Moving from Individual Contributor to Product Leader with Letgo’s former Head of Product

This week, Product School hosted Melih Özbekoğlu, fmr Head of Product at Letgo, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Melih talks us through the most important skills for PMs to develop, moving from individual contributor (IC) to manager, and the difference in Product Management between a large and small company.

Meet Melih

Melih Özbekoğlu, fmr Head of Product at Letgo

Melih Özbekoğlu is an experienced Product Management professional with a strong technical background. He helps companies deliver products that people love to use at the intersection between UX, business, and technology, with an analytical and inclusive approach.

As a Head of Product at OLX Autos, Melih is now leading a team of Product Managers to ensure customer excellence across different business lines. He focuses on Growth, user onboarding and pricing aspects of OLX Autos platform, which is running a multi-billion dollar car transaction business in several markets all around the world including Turkey, Indonesia, India, Mexico and Latin America.

Before the merge of Letgo team to OLX Autos organization, he worked at Letgo for three years where he began as a Senior PM before being promoted to Head of Product, leading a team within the Car tribe. Prior to joining Letgo, Melih worked at different levels (Head of Product, Senior Product Manager, Product Manager) in C2C, B2C and SaaS B2B companies. In total, Melih has over ten years of experience in the Product Management world.

What skills (soft skills-hard skills) do you think are most important for a person preparing to become a PM?

A very good question. In my opinion:

  • First is to have an analytical mindset. The level of proficiency may change, but you definitely have a certain level of skill on understanding data.
  • Another important one is to be great at communication. Either written or verbal. You don’t have to become an extrovert, you can be good at written communication too.
  • And maybe the most important one: a PM has to be curious. PMs should constantly look for ways to have better products and improve themselves.

What changed during your transition between different Product Manager roles (PM, senior, head, etc.)? What was the best thing about transitioning to roles with broader responsibilities? And did you miss something from more IC roles?

group of people in an office looking gathered, seated and standing, around the same laptop screen

The biggest change is about the level of influence that you can have on problem solving. When you go into an management role, you move into a supporter role, rather than solving problems on your own. You need to empower the Product Managers on your team, you shouldn’t be micromanaging them. But you need to be sure that they are doing the right thing.

Best thing about transitioning roles is to have a bigger impact. Yes, you do less hands on stuff, but you have more impact on the company’s and users lives. I still sometimes get my hands dirty and do IC stuff. But in general, I can say having discussions with engineers and designers to find a solution is the best thing as an IC from my point of view.

How did things change in the Product Department after Letgo got acquired? How do you lead the team at OLX vs. at Letgo? Any key differences you noticed that PM’s should be aware of going from a small to large org or going through an acquisition?

The biggest change is the size of the team. And with the increasing size, communication becomes the biggest challenge. In a smaller org, you have easier access to your peers, leadership, data etc. But in a bigger one, you need to show more effort to get alignment, to solve dependencies between teams or to just convince someone. The PMs going through this transition should be ready to over communicate everything. That’s biggest change that I saw so far.

Any final advice?

There are a couple of things I can say:

  • Don’t forget that there’s no solution that fits every org. Don’t stick to only one framework or philosophy. Understand the need, circumstances and act accordingly.
  • You’re not the boss of everything, but you’re the person that would have influence on everything. Listen to people, become a facilitator.
  • Stay curious, don’t stop learning.
Hired Banner

Enjoyed the article? You may like this too: