Many hiring managers or people who have a product need ask the same types of questions. Here, I’ve generated a set of responses curated as a go-to reference that I hope you and your team may leverage to help you get to know me better to see if we’re a fit.
Strengths: Right brain – analytical, ambiguity breaker, big picture strategist, synthesizer, interpersonal skills, strong communicator, scrappy with a knack for attention to detail
Perceived Weaknesses: Introverted, Average technical acumen (zero CS background) though I do have a monthly newsletter for non-technical folks to learn how to become a pm who is armored with a fundamental amount of technical acumen 🙂
Tell me about a time you had to make a strategic decision with incomplete data.
With my last project at healthcare company, we were on a tight timeline to set priorities and plan product strategy for our MVP launch of the new redesign. Just coming on to the team, my immediate habit was to learn about all the tasks healthcare members must go through and dissect member customer segments. We didn’t have all the data at hand so we made judgement calls based on current core experiences members had to go through. I started this process by enumerating the pain points and high value tasks. I came up with the prioritized list of tasks by digging into a basic set of analytics user tracking data for the current member site. This helped me contribute to our strategic decision of what would be included in the MVP release by ranking tasks based on high frequency in order to incentivize members to adopt to our new platform. What came out of it was working on a new claims experience as a key strategic feature we would release first. A digitization of the process members go through to submit health claims in the “real world”. Because this was one of the core (and the most painful) tasks that most members who are avid users of health insurance, I used that bias to make this the strategic decision to announce and launch this feature first. It was the right call, as once we launched our analytics we instrumented beforehand validated that this was indeed a highly used feature that customers valued saving time and money whilst our business saved roughtly $5 – 10 million in operational costs annually for the claims program and a huge win for our team.
Tell me about a time where your strategic decision did not come to fruition. How did you handle the outcome?
One of the first products I built was inspired by a real-word system I use with people I personally trained and helping my partner lose 26 pounds in 8 weeks. I am to this day super passionate about health and wellness ( fun fact: I’m a certified personal trainer) and wanted to build a product that helps people lose weight at scale. Check out https://www.leanrr.com/. We (me and two people I partnered with: designer and engineer) envisioned in building this into a business, so we digitized the experience and wanted to test with people as soon as possible to ultimately make a living from it. Our strategy played out as follows: conduct customer discovery and market research, build out MVP, test with a sample, market, then launch. Once we launched we got over 10,000 signups in the first 3months. I had over 50 people try it out for free and followed through a full 4-8 weeks. They were communicating with me asynchronously on their progress and reporting positive results. With this validation, we decided that it was time to go premium and start monetizing. Right when we put the paywall up our sign up conversions dropped by +25% immediately with new visitors. We thought we were doing everything right yet the decision to start monetizing too quick was a learning for us. The lesson learned was that there were still gaps in our business strategy and the perceived value of our product was not enough for our customers to be something they paid for. After further customer research, it wasn’t only that, most of our customers were from South Africa where disposable income and socioeconomic factors may have played a huge part in purchase resistance. Alas, because we weren’t making as much income from it we found other immediately paying opportunities and moved on from Leanrr. We ended up offering it as a freemium experience again and it still runs today.
Tell me about a time where you had to choose speed over quality or vice versa.
The undertaking of my role in launching a mini short-form Netflix experience to telecom customers on their mobile screens was a precise example of choosing speed over quality. As we were pressured to launch the product in less than 6 months we made a plethora of trade-offs to get the product out to and then fix later. This resulted in features that customers really wanted that I and my UX counterparts collected during initial user studies and that I personally guerilla tested (tested with people, customers and internal folks in person) with 100’s of people. Features involving cleaner UX, personalisation, customization but would take 2-6 more months to build. I developed a product launch acceptance criteria that all stakeholders and I agreed on. We did deploy a product that was reliable, usable, functional, and pleasurable. It was, after all, an entertainment product. By planning ahead, I made sure that what we at least delivered a quality product heavily focused on the core experience with the least friction as possible for our customers so we could quickly learn and validate the core experience was sticky or not, learn and iterate from there.
Tell me about a time you were trying to understand a company goal or objective and you had to go down several layers to figure it out. Who did you talk with and what information proved most valuable? How did you use that information to help solve the problem?
