This month we take a look at the intriguing world of product management. We jump into the deep end of this fast-paced field with our perpetual facilitator and juggler, Ashleigh Petrie (Senior Product Manager), and discover her experience of bringing a product together.
Often likened to being in the eye of the storm, what exactly is the role of a product manager?
I get asked this question a lot and actually find it quite an awkward one to describe. Some people have described the role of a product manager as “to discover a product that is valuable, usable and feasible”. I often think of it as being the middle of a Venn diagram between business, user experience and technology. A good product manager should be experienced in one area, incredibly passionate about all three and able to interact with people across all. That said, the role can vary quite a lot across companies and particularly industries. A lot of what the role entails is down to how a company is run and the priorities they have as a business.
How did you get into product management?
In truth, I sort of fell into it. Product management is not something you can get a degree in and the role is quite a strange one, so much so that some people can being doing the role of a ‘product manager’ without quite realising it.
My journey began when I joined the graduate programme with Jaguar Land Rover. I started off working on the Infotainment system, the in-car entertainment system. I was tasked with updating the seats feature. This involved making sure the customers who use our heated and massage seats have the best experience, and don’t burn themselves! From there I went on to work on other features and got titled a ‘Feature Owner’. I didn’t actually know that there were similar roles outside of JLR, it was only until I spoke to a friend who said my role sounded like something they have at their company.
What are the most rewarding/difficult parts of your role?
One thing I love about the role is when we get feedback from our customers that they have managed to “buy that house they were saving for” or that they managed to save more money than they realised. I think this ties in so nicely with what we are trying to do as a product team, and as a company, to help a generation invest for their future.
For the difficult parts, well I think it relates to the rewarding side, as in order to help people save for their future, we have to make it as simple and clear as possible for them to do so. People use Moneybox for many reasons, but one big reason is that we make it simple and easy to achieve their financial outcomes. If you look at traditional methods of investing for example, it is complicated, there is so much to read, and people don’t know where to start. When we are looking at a new feature, product or improvement, we spend what feels like a huge amount of time just trying to work out what we can strip it back. This can often be incredibly difficult if there is a lot of information we are legally required to present to the user.
Tell us about your recent experience of launching the latest Moneybox product, the Cash Lifetime ISA – what were the challenges?
Well, we already offer a Stocks and Shares Lifetime ISA, so we had a lot of learnings from that. However, this was our first ‘Cash’ product. One of the biggest challenges was how we incorporate this new way of saving, i.e. not through investing. For some of Moneybox’s users, we could be their first experience with investing. Whereas, for savings, the majority of our users will have experienced this before through their banks or other apps. We wanted to make sure that the journey and interactions felt familiar, but that anything specific to Moneybox was clear.
What advice would you give someone considering a career in product management?
Explore the role – go to Product meet-ups and reach out to people who you may know in that role. There are also some great books out there. Marty Cagan is big in the Product Management world, his book ‘Inspired’ is really good at illustrating what the role entails.
Try it out – you don’t have to have a specific degree or training to be a product manager. If you think that it sounds like something you want to do find small ways of trying it on – for example see if you can take on helping out on a product where you work, or apply for jobs and just go for it! It is a great career – but then I guess I am a bit biased 😄