Oleksii Nefedchenko and Product Management Best Practices
How did you decide to pursue a product management career, and what aspect of your work are you most passionate about?
It wasn’t an actual decision. It came naturally. I started my career as a graphic designer as I always liked drawing. Then I switched to UX design. Being a UX designer, you have particular tasks that you need to resolve. This is something I enjoyed very much – it combines drawing and solving problems.
At the company where I worked as UX designer, there was no product manager and the company was looking for one. I decided to try and started doing product manager tasks. This is how my transition started.
I’m passionate about solving problems. You start to dig at how it works, what’s the user flow, and how you can improve the product. In this profession, I also enjoy that I design the strategy and I am at the start of its implementation. From the very beginning to the very end, you’re always shaping the product from all its angles.
What do you think makes a great product and what are the most important considerations to ensure success of new products?
From my experience, I can outline five most important things to consider when making a great product:
Figure out the user needs
One of the first things you need to understand, is there any need or pain that the product will be fulfilling? What kind of value would it bring to the market? Is this need or pain important enough to make people use it?
Define your target audience
Sometimes junior product managers come up with a great idea, but they struggle to explain who will be using their product. If this is a product that will be used only by you and five other people, you shouldn’t build this product.
Feasibility of building the product
What would be the scale of the product? You should understand if you or your company are able to build this product you’ve come up with or not. If you don’t know how to implement it, don’t do that.
It’s not enough to just have a good product and a market that needs this product. You need to understand your go-to-market strategy. If you don’t know how to get it to users, then someone else would do that instead of you.
Conduct a risk analysis
Risk analysis – consider that with all the tech giants out there, anything new which is really good and creative, the big companies can copy you quickly. This should be one of main risks that you must try to mitigate at the very beginning.
Which project are you working on at the moment? Explain your responsibilities?
We are developing a solution for our client BNSF Logistics. We’re expanding this product to cover more features than it’s covering at the moment. My responsibilities include interviews with clients to understand what we need to implement, and then I transform these into mockups and tasks for our team to complete. One of the most important things is to understand the expected result. I ensure timely delivery by the team and I work closely with the client to share our progress and discuss their expectations.
What are the most important things product managers should do in their first 30 days at the company?
First of all, you need to build a good relationship with your client. Your relationship defines your productivity and ability to succeed. Find an approach for each team member to understand their comfort zone, capabilities, expertise etc.
Secondly, learn the products and your end users as much as possible. There’s a lot of times when your work connects to other parts of the project. When you have some task that 3-4 internal teams should work on, you should understand how everything works, and have a bird’s eye view of everything happening in each part of the project.
Thirdly, you need to understand what is expected from you. It might seem obvious, but sometimes people forget to consider this. There might be some discrepancy between what you think you should do and what other people think you should be doing.
Name the five most important lessons you’ve learnt throughout the years as a product manager.
You are not your customer
During my early years as a product manager, I was designing all my products for myself. I’m quite geeky, and the way that I use apps is usually not how most people use them. Thus, you had better know who will be using your product.
Great product idea is a small part of a successful product
After years of working, I finally understood that while building a product from scratch, it’s not enough just to have an awesome idea. You need to invest in strategy, team development, processes, and implementation.
A great product is not enough for success
Without understanding your target audience and your go-to-market strategy, you will never achieve astonishing results with the product, no matter how great it is.
Work, work and work on MVPs. It’s always better to do a small replica of the product and then to evolve, shape, and update it rather than trying to develop a final product just from the first version.
You can’t do everything yourself
Invest in your team development. I tried to help all my team members: UX designers, project managers, developers, all of them, to achieve the best result possible. I wanted to be a part of everything. But a designer would make a better design than you, and developers will develop a better code than you. Your role is to discuss and give advice, and let people work on their own. Another thing is, they would also get used to you doing their work. They will get back to you with every question. You need to get people to learn something hard. You need to rely on people and the team.
What are the most common mistakes of new product managers?
Narrow your focus. Features do not necessarily equal value. In the end you need to focus on adding value, not necessarily adding new features. If you need this new feature, do your research and get proof that your ideas are working. If your product ends up with 100 features, no one will use all of these features.
