to make the switch. Granted the first few months will be tough as you’d be learning from zero up.
ProductDiver: How did you discover that product management is what you really want to do?
Kingsley: Thank you Juliana. It came naturally for me. Most product people are naturally problem solvers who get bored very fast with repetitive tasks. I always kid that if I was not a PM, I’d have been in school perpetually switching courses. Once you are at home with practical problem solving, the underlying technologies, understand how to monetize anything and how people work then you are ready to dive in.
ProductDiver: How do you stay organized? How do you manage releasing tasks to your team in a way that they don’t get overwhelmed while also keeping a tab of what needs to be done? Also, how do you catch up with the industry news/research?
Kingsley: I’m not a very organized person. Not gonna lie. For planning and implementation, I work very closely with my Project Managers, Scrum masters and Program Managers. Scrum + Kanban based tools allows me keep an eye on this at a personal level and using a lot of other collaboration tools cannot be over emphasized. Confluence is a gift from heaven. In terms of prioritizing, it’s a mixture of a lot of factors like market situation, project sponsors expectations, revenue implications etc…and these among others are considered in P.I planning. I’m terms of keeping abreast of industry, I do that after work hours. My free time is usually spent on research. In addition, I take out 4 hours a week, usually Thursday and Friday to run trends analysis, competition research and general catch up on the state of the market. Passive reading also helps a lot.
ProductDiver: My question is, at what point did you realize you’re now a senior pm?
Kingsley: Typically you’d get a Product Associate to work with you. Then your team will grow. As time goes on, you move from being responsible for a single product to being in charge of a plethora of them. Time and patience. Focus and dedication. I didn’t even know when I got this far in.
ProductDiver: My question is what advice do you have for someone who is just starting out as a PM.
Kingsley: Trust the process. Put in the work. Be diligent. Find a product mentor and bounce off ideas. Volunteer and get on the job experience.
ProductDiver: My question is if you at any time felt that “hmm this is new, how do I navigate this? How did you go through this stage?
Kingsley: Yes, everyday. My current role involves more of Product Development as against Management. This means I get to innovate around existing and new products and markets. The trick is to love what you do. When faced with new stuff, I dig deeper into documentations. Once you have a good grasp of documents, you are mostly good to go.
ProductDiver: Hi Kingsley, Thanks for the very informative session so far. I was wondering how long it took you to successfully transition? Like, from when you chose to do this till you landed your first stable job.
Kingsley: About 6-9months. I started with a free class on Coursera from the Uni of Alberta. Then, products were not as well known as today and not a lot of resources. I believe in today’s market, you can achieve this within 2-3months of dedicated practice.
ProductDiver: Many people looking to move into PM are concerned about job security. e.g Retention. Many startups will rise and collapse, laying off staff. How quick can a beginner who quit another job (career) to start as a PM cope?
Kingsley: With developers, PMs have excellent job security. Always research the start-up you want to join before signing up. Be frank and ask any company you want to work with how they make money, their cash flow situation e.t.c. What is their answer? If they get flustered or fail to answer convincingly, think twice before you proceed.
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