Building AI Products to Solve User Problems with Director of Product at Salesforce

This week, Product School hosted Rami Segal, Director of Product at Salesforce, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Rami gave a lot of great insights on being an AI Product Manager, as well as providing resources and tips on how to become a full-stack PM.

Meet Rami

Rami Segal, Director of Product at Salesforce

Rami is a seasoned Product Leader with a successful history of developing, launching, and growing products and revenue at both startups as well as large companies. He is currently Director of Product Management at Salesforce, leading a team responsible for conversational intelligence solutions for Sales.

Over the last 6 years, he has worked with some of the best entrepreneurs in Israel to create AI products. Prior to that he created mobile games for nearly a decade.

Before Salesforce, he worked at Bonobo AI and moved to Salesforce when they acquired the company. There he was a Product Strategy Advisor and Head of Product Management. He has also held Senior Product Manager positions at Outbrain, Lemonade, and Pipl.

On top of his extensive knowledge in planning and development, he also has great communication skills that help him as he leads cross-functional teams to create products that deliver value to customers. He has used these skills to mentor entrepreneurs and startups through both WeWork and Unistream’s mentoring programs.

In your opinion, should PMs all be full stack?  Or do you believe in inbound/outbound PMs?  PMs and POs?  Something different?

I love this question. I totally believe a PM should be full stack in terms of understanding their product domain. If it’s insurtech, gaming, travel, etc. Secondly, they should have both an engineering background and a business background. I always invest time in learning. Just finished now a “Mastering Sales” course and started an AWS course.

two people at a table talking

To complete my answer, it’s super important not only to have a diverse set of skills but also to make sure you have a relationship with both customers and engineering teams. In Salesforce I constantly speak with customers, join pre-sales demos and answer sales-related questions in our internal sales channels. In addition, I participate in internal product forums with other groups so our product strategy is aligned across the Sales Cloud.

Check out: Product Managers and Technical Skills…What’s The Deal?

How can a Product Manager with a non-technical background become a full stack PM?

When I started managing AI products I took a 9 months Data Science course learning Python and ML models from scratch: one entrepreneur once told me about the 10,000 hours rule. You need to spend at least 10k hours on any topic in order to become an expert. I’m a huge fan of online learning. I would suggest starting building this knowledge gradually in the next 2-3 years. I promise you’ll be in a totally different place.

But is it necessary to learn how to code? I’ve heard it’s possible to be a Product Manager without that skillset.

Learn how to code. It’s fun and helpful. You don’t have to be an expert but I’m afraid there’s no way around it. Start with basic javascript and move to low-code, no-code platforms. As product managers we’re creators. Building a digital product with your own hands is amazing. Try it.

screen with code on it, seen through the lens of a pair of glasses

During product strategy presentations, I want to be challenged and hit with hard questions. But more often than not stakeholders will suggest something that’s already on the roadmap. How do I improve the quality of these interactions?

I love to be challenged by my team. This is why I keep my discussions super focused on one feature or one area.

When we do top-down planning here in Salesforce we present a list of features to our team for the next release. Prior to this presentation I schedule smaller sessions with the various teams and review the motivation behind each feature. For each session, the goal is to get feedback and get everyone involved in the design, make sure we’re all aligned on the problem we’re solving and discuss the solution.

Keep it simple and focused. Best to get the group to agree together on the best path forward and encourage your team to “break” your initial thoughts.

Read next: Presenting to Executives by Google Product Leader

What are good resources to learn more about AI Product Management?

Check Datacamp’s Data Scientist with Python course

bird's eye view of someone typing on a laptop with a Python coding textbook next to them

I read a report that indicated that most AI initiatives fail. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned on successfully creating an AI products/solutions?

I believe in building products that solve a real problem, not building products just to say they’re based on AI. I think AI initiatives fail when the goal is not set correctly and you expect AI to do magic. It doesn’t work that way. AI can help in solving problems faster but you need to be really focused.

For example, let’s say you want to improve a contact center performance by adding automated chatbot workflows. AI is limited in understanding language and answering any question. In one of my previous startups we used AI for topic modeling to quickly identify why people call the call center. Then for each contact driver, we defined a very specific automated flow using Natural Language Processing to answer very specific questions. Finally, we had a fallback called human in the loop in case the automated workflow failed to handle the request—keeping customer satisfaction as our number one priority.

More on user needs: Product Management Skills: User Story Mapping

empty call center

How do you approach top-down planning? My org has been trying to implement dual track planning but execs take forever to align on what they want to move into discovery.

Get your execs to align each quarter using this great tool called V2MOM. This is what we use in Salesforce in order to align nearly 70,000 employees

What is the best ways to measure a Product Manager’s individual performance? 

Personal V2MOM

Could you please advise how you keep yourself focused from the clutter?

  1. Stop reading your emails
  2. First thing in the morning, make a list of the 3 things you want to achieve during the day
  3. Do not close your working day without completing / making progress in your top priorities
  4. Ignore Slack messages when you’re working on your top priorities
  5. Attend fewer meetings, cancel them

Read next: 10 Weekly Habits of Product Managers That Make a Big Difference

person standing outside in a suit and looking down at their phone screen

I come from a Business Analysis and Data Analysis background. Is there a sub area of Product Management where these 2 skills meet?

I would recommend a product analyst career path. I would avoid ad-tech or marketing analysis role and focus mainly on learning behavioural economics.  Also try Pendo Academy. 

You might also be interested in: Decoding Job Titles: The Different Types of Product Manager

What product challenges do you see in a company from Brazil (or any other country) going international? Do you have any tips?

This is a bit difficult to answer without understanding the entire context. There are many challenges in going international. Obviously language barriers, sales, and marketing. I would hire a local team that is well connected in your target markets. You may encounter compliance issues, GDPR, various regulations, specific providers you should partner with, and more.

computer screen with world map on it

What is the number one challenge you see for PMs in a B2B role, particularly a startup with limited resources and limited data?

I believe the greatest challenge is not being able to speak with a diversity of customers in order to validate your solution. I would suggest creating your own “advisory board”. Experienced professionals with access to similar datasets or solving similar problems that would be able to provide their point of view and help in decision making.

Any final advice?

It’s been a pleasure! Feel free to connect on Linkedin, I highly recommend reading the 101 essays that will change the way you think.

Enjoyed the article? You may like this too: