This is part of our bi-weekly series profiling some of our community members at Product Makers. If you’re interested in reading others, check out our previous Featured Makers.
This week we’re featuring
Starting in Product
How'd you get started making products that matter?
After college, I took a job in tech support for a bankruptcy filing program at LexisNexis, where I supported bankruptcy filing attorneys. Over time, I became the subject matter expert for the engineering team, where they would ask me to represent the voice of the customer, help rank the customer problems, and duplicate bugs in the system. Then, when a content role became available, I applied for it and became the forms creator for the software working with a product manager. I learned a lot from her, and when she left, I was promoted to the PM role.
What's one piece of advice you wish you'd had when you started working in product?
I wish someone had pulled me aside and conveyed the importance of cultivating relationships and having allies. It is of the utmost importance that we cultivate allies in our workplace. We cannot go at it alone. We need individuals who are invested in our effectiveness, as they help us bring to fruition our work mission, and when the going gets tough, we need allies who will hold our hand and help us get through the most difficult days and challenges we might face.
What do you like the most about your work?
I love that I get to build people and products, but the people I work with come first. I invest in them by nurturing their development and growth while working hard to safeguard that their diversity and neurodiversity are embraced within my cross-functional teams to enhance overall innovation. The entire team owns the experience, and we are accountable for successes and failures.
I am a product leader who cultivates, encourages, strengthens, and nurtures innovation in my multi-disciplinary teams. To bring to market a product experience with true customer value, we must have individuals from diverse backgrounds, genders, circumstances, lived experiences, and perspectives with thoughtful fortitude and an environment that fosters creativity, innovation, and imaginativeness. This is how they can meet our customers where they are. Our customers represent an ever-changing demographic with evolving needs, and to understand their needs, even the ones they have not communicated or know they need, we must have folks on our teams who represent them.
What do you like the least about your work?
I am not a fan of going to customer meetings without my 3iab (product manager, design lead, and tech lead) because if they were present, there's no need for me to communicate customer difficulties as they were in the meeting.
Being in the room with a customer enables our designer to understand customer value, needs, and problems. Recognizing the intangibles, the human factors, and to what degree users interact with a device culturally. Being in the room with customers also offers the opportunity to how they can address usability.
Engineering can develop empathy, we can leverage their knowledge and experience whenever it comes to producing models, and I will not need to get buy-ins or rationalize requirements since they were a part of the discussion. But, most importantly, both our designers and tech leads have the opportunity to ask the customer questions.
What has you excited about the year ahead and your product?
I am super excited to be part of the core team that will be doing discovery on different customer segments. Our objective is to understand what their E2E needs are and how we help them scale and grow.
As a senior product leader with many years of experience in the industry, I have grown to be a leader who views leadership as an endeavour in service. I’ve become an effective leader who works hard for her cross-functional teams. I take great care to help build up the people around me by encouraging them to dream big and flourish. However, I am only the efficacious product leader I am today because other people used their leadership voices to light the path for me.
Because I once relied on the work of other product leaders, I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to use my leadership voice to help shape the next generation of product makers. I look forward to making the transition easier for them by writing more blogs, speaking at conferences, and sharing my insights via my Product Magic podcast.
Tell us about something you shipped/launched recently…
I recently completed discovery efforts to help understand the E2E needs of marketplace merchants. It was very insightful to understand the impetus for customer behavioural modifications in this segment and what are their aspirations and motivations. In addition, the importance to pay attention to what customers do, not necessarily what they say.
Who do you often collaborate with when planning, executing and bringing new things to market? What does that collaboration look like?
Being a product manager is one of the most humbling opportunities because I alone cannot build or solve customer problems. Early on, collaboration with cross-functional teams is the key to bringing about brilliant and exceptional solutions. This is done by offering these teams the voice of customer information metrics and finding answers to their questions, and bringing them into the room with customers.
I long ago recognized that creating an environment where my team members can be part of something bigger is crucial—an atmosphere where every team member can contribute their talents and bring to fruition their aspirations. As a result, we end up with cross-functional partners that understand the product strategy, roadmap, customer value, business value, and how it all ties back to our organization's core values, which binds us all together. We come to work every day because our values align with our company’s core values, and we want to improve our customers’ lives.
A bit about Ronke outside of product management
I do my best thinking when…
I do my best thinking when I am walking. I walk 4-5 miles a day. I normally listen to product management podcasts, or I chat with my scrum team. My walk always makes me feel empowered and full of thoughts.
☺️My favourite emoji is the smiling face because even though I am not sure how someone‘s day is going; I hope I can brighten it up with a smile.
What product would you love to work on?
The Starbucks App is one of the best in the quick-service industry because of its rewards program. They have managed to continue enhancing the App in such a way that it is incredibly valuable to me as a consumer. The Starbucks organization has managed to offer both utility and pleasure. It is the first App I use daily, from auto-reload when funds are low to order ahead, and location services. The coolest part, the App works in London, and it converts dollars to pounds without me having to do anything.
What's a product you'd love to fix and make better?
I would love to be the product manager to fix the Tendergreens App because it can offer me utility and delight. It works, but I am not emotionally attached to it as I am to my Starbucks App.
Who’s a person that you admire and why?
Marty Cagan because he recognized and noted that if we post a job for a product manager, many exceptionally qualified people will not think they are qualified. They won’t apply because they have obsolete or overly simplistic beliefs about what is required. A degree in computer science is not needed – a good understanding of technology and how to apply it to solve problems is. An MBA is not required – good knowledge of the workings of business is.
Adding degree-based requirements to our job description and hiring process will therefore limit our pool of applicants, and that means we miss some truly fantastic talent. Marty should know; after all, he is a college dropout.
Outside of work, you'll find me…
Outside of work, I love reading. I am presently in between nine books. Books represent other people‘s storytelling and they can be persuasive, they can change your perspective and outlook on the way you look at the world, which allows us to develop and become better human beings.
Insights on the Product Makers Community
How has the Product Makers community helped you thus far?
The community has enriched my life. I have built long-lasting connections and relationships with other product managers and leaders. I have conceptualized ideas that will enable me to sharpen my leadership skills further.
What do you get the most value from in the community?
I love the knowledge sharing and enhancing each other.
Is there anything you would like to see happen next in the community?
Bigger conferences, please and in person!