AMA SESSION WITH OLAWALE OMOTOSO
On 12th October 2022, Olawale Omotoso was the guest PM on our monthly #ProductDiveAMA session.
Olawale is a product manager with over 4 years of experience in building and managing innovative products across various industries such as fashion, education, energy, e-commerce, and logistics.
He believes that tech is a tool to enhance our daily realities, making our current processes easier, faster, or cheaper. Hence the need for product managers to be user obsessed. He loves reading, swimming, and watching football
He is a ProductDive alumnus and it’s exciting to see his growth!
ProductDiver: Why product management and what fueled your desire for product management?
Olawale: I am actually an accidental product manager by the way. So I can’t really speak about product management without speaking about what I did before product management. I started tech while I was in school and did literally everything needed to build software products. So I sort of picked several skills along the way ranging from software development to product design, marketing and even selling the products through pitches. I was involved in every stage. So by default, I found product management as an intersection to all of this and defined my position as a product manager. I did some courses to help me define the role also.
During covid, my factory was locked up and I felt idle. After covid, I’d learn enough to want to pursue a career.
ProductDiver: How can one transition from a PM to a Technical Product Manager?
Olawale: I think you need to learn more of the technical stuff and do. You know the PM role is about doing. Better still, learn to code and be good at it (optional).
ProductDiver: What are the challenges you face as a PM and how have you been able to handle them?
Olawale: The first challenge – working in an organization where they employ you because every startup they know is employing one. So they don’t know what you are supposed to even bring to the team. Their expectations kept changing every week. As a junior PM, it was a big headache for me. I had a mentor who advised me to leave, I switched jobs and I was fine.
ProductDiver: How was the beginning for you? Did you start as an intern?
Olawale: I was an entrepreneur with a fair amount of success before being a PM.
So, I had transferable skills. I got an associate product manager role to start with.
I got the role by preaching my transferable skill passionately at every interview I got. Serious preaching! But as soon as I got that one, the confidence to move forward was there.
ProductDiver: Can you share some of your experiences in Product Management in the fashion industry?
Olawale: Where I worked was a fashion marketplace startup. Any demand and supply system is usually tough. In a never-ending fight to balance both sides of the coin. To get orders (demand), your supply side (the vendors) needs to post consistently and to get the vendor to log in and post their outfits, they need to get an order from the few they’ve posted before now. So, we had to gamify the supply side to bring them in everyday
ProductDiver: If you weren’t a Product manager, what would you be doing and why?
Olawale: Remain an entrepreneur. It is rewarding. Though the cost is blood and sweat.
ProductDiver: I know you had a business before becoming a PM, could you please highlight the skills you transferred as an entrepreneur to the role of a PM and what made you stand out?
Olawale: Communication, Market research, Team management, Storytelling, Business analytics – I could identify which of our efforts was making money and which ones are for bringing in traffic and social media noise but no money.
ProductDiver: What made you stand out at interviews?
Olawale: I sell myself at interviews using my strong point. I am user obsessed, I care less about engineering possibilities during market research. I can bring a team together to achieve a common goal and I can figure out what makes money. I forget what I don’t know for a second and sell what I know passionately. I like to think I’m also confident, I think that stands out for me too but I’m not sure.
I say this often; no phase of one’s life stands alone. Life is progressive and we all should think that way.
When I jump on interview calls and from the first minute of introducing myself
I start to sell my strong point, I’m connecting every phase of my professional career with the skills I transferred and the impacts I made using those skills.
ProductDiver: I’m very interested in the fashion product management space, I’d love it if you could share some tips and strategies that helped you standout.
Olawale: Sincerely, I do not think I was special to get in. I think I got in because my business as an entrepreneur was a fashion business. I’m kinda the first or one of the first persons to make branded men’s underwear in Nigeria. Hence, what I was saying about transferable skills is.
Again, Life is progressive and some would like it to be a ladder. I went for those jobs I could get into easily first and walked my way up from there.
I don’t have any full-time or standard fintech experience except side gigs but in my current experience, I’ve built a financial feature into our product.
When I’m ready for fintech jobs. I’m selling that on every cover letter and every interview.
ProductDiver: Please, what is the name of the fashion marketplace you worked at? I would love to look them up.
Olawale: Get Tailored – you could order bespoke outfits and get them delivered to your doorstep globally
ProductDiver: Finally, what would you say to an aspiring product manager?
Olawale: Learn and connect (build network). Knock on doors and get to contribute to a product, free or paid – any!
Also, figure out your transferable skills today and make it into a story that you are going to tell on a cover letter and at interviews. Finally, speak up.
ProductDiver: Can I be a good product manager without having interest and knowing product design?
Olawale: Design is a huge part of product management because you need to be able to visualize whatever it is you want to build.
You don’t have to be a professional product designer to be a product manager but you should be able to get your sketches and wireframes done using design tools.
You must be interested but you don’t have to be 10/10.