tq vibes

Colleague Spotlight Series: Meet Mădălina Blaga, our Product Owner

tq vibes
clock 18/09/2023

Through our “Colleague Spotlight” Series we’re curious to explore the different ways of thinking and working of our colleagues. In this month’s edition we take an exciting journey into the world of product ownership with Mădălina Blaga, our own Product Manager. Join us as we uncover the indispensable role of a Product Manager, where success isn’t just survival, but a joyful journey of thriving.

Alexandra Mocan [AM]: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background so far. Who are you inside the role and outside of it?

Mădălina Blaga [MB]: Hey there! Nice to meet everyone! My name is Madalina, and I am a Product Manager. I have been working in this role for a little bit over 6 years now, from which the first five and half years were in the banking domain. In my previous role, I was blessed enough to have met a wonderful team and learned on a continuous basis, by being responsible for digital products (such as Internet and Mobile Banking, digital onboarding flows, and other alternative digital solutions/apps), which were used by over 1 million clients.

Inside the role, based on how my colleagues and friends describe me, I am: ambitious, always looking for ways to improve, and results oriented. Also, I am a team player, and I am always willing to help others.
Outside of the role, I am passionate about beauty/fashion and traveling, while documenting all my travel experiences on my blog. Other hobbies of mine include reading and always finding out the latest trends in tech. I am a firm believer that we are all lifelong learners, and I am always looking for new ways to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone. 😊

[AM] And now to start things on an easier note: what does the role of a Product Owner entail, and how does it contribute to the overall success of a product? And a follow-up question – If you can please share an example of a situation in which your expertise has greatly improved the outcome of a product.

[MB] The Product Owner role within a team is a crucial one since in most cases it plays a critical part in the overall success of a product. I am saying this because the Product Owner must ensure the product meets the needs of both users and stakeholders, all this while being successful in the market. The magic of this work starts by first doing the research and defining the product vision and roadmap, managing the product backlog, then working closely with the development team, and gathering & and prioritizing feedback. We must not forget that the PO is responsible for keeping up to date about the news happening on the market so that it can always adjust the strategy accordingly. Last, but not least the Product Owner must be passionate about the product they are working on, because it will always keep them motivated and focused on delivering the best product there is.

Now that I can think of it, along the way I had some situations that indeed challenged me and the products I was working on, but one stuck with me up to this day. On one of the platforms, I worked on some of the data showed us that clients would not finish the entire flow and even they would drop off at the beginning of the flow. I know I spent some days checking the flow from the user’s perspective trying to find the issue. I realized we missed one important pain point to address, so I made a proposal to optimize the flow and gathered with the UX teams and we drew together an improved flow, which was quickly developed. This made our number of daily users significantly increase. This is a good reminder that a Product Manager is an advocate for the users!

[AM] In your experience so far, how does effective product ownership help in aligning the development team with the goals and vision of the project?

[MB] Effective product ownership is not something to be taken for granted or neglected. After having read and learned after all these years about Product Management, if I were to draw some of the most important conclusions and best practices, they would be to keep the team informed and engaged every step of the way for the product vision (Product documentation is a must). This way not only they will understand what needs to be achieved but can also come up with technical solutions and, why not, other ideas for product improvement. Communication is key in the product development phase, along with backlog prioritization, and I do believe the development team should be empowered to make decisions about how to implement the product vision. In my experience thus far, the key is to be a good listener and flexible and that would help you in having a more productive approach in your collaboration with the development team.

[AM] How do you prioritize competing demands and feature requests to ensure that the most valuable features are being developed?

[MB] A huge part of the PO’s responsibilities is to prioritize the backlog and always address changes as often as needed. There will be times when requests will keep on coming and all of them need a high priority for development. It may feel overwhelming at times, but essentially it all comes for me, as a Product Manager to these:

A. What is my business goal? What are we trying to achieve through our product? Will this feature help us reach the goal we envision? If so, to what extent?
B. Always, but always, when in doubt go back to the Metrics you established when started to work on the product, and if you feel there will be something that can help you improve one or more metrics, then you know your answer.

Besides these two, I have learned over time that is essential to present and discuss your findings with your stakeholders, and based on their feedback you can then start to prioritize those features that will have the highest impact. In the absence of any of the above, one can always try and use a framework, and some well-known ones that I have tried and worked on were MoSCoW and RICE.

[AM] One aspect of product ownership is bridging the communication gap between stakeholders, users, and the development team. How do you facilitate effective communication and collaboration?

[MB] As I mentioned previously, a Product Manager/Owner needs to be flexible, but most importantly a good listener, so he/she can communicate effectively. I am always open to feedback, and this is something I have pointed out in all my collaborations with the teams with which I have worked. This fosters trust, so it’s crucial for the team to know they can always speak their mind and can approach me with whatever needs to be changed or adjusted. There is this joke that Product Managers always set up meetings to discuss other meetings, and as funny as it seems, it’s true. 🤣 I choose to be transparent and proactive in all the communication I am doing with the stakeholders, and the development team, as well as the users.

[AM] Could you elaborate on how the product ownership discipline aids in anticipating and adapting to market changes, ensuring that the product remains relevant and valuable over time?

[MB] When I first started working as a Product Manager, I was mostly doing competition analysis and was always looking out on the market reading about competitors and all their releases. By doing this, I have learned the most important aspects when choosing a product’s niche, its features, and its disadvantages. So, it’s a must to always check the business model, the flows, the UX, their competitive advantages, their pricing models, the upcoming news, and so on, because these are the details that will help a Product Manager keep their product relevant and most valuable. The competition’s weaknesses can easily become your strengths!

[AM] How does the role of a Product Owner contribute to the iterative development process, such as in Agile methodologies, and how does it help in delivering value early and often?

[MB] The PO plays a key role in the iterative development process. My main contribution comes with an understanding of the niche and product, then an understanding of both users and stakeholders and finally keeping the work aligned with the Product vision. Value is especially brought into the early stages by well-written documentation, which would lay the basis of all the upcoming features and changes that are expected in the future. Also, I would like to add to this the Agile practices such as sprint planning and daily standups because in this way as a Product Manager/Owner, I can ensure the team is always focused and is delivering value. Iterative development is mostly based on a series of short cycles and if you have a well-defined purpose for that increment, you can achieve lots in a relatively small amount of time. Agile Methodologies emphasize flexibility and adaptability, and that allows us to have a better response to any change. As a PO, my duty is to make sure we are bringing all the right changes at the right time, and that is a value-added that can make or break the product! 🙂

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