This week Product School hosted Dia Serazutdinova, a Product Lead at N26 for an #AskMeAnything session. Dia shared some tips for to set success metrics in FinTech for aspiring PMs. She also talked about the best tools and software for Product Managers across the experience spectrum.
Meet Dia Serazutdinova
Dia has worked with various international teams and companies to bring software products and services to the market. She uses data and user insights to drive the creation of engaging high-quality experiences and gained all-round experience in Product Management and Development living and working in the US, UK, Germany, and Russia.
First Steps as a Product Manager
What would be the best approach to enter the field of Product Management?
I think the first thing to ask yourself is what sort of experience you would like to have. Startup experience is very different from a bigger company, software vs hardware products, etc etc. I personally would recommend joining a company that would allow you to try yourself in various aspects of the product and also learn from peers. That being said, the first 7 or so years in my career I was mainly working in startups and it was huge fun.
For a company that has never had a Product Manager or practice before, what would be the first few things you’d do?
The first thing to think about is educating your colleagues on why you are there. Getting their feedback on what they expect from you and shaping their vision on what your role is. For a PM one of the key aspects for success is stakeholder management, so I would start with that.
What advice do you have for the first 30-60 days for a new PM who wants to grow into a Product Leader down the line?
I would recommend spending the first 2 weeks or so speaking to as many people as you can, figuring out what they do, what their priorities are, which problems they see, etc. Basically, spend time understanding the company. Understand the strategy and where it’s going, figure out the goals, OKR’s, etc.
Understand the expectations that your manager and others have from you and clarify/align with them on that if it doesn’t match. And then see if you can set a goal for yourself that you can achieve within 30 days that is aligned with the above – look for a low hanging fruit, but don’t forget about the long term thinking.
You may also be interested in: Setting Up for Success- Your First 30 Days as a Product Manager
How do you coordinate the various products your company offers between all the PMs?
What comes in handy in this case is having a clear company/product strategy and clear goals. In this case even if teams are working on various different aspects of the product there will be alignment on the direction, as well as the feeling that “we are achieving this together”. If you don’t have that it might be very hard to make various product teams to feel like one team.
Roadmapping and Metrics at N26
How do you estimate the financial impact of each feature that you launch?
Estimating a financial impact is super important and for sure helps to make the right decisions. One of the ways to do it is by using some proxies that you have to project the possible outcome of your feature. Unfortunately, having an accurate estimate is not always possible, so making sure that you have reliable assumptions and proxies is key.
What is your philosophy on developing products while managing the growing privacy concerns from a global perspective?
This is a very important question to tackle. We all become much more aware of privacy concerns and data protection these days. The key is to stay on top of things – educate yourself on the local requirements and make sure you and your team are aware of them. Stating it as one of the goals in your strategy/purpose will help you to make sure it’s a point that is never forgotten.
What is the hardest thing you’ve had to prioritize and how did you work through it?
In one of the companies I worked for we figured out that we are missing out on a huge opportunity – our users didn’t have enough content. In order to have more content, we had to involve up to 10 teams and build very complex tools for them. It was a hard job to figure out where to start. What helped us is going out there and performing lots of interviews, understanding the real needs and pain points of all the teams, bringing them together for round tables. With all the insights we were able to narrow it down to an MVP and roll it out in 3 months.
How can you account for unknown unknowns when planning the different experiments along the way on product iterations?
One of the things that you have to accept as a PM is that there will always be some unknowns and you cannot plan everything 100%. So the first thing is to have an open mind. Another useful thing is to make sure you involve all the relevant people before moving forward with experiment/development/ testing, etc.
Don’t rely on just yourself.. there are probably a lot of people in your company who will have knowledge, skills, etc, that will be very useful. Bring people together.
What is your opinion on having OKR’s? Do you use them in your day-to-day work and how rigidly?
I am a huge fan of OKRs/KPIs! And yes I do use them all the time. First of all, they make sure everyone is aligned on what the end goal for a selected time period is. It helps to make decisions on a day-to-day basis. If you need to prioritize something you can use OKRs to check if a new idea/feature you are thinking of helping you to achieve it. OKRs = Focus.
You might also be interested in: How to Use OKRs for Roadmap Prioritization and Planning
How do you prioritize your various backlog items? Is there any particular framework that you follow? Like Bubble-sort, Kano, RICE, etc.?
As you mentioned there are various different frameworks to use for that, but what’s even more important is to understand the criteria that you are making a decision on. For different teams and companies, they can be different. The key is to make sure that your priorities reflect the company strategy and solves a need. Other ingredients you can figure out based on what’s important for your team.
As someone who might not be as competent in design or engineering as your team, how does one make oneself comfortable with the knowledge gap? What are the hard skills that a PM needs to have? Which tools and software?
First thing is – get comfortable with the fact that you may not be as competent as others on some topics and it’s actually great. Respect the skills of other people and let them make the decisions in the areas they are responsible for. Be open to learning, ask questions, ask for their help on understanding things.
Trust me, it makes people think of their own ideas, and solutions so it benefits them too. Create an environment of healthy challenges where everyone can challenge things, but not just for the sake of challenges – the goal is to be getting better and achieve the shared goal you have.
How does N26 approach quarterly roadmapping across teams? Did you build your own method, or use popular off-shelf-frameworks (JTBD, First Principles, OKRs)?
There is definitely usage of some popular frameworks. I already mentioned that I am a huge fan of OKRs. In addition to that, we are always experimenting with various approaches. So some of the teams are currently experimenting with so-called rolling planning, which basically takes pressure away from the end of each quarter. This means that the product roadmap is being created as we go, no too far in advance. But it’s always being done base on the company strategy and OKRs.
When looking at financial services, how does N26 define a “product”? Is it account type or something else?
Our vision with N26 to enable people to live and bank their way. So when it comes to defining the product, it is anything that covers the financial lives of our customers. We do have different tiers of product – a free account and 2 premium offers tailored for a specific segment of customers.
Can you tell me a time when you were able to make a data-driven decision but not having enough time to dig deep with the data analysis?
Recently we started running an A/B test with a feature we had a lot of hopes for. Already in the first days, we saw our main metric being affected hugely so we made a decision to stop the test asap even though we haven’t reached the required sample size. This also happens with the actual features of the product.
When ramping up in a new team, digesting a lot of new information about the systems in place, what’s the best approach if you feel that your progress is slow? If your manager feels your progress is slow? Have a one-on-one? Anything else?
I guess the main question is – is it your manager that thinks it is slow or you? If it’s a manager, they are there to help and guide you, so ask her/him for advice. If they know you are slow, they must have an idea of how to solve it. If it’s you thinking you are slow – first is to understand if you have realistic expectations for yourself. If you do and you really think you need to speed up you might want to prioritize what you do a bit better. Define the key things that you need to learn/be aware of and try to not dig too deep in the details..have a balance.
How do you approach setting success metrics for new features if the feature doesn’t necessarily involve funnels? I’m sure the boolean metric (using or not using) wouldn’t be too helpful so I wanted to get your thoughts on what other factors should we consider?
In the end, the first thing to figure out is what are you trying to achieve by introducing this feature. If it’s simply about the engagement, it could be metrics around how many users use it, how often, for how long, what their retention is like. If you are optimizing for the revenue you need to be able to define how much a certain feature contributes to it. Do look at what revenues you have with users who use the feature vs who doesn’t, etc. There are also a lot of other main metrics you can be optimizing for so it’s the first thing to figure out.
Don’t miss our next Ask Me Anything session where you’ll learn what you need to become a better Product Manager! Check our upcoming AMAs here.