14 Pieces of Practical Product Management Guidance from Checkout



What’s the key to a successful Product Management career? Well, there’s no one singular thing. Yasmin Christie - Principal Product Manager at Checkout- shares her top skills, leadership principles and advice for getting product buy-in.

What do you think are the most crucial Product Management skills, in order to be successful in this area?

1. Really understand the domain that you’re operating within, in order to truly understand the customer.

Using Payouts as an example – when you think about what payments mean to a business, how much do you, as a product manager, understand about payments? Do you know how money moves across geographies? Do you understand the regulatory framework that you’re operating within? Do you understand how this impacts the customer?

While you don’t need to be an SME in all areas, understanding the domain really well leaves you best positioned to deliver a product for merchants that streamlines that whole process and adds value.

2. Understanding the customer experience; really get to know the customer in depth, how they operate, the different behaviours and the different hats that people might wear, especially if you’re looking at the difference between big corporates and start-ups and how they apply technology differently.

When understanding the user journey, immerse yourself in what that person does, why it matters to them and why that matters to their company.

Moreover, where applicable, the user journey extends to the business’s customers. How do key aspects impact their customers’ experience and ultimately the quality of product the business can provide?

When you understand the domain and the customer, you start to build a respect for not just the domain, not just one user, but multiple users along the chain. And how you can then – when you’re designing solutions – make sure that the value you’re driving has a domino effect and spreads wider than just that isolated scenario or problem you were trying to solve for.

3. Teamwork.

It’s important to maximise the brain power of a team. I’ve had the privilege of working with exceptionally talented engineers, SMEs and product managers. And when we all collaborate in a really healthy way, the brainpower is very impressive. The solutions will always be better. You will always think deeper, you will always think wider. You need to understand who you’re working with and what matters to them – respect them, invest in your relationships and earn them. Team building really contributes towards that.

4. Decision making.

Making data driven decisions is a critical skill. When you’re assessing data, you need to understand what data matters when. If you look at the life cycle of a product – if it’s in its infancy, a certain set of data metrics might matter now, but not later, as your product evolves. Really understand what that data journey looks like end to end.

You need to think strategically and really assess what matters when. Including when to understand data outside of your own product. If you consider a product expansion to new markets and deciding the sequence of a roll out; if you look at just your product, and just the data metrics that apply to your product, you can make one decision. But if you think more strategically about how the products in your business are positioned in each market, what that looks like from a whole package perspective and how that services each region’s customers – your decisions might be made slight differently.

There may be a broader revenue opportunity that you could generate and a broader value that you can drive by complementing a region’s offering even if the data suggests it’s not the biggest opportunity for your product specifically.

When it comes to Product Leadership, do you have any key principles?  

1. Lead as you wish to be led.

There’s no need to be rigid and formal anymore. You can create more of a healthy environment for people to thrive in. The environment that you create is critical to making people feel empowered, trust your team. Invest in them as well as yourself and your leadership skills continuously.

2. Empower your team to do things in the way that they want to do them.

You might not see what you want to see straight away, but as they evolve and they are given freedom, typically you will see people flourish. And that comes from creating a safe place to fail. As a leader, you need to know how to let your team fail, how to be there, to pick them back up and to course correct them when needs be. And you can of course put safeguards in place to make sure nothing goes drastically wrong.

3. Lead with humility.

You don’t know everything. And you will get things wrong, and you need to own up to them when they do go wrong and demonstrate that place of failure and recovery in a healthy way. Apologise when you need to.

4. Have strong partnerships.

If you’ve got a co-lead from an engineering perspective, you need to demonstrate that bond. The effort that you put into nurturing those relationships, how you communicate, how you strategically think together, how you balance your roadmaps together is really key. It filters down into the team.

5. It’s not about you, it’s about your team.

What’s the perception of them within the business or externally? Have they built a profile? Empower them to do that. Exposure is your responsibility, as a leader. If you have someone who owns something, make them the owner of it and make sure that’s visible; empower them to thrive in what they’re working on. Ensure that they know and feel they are leading it. If you’ve got an opportunity to present to the whole business as a team, the leaders should take a step back and let the team do that. Your job is to coach them to thrive in that environment. There is nothing more rewarding!

6. Passion.

If you’re passionate about what you’re working on, your team will share in that. Put your everything into why you are doing what you are doing, build the team culture and invest in it. Ensure they know and are part of the journey through participation, and value each voice. The team will relate and be on the rocket ship with you.

7. Performance.

Having a high performing team is one of your main responsibilities as a leader. You need to create good frameworks for feedback and use them to help them continuously improve iteratively. If you’ve got an open environment in which it’s safe to fail, you can easily make improvements: open dialogue, improving your ways of working, your delivery time, honing in on your focus area and allowing the team to really focus on the things that matter. Lastly, be conscious of people’s levels and lead appropriately, flexing your involvement and how structured your support is applicable to both the topic and the individual.

practical product management guidance

When launching or evolving products, do you have advice for getting buy-in with key stakeholders? 

1. Preparation

If you’re talking to your leadership, stakeholders or your peers, you really need to know your domain and the depth of the opportunities that you’re going after.

You need to feel confident in your own opportunity assessments and make sure you know exactly what you’re going after. So that when it comes to talking about what you’re doing, the feedback and questions you receive are not questioning what you’re doing, they’re questioning how you’re doing it. They’re already participating. They want it to be better. They’re already on board. So in summary, it’s all about making sure you’ve assessed the opportunity really well and are building confidence for your stakeholders.

2. Communication

Stakeholders have got to come on the journey with you. They need to understand the opportunity. They need a bit more depth about the problems that you’re solving. Always give clear examples and really take them through that interactive journey when setting the context.

Remember: not everybody shares a product-led mindset. Sometimes you need to be able to take a step back and think about who it is you’re talking to and make sure that you’re speaking to them in a way that aligns with their remit.

Why does it matter to them?

Why should they care?

Being able to articulate in different ways to really gain the stakeholder engagement you need will finally then lead to the endorsement that you need. It’s all about structuring the way that you engage and communicate, so nine times out 10 it leads to the right outcome, because they’re coming along the journey in a way that they feel most comfortable with.

3. Planning ahead

You generally need to be working Quarter to Quarter on your detailed commitments, but you also need to plan ahead. People, especially in business operations need a lot of time to plan for staffing up and creating new skillsets in certain areas. It’s your responsibility to give the business the necessary time to expand and evolve into the area or the domain that you’re now focusing on. This time allows for confidence to build as well. And so regular engagement allows you to iteratively build confidence. People might not trust or be fully engaged on day one, but as you evolve, connect and talk deeper, confidence will also evolve. This is where a strong strategy and vision comes into play.

This is especially important within Product; if you have a dependency and you need something to be delivered by another team, you’re only going to sit at the top of the pile if they’re confident in what they’re delivering and why they’re delivering it. So that investment goes a long way.

Want to hear more from Yasmin? Read about her journey into Product Management and the impact her pivotal role has on Checkout.com.





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