Back in the day, products were considered tangible objects, like books, games, and appliances. Now, nearly everyone is familiar with and uses digital products, apps, and the cloud. We read ebooks instead of hard copies and pay via mobile apps instead of handing over cash. What does this mean for the market?
Sr. Digital Product Manager at Arity, an Allstate company, for New Product Development of telematics and connected car solutions. An accomplished strategic leader with 15+ years of new product development and management experience. In the last 3 years, Jenny led the design, launch and go-to-market strategies of new innovative telematics solutions to support crash detection and in-time emergency help to drivers. She has a Bachelor of Science and holds an MBA.
How did you get into product management?
I had different experiences from application development to traditional insurance P&L product management. All included developing products. About four years ago I joined the innovation organization within Allstate and had taken the innovation mentor program through the University of Notre Dame. That led to developing a few digital products
What are the things that you like and things that you dislike in your role as a Product Manager?
The things I like about product management are the ability to innovate and create products based on what consumers want. It is an art more than a science. You have to be agile to navigate the space. The things I dislike are that sometimes it may not be rewarding if the product doesn’t scale.
What are the major challenges in Digital Product Management as compared to software/application product management?
Major challenges are that you have to start with the customer in mind. You also have to understand what the market is like, and what the future trends are. You need to be up to speed on what your competitors are doing. You have to factor all in.
What methods do you use in the innovation organization to select what to work on?
You have to establish a process for the innovation pipeline of ideas. You have to have some form of governance to decide what ideas are worth pursuing and which are not. You have to have some budget to explore some ideas. And you have to have some measurements in place to decide how successful your innovation pipeline is.
How do you keep the customer in mind?
When you come up with an idea, you need to present this concept to consumers and get their response. How many are interested in this concept? Then you will create a value proposition, and you need to test it out with consumers to understand if this is a true value proposition or is it something that you like.
Then you drill this value proposition into use cases, and you need to test those as well. Knowing consumers’ reactions would help you to design a better product. Once the product is live, you have to test it again and see if the customer’s response is what you’ve expected. Phew! Seems like a lot, but it pays off!
What advice would you give to a Junior Product Manager just starting out in this field, with tech and purchasing experience?
You have to start somewhere. If your organization has the opportunity to move to a Product Manager role, it is the easiest way to join the field. If not, find a startup that is hiring Product Managers. Your technology experience will help you to be a product manager, but you need some experience to become a good Product Manager.
The difference is in diverse experience and opportunities to develop different products. When you get into a more senior role, you’ll dive into a product strategy. Good Luck!
What made you switch between different roles in Allstate and why did you want to be a Sr. Digital Product Manager?
I was in a three-year talent acceleration program, with about a year rotation. All other roles were primarily driven by me, pushing myself to learn new things.
Would you be able to clarify which one of the roles was in the acceleration program and which ones you wanted to learn new things?
Talent Acceleration Program – Assistant State Manager, Sr. Financial Manager Manager and Program Manager. All other roles were driven by me. However, even within the talent program, I selected the assignments that best fit into my development plan.
How do you stay ahead of trends in technology and cultural adoption to truly be innovative?
I read a lot of Competitive Intel and see what’s happening in the market. I also attend conferences within the industry that I work in. Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas is a good start for the year.
How has it been for you validating products with high-sensitivity (relating to driver safety, suspicion around data collection)?
All in data – We’ve been doing telematics for about nine years. 25 b miles driven.
What advice do you have for Product Managers that work in an environment where there’s no predictability of delivery of features/bugs?
Create some structure and governance.
What is the #1 analytics problem that you or your customers have or have had? And if you already solved it, how did you do so?
I think this is a pretty broad question. You create an algorithm and then you need to validate it and tweak your model.
How did you go about tackling the user testing process for your last product you released?
We work with resources internally and externally, marketing firms, UX to validate the ideas and products. Qualitative and Quantitative research.
How can one get into product management with no technical experience or any experience at all?
This may be a challenge. I would recommend either taking a product management certification, a few college classes or an internship. You need to have some basic understanding of what you are getting into. Because, what if you don’t like it?
What do you look for when you hire a Jr PM/APM vs. a Sr. PM?
I look at agility and experiences and ability to learn also personality fit. The rest could be taught.
What’s your final advice for aspiring product managers?
You need to be resilient to be in this field! And you need to believe in what you do and have fun!