When working on the loyalty program for a local telecom company, I came into the role with no direction on company goal or objectives defined as it was a new product team that just formed. Let alone they had no defined way of how they would be measuring goals, albeit a general report of lagging indicators MAU/DAU, NPS, etc.. No one who was using data to perform analysis and make changes to the product. They were at a plateau. The problem was to sort through the structured chaos, align folks on a defined direction for the product, and create measurable goals. It was imperative that I set meetings with all the counterparts that had any involvement with the product to date; where they saw their role involvement in the product development process, what their incentives and goals were in relation to the product, their needs from the product team along with how we work together going forward. I believe I spoke to over 5-10 different teams and their directors which included: go to market, marketing, data analytics, consumer insights, social media, emerging business. Short story, there were so many teams and sub-teams (as a big enterprise, no surprise) and their functions belonged in two buckets: support as a service (data analytics, social media, consumer insights) for the product or product marketing and initiatives (emerging business,marketing and go to market). By collecting all the team’s feedback along with CEO/COO feedback of their vision for the product I synthesized objectives into a key set of themes and OKRS to build the roadmap and metrics. Following that, leveraging the teams in support as a service bucket we were able to use each of their reports to feed into KPI’s for those themes and realize new metrics to measure and track in our weekly reports to produce actionable product outcomes.
Tell me about an ambiguous, high-level goal or objective you were asked to achieve? How did you design your strategy and know you were focusing on the right things?
At the same telecom company, I was in charge of building the product strategy for a pilot mini short-form Netflix experience we built on mobile screens for customers. It was a highly visible project and the main strategic play of the company was to offer more value to customers while engaging them with this new platform. I was asked to launch this experience in 6 months with no resources assigned yet to the project. While the financial potential was clear, the idea was risky because there was very limited information about whether our customer base would value it. This was amplified by the fact that our business, marketing, product, and executive team had strong opinions in mind for what the mobile app should be backed by very limited data. As with any big initiative, there was a lot of conflict between stakeholders and even doubt for the product to be a success or even launch. As the product lead, my job was to reduce uncertainty, get everyone bought in, determine product market fit, and get it out to the market to test and learn as soon as possible. I used lean product development methods to overcome this challenge and form the basis of what was then used to scale up a team to build out our MVP. The result was by working closely and collaborating with my team we built a strong confident hypotheses using customer feedback while testing incrementally, allowing quick validations along the way to deliver on time and successfully with a retention rate of 35% in the first few weeks!
Can you give me an example of when you disagreed with your leaders on a product or strategic direction? What did you do and what was the result?
With my last project, which was an mobile experience, I had a disagreement with my colleague on what was one of the most important components such as funnel metrics to invest in at the onset of our product launch. Current analytics tools were lacking important metrics to track user journeys who were using our app so we can track not only engagement, My colleague believed that technological implementation was most important, building out the product. Without funnel metrics, there would be no way to iterate quickly, to keep on pushing out value. We had a few meetings and my proposal and drawing out the opportunity cost of not investing impacted the ROI by potentially hundreds of thousands to millions in revenue. We agreed that investing in funnel metrics and having those instrumented prior to launch was key to a path forward to product success.
Example of a time that you made a decision because it was better in the long term? Or something that was detrimental to your goal, but better for the overall goals of the company?
Once, a co-worker and I disagreed on the way a product should be built architecturally because he felt that the most important objective of the product was to have a back-end server built into it which would have delayed our launch of the product by 7 months. He was a technology product manager which meant he wanted to ensure security of the company. I’m an empathetic person who’s skilled at relating to people and making them feel heard. Over a couple meetings, I met with on one on one to talk and resolve our dispute in a peaceful manner. We both agreed that our goal was to keep the business and customer happy and came to a compromise that consisted of both of our ideas, which was launching the product and adding in the extra layer of security in the roadmap in the near-term. The most customer obsessed thing we could do to learn the fastest was to launch our MVP.
Example of a time when you improved the strategic or product decision process across multiple teams or departments?
At a hospitality company, working on improving member loyalty program, there wasn’t an existing product decision process between what features we would prioritize and be including with MVP. As multiple teams had their own objectives, they wanted their work to be implemented. I created a product framework that we could shuttle work that teams wanted implemented, prioritize based on established OKR’s of the product, impact/cost of delay, and circulated this document broadly for teams across the board to understand our decisions and our strategic direction. Building shared context resulted in effective conversations and progress between our teams working together.
