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Spotlight Series: Hannah Kershaw, Chief Product Officer, Domestic & General

Hannah Kershaw, Chief Product Officer, Domestic & General

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Hannah joined Domestic & General in March 2022 to lead the company’s transformation into a digital, product-led business.

Prior to D&G, Hannah built product teams and digital experiences for top consumer brands, including the RAC and Gocompare. 

HOW DID YOU LAND YOUR CURRENT ROLE? WAS IT PLANNED? 

Many people make their way into product from different roles. When I went to University, I didn’t know that I wanted to work in product. My marketing degree led me to initially working in digital marketing which I found interesting, particularly learning about and understanding user behaviour. After working at GoCompare where I had the opportunity to innovate with exciting brands in the fintech ecosystem, I then joined Persimmon Homes, the UK’s number one house builder. With a customer base of people in their 20 and 30s, they were aware that they’re selling a physical product to digital natives and wanted to understand how there could be a digital experience built around the physical product.  

I loved working with developers, the cross-functional nature of it, and the ownership of it – owning something that is important, and that people care about, so when I heard that D&G were looking to build a product function from scratch, I knew this was an exciting opportunity.  

WHAT ARE THE KEY ROLES IN YOUR FIELD OF WORK, AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR CURRENT EXPERTISE?  

Within my team I have product managers and product designers. Other key roles in the field include customer research and analytics. I’ve always been interested in the behaviour of users when using digital products. There’s a blend of science and art involved in solving customer problems so you can use both sides of your brain! 

DID YOU (OR DO YOU) HAVE A ROLE MODEL IN TECH OR BUSINESS IN GENERAL? 

Not really, when I started out in my career there weren’t many people who looked like me in leadership roles. Especially in my early career, it was still very corporate and ‘men in suits.’ Thankfully, the world has changed and continues to change. I learn a lot from the people who work around me and try to model my behaviours on those I admire. For example, it might be watching a colleague run a really great meeting and observing how it left people feeling engaged and motivated, and thinking that’s really great, I’m going to remember that. 

Our Chief People Officer, Anna Capitanio, once said to me that ‘everything is important, but not everything is urgent,’ and that has really stuck with me.

In a world of notifications and emails, it’s helped me to prioritise. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by some great women who continue to inspire me with their drive and leadership. 

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR CAREER, SO FAR? 

I’m most proud of the teams that I’ve built at D&G and seeing people within my team achieving and progressing.

There’s no better feeling than giving someone an opportunity and they smash it.

Being part of a successful, high-performing team is an extremely rewarding and motivating experience. 

WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE WORKDAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU? 

No two days look the same but leading a product function, one constant is communication, as I divide my time between communicating with other leaders on business priorities, and with my team to coach and enable them to work through problems. 

ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC SKILLS OR TRAITS THAT YOU NOTICE COMPANIES LOOK FOR WHEN YOU’RE SEARCHING FOR ROLES IN YOUR FIELD? 

I lead product management teams which are the intersection between technology, business and design. People can lean towards any of those sectors in terms of experience, so you don’t need to be an expert in all three, but you do need to have an interest. The role is about problem solving so by nature product managers tend to be curious and have examples of when they’ve identified a problem and solved it achieving a positive result. In product managers, we tend to look for behaviours including entrepreneurial spirit, proactivity, drive, and resilience. That’s coupled with excellent interpersonal skills because you need to work with many different people to get a product feature launched. 

HAS ANYONE EVER TRIED TO STOP YOU FROM LEARNING AND DEVELOPING IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE, OR HAVE YOU FOUND THE TECH SECTOR SUPPORTIVE?  

There is always help out there, but you have to ask for what you want and put yourself out there. Product is a great role for that and getting exposure as well as ownership. 

You will know best about where you need to develop so be proactive in asking for development opportunities. The agile nature of modern technology teams means that we’re always being retrospective and identifying areas of opportunity. Tech is always evolving so in my opinion the sector is a great choice if you want to develop and grow. 

HAVE YOU EVER FACED INSECURITIES AND ANXIETIES DURING YOUR CAREER, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM? 

Not everyone exudes confidence, and I have felt like others know better than me at times, for example, if a decision was made that I didn’t agree with, I assumed that I must be the one who is wrong. It comes from experience, but you learn that everyone around you are just people too, and that your ideas are just as valuable as theirs. I learnt to trust my gut, if something doesn’t feel like the right thing to do then ask questions because usually others have the same thoughts.  

Challenge is good because it creates debate, and debate gets to a better outcome. 

ENTERING THE WORLD OF WORK CAN BE DAUNTING. DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR ANYONE FEELING OVERWHELMED?  

Everybody starts somewhere, even your boss’s boss was in your shoes at some point. And I found the great thing about work is that it’s real (as opposed to learning theory). You get to work on real things that drive value for real customers which can be very rewarding.  

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHER WOMEN WANTING TO REACH THEIR CAREER GOALS IN TECHNOLOGY?  

Be curious, ask questions, never apologise, and don’t fear change because change means opportunity! 

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