Start Your Product Management Career Off Right with Zalando’s PM

This week, our #AskMeAnything session welcomed Enzo Avigo, Product Manager at Zalando, to help you start your Product Management career off right!!

Meet Enzo Avigo

Enzo Avigo is a Product Manager with more than 3 years of experience in Product Management. He also has a strong entrepreneurial mindset and loves to build things to grow online businesses for the consumer world. He has spent the last year and a half working with Zalando SE as a Product Manager on the Distribution Team, and before that, he was working as a Junior Product Manager at N26 banking.

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His skills include: Product Management, Project Management, Product Development, Agile methodology (SCRUM, KANBAN), Lean Development, Business Development, Digital Strategy, Content Marketing, Marketing Analytics, User Acquisition, Paid Online Advertising, Social Media Strategy, Email Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Online Psychology, and UX/UI.

The Product Management Career

Where and how do you look for ideas to solve problems? Do you find solutions to these problems through research or personal experiences?

Both πŸ––

Benchmarking is often referred to as a task for the Product Manager, something that he/she should be doing as part of his/her week, like any other tasks.

I have found that with this approach, passion for your product might vanish away, as it becomes repetitive.

My current approach on this topic is to ensure that I spend good time conducting industry investigation. Hence, most if this investigation is in my free time.

I use apps like Sip or Product Hunt in my free time and read tech news. Most often inspiration will directly come from there!

What is the top Product Management tool you use for managing day to day tasks at work?

  1. Github
  2. Trello
  3. Wunderlist
  4. Google suite
  5. And a lot of sweat πŸ’¦

In terms of skill set, how does the Product Manager role differ from that of a Founder at a startup?

This question especially resonates for me as I started into the Product Management role as a founder.

These roles have actually little in common, besides the fact that they both require handling a large variety of stakeholders.

Product Managers are not the “CEO” of their product.

CEO is CEO.

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How do you conduct A/B testing and what is the right time frame before making any decisions based on the data?

Right time frame: Wait for your test to reach a Minimum Detectable Effect (MDE). Then check the statistical significance of your results before implementing the variant.

How to do it:

  1. Use a solution to dispatch your traffic to several variants
  2. Draw hypotheses
  3. Design variants
  4. Run tests and measure results
  5. Decide on implementing or not

At Zalando, we use our internal solution as third-party solutions tend to be (very) expensive πŸ˜‰

Zalando Product Management

What would be your criteria for hiring a Product Manager at Zalando?

At Zalando, we use a model which highlights the main skills that a Product Manager needs to have in order to match the different kind of roles (and seniority) we have open. It is referred to as the T-shaped model (you can find a doc about it online).

The perfect candidate needs a good understanding of many fields, but he/she also needs to be an expert on a single topic in particular. In my current team, the topic to master would probably be user discoverability, as we strive to build new innovative products for our users, outside of the current company scope.

Recently I added an additional factor with an important weight: passion. I would rather recruit someone truly passionate about our mission and project, and with slightly less “hard skills” if needed πŸ™‚

How many times do you talk to customers in a week to improve your product? Do you also write down the expected results beforehand, then compare it after?

I have never seen such things as “talking too much to our users”.

In my current role, we aim at talking to customers once a quarter, in my previous role, it was twice a month.

Generally speaking, I think the younger the company/product, the more discussions with end users are needed to survive! πŸ˜‰

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I’m interested in your process for understanding how big your market when you’re validating assumptions. What really works well for estimating the market size?

The story of Zalando is quite interesting when it comes to “checking” a market size before launching πŸ˜‰

Initially, the founders launched a website to sell flip-flops. Soon after launching, they realized that there was a huge demand for online fashion. They then decided to pivot to – not only selling flip-flops – but also, to sell all type of shoes. Overnight, their market turned from the flip-flop market to the shoe market. Maybe 100x bigger!

Long story short: it is important to estimate the size of your market before launching, but it is maybe even more important to focus on your customer needs, then simply follow where the markets are going πŸ™‚

Are you in charge of both website and app products? I’ve seen really interesting approaches on Zalando’s app (following the look of your favorite influencers) which I believe is amazing. How did you end up including such a different feature? Did you test it before release?

The web and the app fall under different teams, but they ultimately share common roadmap pillars. I work for the Distributed Commerce team, which is again a separate buying experience for social media πŸ™‚

Projects such as influencer outfit are the results of long years of learning with our users, and the belief that true inspiration is the πŸ”‘ to cracking the problem of users not engaging with fashion.

How we enabled it? Zalando owns an influencer agency which has built strong connections with thousands of influencers over the past years.

As the director of Pokemon GO soon said after they launched: “It took us years to build an overnight success” πŸ™‚

Product Management Transition

Can you provide some tips for people looking to transition to Product Management?

  1. No one was born PM.
  2. Build your skills where you get the opportunity to do it. (Being your company, side projects, someone else’s startup, etc.)
  3. Be humble. Keep learning. (There will always be someone more experienced than you, and that’s fine)
  4. Trust yourself (You cannot drive people if you cannot drive yourself)enzo-avigo-product-school-management-career-quote2

After working in IT for more than 8 years, I am planning to move into product/project management roles. What do you suggest is the best path to take for learning and succeeding in a Product Manager role?

I don’t think there is a single best path to product, besides learning by doing. If your current company enables you to work on product related topics, and if your current manager allows you to grab this opportunity, then, by all means, I would start where I have an opportunity!

Side projects are also an underrated way to get started. Working or planning to work on something outside of work? Why not learn some basic skills online then apply it to your current project. You could then emphasize this experience on your resume and across discussions πŸ‘

Engineers with IT background often become great PMs πŸš€

How can you show your company or employees that a B2B Product Manager can transition to B2C or E-commerce Product Management? How can I learn B2C or e-commerce skills in my own time?

I actually asked myself a similar question when I transitioned from a FinTech B2C app to an eCommerce B2C platform. In the end, it is not an issue πŸ™‚

Why?

I would say that – no matter where you have worked for as a Product Manager – you very likely gained knowledge on projects which are not only specific to your industry and target users. These kinds of projects range from Growth project (such as CRO), or more common topics such a user on-boarding.

A good exercise would be to list these projects and make sure that you are able to explain it when applying them to another industry. A good recruiter should be able to connect the dots and see that you may be a good candidate to achieve what it takes in his/her team! βœ…

I see many offers for Product Managers where companies ask for an Engineering background. Do you have any advice for those who aren’t Engineers? 

It is true that some companies explicitly look for tech background (Google, etc.). I haven’t worked in some of these companies, to be honest, but I think these requirements are more than a line on a job offer. What the recruiter is basically looking for in this situation is probably someone who likes to be hands-on when it comes to coding, that would maybe be able to jump into the technical tasks if needed, at least someone who can handle deep and complex technical discussions.

If you feel at heart that this is who you are β€οΈ then I would suggest working on a few side projects or learning basic coding online in order to be able to defend your profile at the interview πŸ™‚

You can also find great resources online about how to handle technical PM interviews!

 

 

 

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