Developing Empathy with Zalando Senior Product Manager

This week, Product School hosted Zafeer Rais, Sr Product Manager at Zalando, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Zafeer shares his thoughts on how empathy is the most important skill new PMs need to develop, customer research, and data analytics.

Meet Zafeer

Zafeer Rais, Product Manager at Zalando

Zafeer Rais is a Zalando Senior Product Manager with years of experience building SaaS products in global teams across the US, Asia, and Europe. He enjoys a challenge and getting the whole team motivated and focused on solving tough problems. His strong people skills allow him to bring teams together and have given him the confidence to share his talents as a mentor in the Product Management community.

Many experienced Product Managers also go into consultation. What do you do when you’re working with two clients that are competitors?

If the nature data you are handling is confidential you would be required to sign an NDA. Ethically I think it is wrong to share previous client data with a new client. I would not do that. It depends on what you define as “valuable”. Then again you are the best judge. Morals play an important role here.

Do you build new products ground up or is it mostly features and enhancements?

That would depend on the problem you are solving. So there is no fixed rule. However you would mostly be building features and enhancements rather than new products as it is cheaper as well. I would say focus on building solutions above all.

How do you typically go ahead with customer / market research to achieve product market fit?

Talk to users, internal stakeholders, external stakeholders and look at customer data. Customer data  would be support tickets, qualitative and quantitative data and user interview. You can also do secondary research and competitive analysis.

As a PM do you have to do data analytics yourself or do you depend on an analytics team?

bird's eye view of people seated around a table working on a data presentation. There are pieces of paper, coffee mugs, and different types of electronic devices (mobile, tablet, computer) scattered around the table

Well that depends on how big your organization is. Ideally I would like to have an analytics team, since it takes a lot of your time, however if not I would do it myself. The way to work with analytics team is mutual. You tell them what you are trying to solve and they can help you with the best data. Many a times there are different ways to get data which you might not be aware of. Hence instead of laying down requirements, lay down the problem.

I have 18 years of Project Management experience with some internal products / tool developed. Trying to get into Product Management. Any advice?

Easiest would be to try an entry into your own product. Talk to Product Team, offer to help and learn, shadow them, look out for openings in your own Product Team. You have the knowledge of the product. Put that to use.

Any final advice?

My advice to aspiring Product Managers would be to develop a sense of empathy. Product Managers need to be strong collaborators.

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