My name is Ignacio Willats. I am a Junior Product Manager here at DueDil, which is a business intelligence startup based in London. At DueDil I look after two things, user research, as well as DueDil Labs which involves a lot of prototyping, testing with our customers and prospective customers and understanding how we can improve the product and onboarding new features.
I got into Product Management really I guess when I was at university. I didn't really understand it as being Product Management then, but what I was doing was solving a problem which me and my friends had faced which was buying tickets for the events that we'd go to on the weekends and during the week sometimes. And I basically realised it's a very manual process and one night decided to whip up a website which you could purchase tickets online for, did that and soon enough it was a nice little earner, something which I really enjoyed making and paid for some expenses when at university.
And I kind of caught the bug after that I thought, you know, right I enjoy solving problems, I enjoy benefiting from solving those problems and I enjoy working with other people to build something tangible that people use. So I then progressed on to joining a small EdTech startup in which in the early days we really had to hustle. We were prototyping things and showing it to universities that we wanted to sell to as if we'd built it and that helped us get to a stage where we had validated that this was a value proposition that people would pay for basically so even during those early days even though we didn't know what we were doing we were, you know, doing some techniques that many people would consider good practice in Product Management.
I then progressed on to a Business Development role so I was basically heading up sales of the company and then I really decided I wanted to go back to what I enjoyed the most which was Product Management and that's how I started here at DueDil. I was looking for quite a specific job actually. I wanted to work in a data-centric company which if you look up DueDil is very data heavy, so yeah that's how I found my way into Product Management.
Why do you enjoy Product Management?
So it's really seeing, if you want to kind of summarise in one action or whatever it's seeing the smile on people's faces when you've solved their problem. You know there's nothing better than seeing that happen. I think there's a lot of work that goes into building something, but during that journey you learn so much about the problem you're solving, who you're solving for and working with the team is one of the best things you can do. It is working towards a common goal but not necessarily it being predefined. It's not an agency model. No one's going to say I want an e-commerce website built. It's "Here's a problem" and "How can we fix it?". And in that regard it's quite a creative role as well as one where you have to hunker down as much as you can.
What would you look for when recruiting Product Managers?
So I mean if I was in the position of hiring someone, which I'm a way off yet but I would be looking in two areas, what traits they have, and what skills. They're kind of synonymous but in terms of traits I'd look for someone who's curious. Someone who really wants to dive deep into a problem and understand their customers and their users. Someone who is a self-starter. A lot of this is an unguided process. You can literally be handed a problem and just be posed with the challenge to solve it. No one's saying this is exactly what to do. There's no playbook. So demonstrating that you can take a challenge and run with it really.
Some other skills which are quite key I think. Like I said it's a very team based role, so communication and teamwork. Those two skills are really key because you're working with a diverse set of skills. You've got designers, engineers and you know you really want to work with the sales team as well, everyone within the company, so it's not just about being creative. You've got to really be able to communicate that.
The other skill I'd look for is analytical ability, so how well can you assess something and and understand what we do know and what you don't know and how you might go and find that out and how you may be able to solve something. So those are just some things I'd look out for and that can be indicated by experience or even just the educational background of someone.
What advice would you offer someone considering a career in Product Management?
Talking from my own experience which is kind of a recent graduate, I graduated two years ago from my undergrad, and starting out with no idea what Product Management was really, I would say if you've now heard of the role and you're kind of interested go build something. Building something will a) really test you as to whether this is the kind of thing you want to do and hopefully you will. But it will also give you the experience of all the things I previously just mentioned, and help you develop those skills.
The first time you build something is probably when you learn the most so you can do that in a number of ways. Identify a problem you're having or a interest you have and build just a WordPress website just for starters. If you don't have an idea or something that you're passionate about solving go to a hackathon. A hackathon or Startup Weekends are great opportunities for you to meet some group of people who have the skills to help you build something, but also people who have real-world challenges they'd like to solve. So there's no greater way of getting something done quickly or having a huge impact which I guess is another thing is you've got to want to make an impact and this is something the Product Management role really offers up as an opportunity if you decide to go down the career.