This week Product School hosted Klajdi Turlla, Product Manager at HubSpot, for an #AskMeAnything session. Klajdi gives an inside scope of the industry, tips and recommendations regarding different tools and processes and advise on how to start your own PM career.
Meet Klajdi Turlla
Klajdi is a self-driven user-centric Product Professional with a track record of building, managing, and taking ownership of products end-to-end in an international, cross-functional, and technical environment. Currently, Klajdi is a Product Manager at HubSpot, identifying and prioritizing problems to be solved, in partnership with Customer Success leadership, Business Enablement, and Product, and diving into opportunity areas, assessing where they can experiment and analyze outcomes to ensure we’re investing in the right solutions.
Inside The Industry
What would you say is your biggest challenge at Hubspot right now? How are you approaching the potential solution?
The biggest challenge is deciding on all the many possibilities we can take with our products. The way we approach that is looking back at our mission and making sure we are focused on that mission. That always keeps us on track. We also are very open about omissions. It’s as much about figuring out and commuting not to do something as it is about doing something.
What is the importance of product management at the early stage of a startup? What role should a CEO play in the journey of a product?
At an early stage startup the CEO or the founder is usually the PM. I am a big fan of this actually than hiring an external PM at the start. I think startups should hire a PM when it becomes painful for that CEO or Founder to look after the product. For example if you start having a certain number of users, or if you start getting a lot of feedback from them and have to iterate. Or when you start investing in new product lines. If it’s not painful for them to do it is usually a sign that the startup doesn’t need a PM just yet. It would actually be distracting if you hire a PM too soon.
When you do hire that first PM though it might be hard for the CEO to stop being the PM There is no great way of avoiding this, especially if they are the founder. They are just too passionate. The best way is to be empathetic, understand them and have a good and open conversation. You should push the CEO to provide strategic guidance at the product portfolio level rather than at the feature level. That will keep them busy. But also keep them involved at some level if they are very passionate. That would make them feel better
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Tools, Processes and Operations
How do you prioritise features on your roadmap without market feedback?
There are two ways I can see that happening. First you can rely solely on your area and design expertise. This is something that Basecamp for example is famous for. They build the V1 of their product solely on what they think it’s the best product. The second one is by using experimentation to gather learnings. This way you can spend small efforts, so a mistake in prioritization wouldn’t cost you a lot, and then take the learnings to drive further prioritization.
Having said that I would also strongly recommend analyzing why there is no market feedback in the first place and trying to solve that root issue.
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What factors of growth do you consider in an emerging market in Fintech? What resources do you use to ensure you generate value there?
Usually the main factors of growth are current consumer behaviors and the current regulatory framework. For example a market where there is high mobile penetration but low card penetration is a sign for fintech disruption. Similar to the regulatory framework a market that is adopted or open to adopt PSD2 for example is a sign for fintech growth.
I want to emphasize the current consumer behavior. This is a factor why a lot of fintechs have failed. Instead of looking at current trends and adopting or solving for them they go to market with apps or other solutions that are only tech related and fintech on the surface only. Mobile wallets by Mobile Network Operators in central Europe is an example. Most of them have failed.
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How do you articulate the value proposition? What resources do you recommend?
One way I really like is taking the User Journey approach. Basically you lay out the user journey, highlight the problems in that journey and then start telling the story of how you solved it or how you plan to solve it.
The reason why that works very well is that it helps you both create empathy for the user and visualize the problem and solution in a very easy way to understand it. A designer would be a valuable asset in this exercise.
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Is an “operational model to support the product” a typical tool in the PM Toolbox? Any recommendations for how to use it in practice?
First ask them how much time they expect you to invest in this. If they say anything more than 2-4 hours then it would be a big red flag for me if they are not paying you for this.
Also it’s completely normal for a PM not to understand the space. PMs are good at asking questions and highlighting the problems not providing solutions. So I would suggest you think about presenting a framework on how you would go about building that operating model rather than what the actual operating model is.
My favorite operating model to support the product is HubSpot Mainsail framework
How do you deal with consumers wanting more personalized or specific features?
Try to use data to influence the discussion. If you were to solve for that customer what would you say no to and how much would that cost you. Try also to track these types of requests at scale. For example we lost X MRR in deals or X number of deals because we don’t have these features. That way you can prioritize accordingly and make sure you are solving for a lot of customers and not one.
Making The Move Towards Product Management
Would a background in digital marketing and product improvement be enough to land a entry level pm job?
I would say that experience in digital marketing is a strong advantage in getting into product management. Product management is as much about being able to tell a story as it’s about building things.
A few potential paths I see:
- Look for opportunities in the digital marketing software space. A company that is building solutions for digital marketing would be very interested in having experts in digital marketing shape their products.
- Another path would be the Growth PM path. Usually Growth PMs have very strong Marketing backgrounds and usually come from such roles.
Most PMs come from other roles so companies are always looking for these type of candidates on top of existing PMs. In most cases looking for opportunities within the company may be better. Otherwise try to build your product profile. Give it a go at building something yourself, solving a problem in the product you use on a daily basis and maybe write publicly about them and engage in public forums.
What is the best way to dive into this world and get a hands on experience?
At first I would say take all the information you can at the start. Don’t worry too much about filtering. You will naturally start following a few sources you like. Having said that, there is no better way to learn a product than to actually do it. So try to associate yourself with product teams or product builders, that is designers, developers, PMs etc. And the best way is to try to build something yourself. Think about something you like or that you have always wanted to solve and go ahead and solve it. Today is much much easier to start something even if you cannot code.
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How do I leverage my existing non-tech projects to target APM job openings?
Try to tell the story of the impact you have done with your projects. PM is all about delivering impact so if you are already doing it in a different role than that’s awesome. Another thing you can do is by gathering feedback with people you have worked with. PM is a lot about collaborating with others so showing that you are good at working with other people is a great plus. Finally try to tell a story of how you have proactively and independently discovered a problem and influenced others to solve it together. This is another core aspect of PMs, listening and spotting problems and influencing others to solve them together.
Also reach out to other PMs, Devs and Designers that you might work with in those roles and don’t be shy to reach out to the hiring manager. Asking questions and learning it’s another core skill for PMs.
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How should I start the approach in switching my career?
You have a strong background in finance being a CPA. First I would say don’t be discouraged by the job description asking for experience. Product experience can be an ambiguous term. You might have never been a PM but might actually have tons of product experience. Ask yourself if you have build something or if you have solved problems using technology and through collaborating in small teams. That is basically product experience. If you don’t have that yet try to get it through doing side projects. I would also try to expand the search to other companies. Intuit is a great company of course but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other good companies out there looking for your skills. Doing products in finance is super tough if you don’t know finance. So you have a big advantage!
Want to learn more? Join us for our next #AskMeAnything session!