Tell me a time where you took initiative
With my last project at a healthcare company, we were on a tight timeline to launch a claims experience, a digitization of the process members go through to submit health claims. We were running lean as management let go of 70% of engineering and architectural resources. To provide context to the engineering team and how we were going to implement this new initiative we needed a spike to gather the current design on where data was being processed for this and where data would need to go for the new process. The engineering team were pulled into other core work that needed to be complete for the redesign initiative. With a lot of ambiguity present, I took the initiative to identify those I could find in the company starting with the claims department processors where then I was able to draw out the architecture of where the data inputs need to flow to be easily digestible for the product team (includes engineers). I also pulled in a lot of claims data about which customer segments most likely submitted claims so we could make tweaks to the previous designs and have those ready to validate with customers and implement those as well. This saved at least a couple sprints of work to think through the design, map it out to provide it in context in our stories and standups so our engineering team could get a head start before their planned sprint to work on building out the claims experience.
Tell me a time when you had to resolve a conflict with a non-technical team leader
On one of my projects at a the same telecom company, we had a conflict where the team leader from an adjacent team (design) who was so resistant with the product value proposition and strategy of the new experience we designed for the flagship app that he was hard to work with and get ahold of. I made it a statement to sit down and understand his position more. He conveyed he didn’t feel confident in the direction of the app and because we didn’t have all the technical parts fleshed out. I understood his concerns. Following our meeting, I provided them all the data from my analyses to help back up our hypotheses for our strategy. Additionally, I gave them assurance in how we were making huge progress on the technical front. It immediately resolved our issues in collaborating as we worked through the project.
BONUS QUESTION [Deeper look into my process]
What is the biggest business challenge you have faced? Describe the situation, why it was a problem, your role, and how it was addressed.
In my last project, I was asked to lead the development of a new entertainment experience for T-mobile and launch it in less than 6 months with limited resources. While the financial potential was clear, the idea was risky because there was very limited information about whether our customer base would value it. This was amplified by the fact that our business, marketing, product, and executive team had strong opinions in mind for what the mobile app should be backed by very limited data. As with any big initiative, there was a lot of conflict between stakeholders and even doubt for the product to be a success or even launch. As the product lead, my job was to reduce uncertainty, get everyone bought in, determine product market fit, and get it out to the market to test and learn as soon as possible. I used lean product development methods to overcome this challenge and form the basis of what was then used to scale up a team to build out our MVP.
First step was figuring out who our target customers were. Working at a bigger company, it’s a blessing and a curse. There are already tens of millions of customers, so the expectations of scale can lead the team to build a product that’s for “everybody” that really ends up being for nobody. On the other hand, there is a lot of market research on hand which allows you to have much greater certainty than when building a product for a startup. I dug deeper into understanding who our customers were out of the addressable market and what the common themes of needs were with the usage of their device. I identified two target customer segments that made up the majority of the base and assigned them two personas.
Identified Underserved Needs
Each of the personas had their own set of needs and attributes so I was looking for the least common denominator from both. Leveraging the market research dataset, I looked for lift to discern the top 4 most unique yet important use cases of these personas. The 0 time to access our entertainment center because it’s one swipe left of the home screen would be the key differentiator to redefine the satisfaction scale of our offering.
Defined Value Proposition
I crafted the MVP hypothesis document which detailed the value proposition and feature set while gathering additional requirements from our cross functional stakeholders. An integral part was communicating the final version to all business stakeholders and achieving leadership buy in before beginning to test it.
Designed Feature Set
Using the defined use cases and features, I produced mockups and description of user flows and passed them through feedback and approval with our director of design to prototype the end to end experience so we could test with customers as quickly as possible.
Prototyped and Tested UX with Design Team
Working with UX research, we tested our prototype with our target customer base. With customer feedback of the designed solution, we were able to validate value proposition, discern and prioritize top desired user goals and features tied to strategic business goals for our product achieving high confidence with stakeholders.
Rapidly working back from the customer to design our minimal viable product was key to gaining confidence amongst stakeholders. Using lean product methods, we were able to build consensus amongst our stakeholders on the short, mid, and long term roadmap. We launched before the expected timeframe with a quality minimal viable product we were proud of! Early data showed steady growth and usage, along with the expected financial impact. Post launch, there was a significant increase in actual sales for the specific devices our product deployed on.