The 20/80 rule can be used here as well. 20% of features will be used more than the other 80%. You should realize it right away. Sometimes it’s more beneficial to improve the existing features than to create new ones.
Explain what tools and techniques bring value during communication with customers and team members.
Be precise and laconic
Try to save valuable time for your teammates and clients.
Be prepared for your meetings
No matter if it’s a team meeting or a client meeting, you need to define goals, think of how and what you would be delivering, and how you would speak to the audience.
Ask questions rather than give answers
It gives you more experience and allows you to find mistakes and gaps in your own vision. This approach might take more time, but it has more benefits in the end.
Use active listening
Especially while working remotely. People can see when you’re reading something or chatting with someone else during the video call.
Do the summary of your meeting
By the end of longer meetings, a lot of participants forget about what was discussed. Do the summary on what was discussed, sending out meeting minutes to all participants.
Always have CTAs
Don’t just say what you’re not satisfied with, explain what kind of help you need. If you need someone to do something, don’t expect people to understand that themselves, tell them directly.
Which Transcenda value resonates the most with you? Why?
Among all of Transcenda’s values, I’m mostly fond of these two in particular:
Keep it fun
I tend to feel a kind of pressure when there’s awkward silence during company communications, especially during zoom meetings with many participants who don’t really know each other. I like to make some small talk and crack some jokes to keep the atmosphere warmer.
Embrace and embody an ownership attitude
To me this means that there’s no part of the product that is not my responsibility. When I see any problem, even one that might be beyond our responsibility as a team, I try to help our clients. I will notify the client about such issues and will include the research on our side to prove that.
Here’s a recent example. We received a new request from the client, and I was conducting research on the best implementation plan for it. During this research, I found inconsistencies that occurred in the current client’s system. In this case, if we implemented the planned functionality, we would make the whole system work improperly. We then altered the existing structure so the planned features would be implemented smoothly.
What do you like most about your job at Transcenda?
Transparency and total lack of bureaucracy. This struck me from the very beginning, during my first interview with Transcenda’s CTO Alexey Koval. For example, I can talk freely with all of the top management of the company. If I have any questions or difficulties, I can easily reach the managers and resolve my questions very quickly. Before joining Transcenda, I worked at companies with many levels of decision-makers above you. It was hard to reach them when I had any requests which slowed all processes very much.
Describe your average working day?
Typically, I start an hour before our daily standup. I go through all emails and messages I received overnight from our US clients. From there, I figure out my plans for the day. Then we have a standup where we outline the day’s team plans. After that I have one on one meetings with developers to understand their needs and how I can help.
Next the typical working routine starts which include calls, messages, as well as discussing needs and expectations with team members and clients. Closer to the evening I try to find some free time for reading tech news like Techcrunch to stay up-to-date with the current trends.
At the end of the day, I collect updates from developers about their progress during the day. Then I usually have meetings and calls with clients. I’ve noticed that many of my teammates work past usual hours, and honestly, I can’t remember a day when we were not still discussing a project while in bed before sleep. We’re very passionate about our job.
Share some of your best working from home tips and tricks to task and time management?
I’m lucky that I have a spare room / home office. At the beginning of lockdown, I made myself clear to my family not to interfere while I’m working.
I try to free up two-three hours a day when I don’t have any meetings, and I make sure to schedule all meetings with the team and clients so I have this free time. Usually, it’s some time between 12 pm and 3 pm. During this time I turn off all notifications on my laptop and phone to do all my desktop tasks.
I use Trello for compiling a task list for myself. This way I don’t forget about anything. It also gives me a feeling of satisfaction when you move tickets from ‘Backlog’ to ‘Done’. Additionally, you can pull up this dashboard anytime to discuss your progress during the previous day.
Also, noise cancellation on a headset works good to concentrate while working from home 🙂
What are your hobbies? What do you do to stay fit during lockdown?
I play basketball, regularly go for a run, and read a lot of literature which is not work related. I’m a big fan of Harry Potter. I enjoy rereading books and rewatching movies about Harry Potter with my seven-year-old daughter.