On the 16th of March 2021, ProductDive had the pleasure of hosting Deborah Ogana as our PM guest on our bi-weekly #ProductDiveAMA. and she answered all of our questions.
Deborah Ogana is the Lead Product Manager at Mint Digital Bank. Before moving to Mint, she was a Product Manager at Lendsqr where she was managing both internal and external teams to ensure consistent product delivery. Deborah is passionate about building unique, valuable, and successful products that solve real-world problems.With her experience in Project and Product Management, she’s been able to spearhead the development and delivery of exceptional products and services to customers across multiple industries.
Let’s get right down to it!
ProductDiver: Can you tell us about how you transitioned from a background in communication to a career in project and product management in Tech? And what can someone who’s also trying to move from a similar background into Product Management learn from your Journey?
Deborah: My transition into tech Project and Product Management was never deliberate. I thought I would always be a TV broadcaster until the opportunity came during my service year.
Transitioning was tough because it was uncharted waters for me, however, I was willing to explore the space and learn as fast as possible. Great product managers are always willing to take risks, explore and learn on the go. Emphasis on the learning. Learning would require you to let go of a lot of assumptions (that you think are correct) and embrace new ideas with an open mind.
ProductDiver: From your experience, what do you think a PM can do to transit into Fintech from another industry… say E-commerce?
Deborah: First of all, ask yourself why you want to transition. And if you are convinced about your resolution, then start by learning everything you can about the new space. For a space like Fintech that is very dynamic, just like e-commerce, you would have to ensure you dedicate quality time to staying up to date with the new trends in the industry.
Secondly, you can start conversations with PMs in the new space to learn how it works for them and how they are scaling the hurdles they face. Collaboration is very essential for your success as a budding Fintech PM.
Thirdly, if it isn’t too much of a hassle for you, you can volunteer to work on a Fintech project with experienced PMs and learn closely. The hands-on knowledge will be very helpful in facilitating your transition.
ProductDiver: How does all the regulation in the Fintech space affect Product Development at Mint?
Deborah: Yes, you are right! There are a host of regulations in the Fintech space, some of which can throw you off balance.
At Mint Digital Bank, we’ve learned to stay prepared, because we know more regulations would keep coming (take the new USSD policy for example ). So the Product Management team is learning to build a flexible system that accommodates these changes.
Sincerely, these regulations have been tough on the way we build and on our roadmap, but we try as much as possible to build in redundancy so that if one option doesn’t work as a result of a regulation, we have a fallback option.
Note: Don’t fight regulations, build around them.
ProductDiver: Do we need project managers in tech industries or a product manager suffices? Sometimes I feel the workload of a product manager is quite overwhelming.
Deborah: Yes, project managers are also quite important in product development. Using my organization as an example, we have project managers that equally support the product development processes. That intersection helps us, the PMs, to focus on delivering quality. However, most startups expect PMs to be skilled in project management, that’s why it can get overwhelming. Hopefully, we can convince employers to look into this.
ProductDiver: What framework or approach do you use in your organization for product Discovery? And Do you think product discovery is essential for every task/project?
Deborah: Honestly, we’ve not yet established a particular framework for product discovery at Mint (because we try to build very fast). However, certain key processes are non-negotiable for us before creating any roadmap or even getting to work. These are Research and Iterative Development. The research will help you partially understand the problem you are trying to solve. Iterative Development helps you understand exactly how your solution solves real user problems while building very quickly.
For your second question, I don’t think product discovery is essential for every task or project, given that some projects are somewhat straightforward.
ProductDiver: Can you tell us what you look out for when you hire or interview Product Managers?
Deborah: One key thing to look out for when hiring a PM is open-mindedness. This is essential for them to learn and unlearn. I cannot overemphasize the importance of being able to learn.
ProductDiver: My questions are: As a Product Manager in an EduTech StartUp, what do you think I should focus on to help the StartUp scale up? How do you prioritize product development?
Deborah: First, you need to define what the company’s most important metric is at the moment (revenue, sign-ups, engagement, etc). This would help you determine which solutions you want to prioritize and perfect.
To scale in EduTech, I would suggest engagement as an important metric. If you take a look at PluralSight, Coursera, and the likes, they have recently pivoted for engagement by adding features that keep learners within the system. Scaling, in their case, is not only focused on them getting more users, but also having current users take on more courses.
For your second question, as I mentioned earlier, prioritization is determined by what’s most important for the company at the moment. You can prioritize features by adopting the RICE method –https://www.productplan.com/glossary/rice-scoring-model/
ProductDiver: Before we go, do you have any final advice for aspiring Product Managers?
Deborah: My 3 cents to aspiring PMs would be;
– Keep an open mind and be ready to learn and unlearn as you progress in your Product Management journey. Don’t be afraid to ask questions where necessary.
– Appreciate small wins. It’s easy to burn out when you don’t pat yourself on the back sometimes. But this would mean that you have to track progress at all times.
– Practice open communication. And if possible over-communicate. This is important for stakeholder management.
See you at the top.
Deborah can be found on LinkedIn here.
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