Passion for the complexity of delivering customer-centric, compliant, and scalable products is what drives Marina Fernandes, Head of Product – Digital Banking at Solaris.
Marina has more than seven years of experience in building products for the financial industry.
Her role entails overseeing the Digital Banking Accounts and Transactions API products. She joined Solaris (back then: Solarisbank) as a Product Owner and delivered several API products and process improvements on the scope of Payments and Digital Banking. See what you can learn from Marina.
Being an outstanding Product Manager requires combining a methodological approach, creative thinking, and people skills. How does it work in practice? We answer this question in the Disruption Insights series by presenting proven frameworks and battle-tested tips from top experts who contribute to creating valuable and effective products.
The most important elements of good product stories
Understanding the audience that will use your final product is what crafting a good product story starts with. It’s about including whoever will use the story (mostly your development team) in the discussion on how to describe and present it.
In essence, two aspects should be included in such a story: the why and the what is to be achieved. The level of details of those topics and the way it’s going to be communicated will depend a lot on who is going to read and listen to that story.
Tips for communicating product vision and strategy to get others engaged
I have a proven formula for communicating both the vision and strategy of a product. It consists of the following steps:
- Focus on the main, essential topics. A vision and strategy that includes a lot of goals will give your audience the impression that there is no strategy at all.
- Make sure it’s also aligned with the company’s vision and strategy. I try to start with the company’s strategy and explain how this is reflected in the product’s strategy. It helps me make sure everyone understands that what’s happening on the product level will directly impact the company.
- Make strategy and vision realistic and measurable. A strategy and vision that is unachievable and ungraspable will be hard to measure and, most likely, will make people lose interest in it quickly.
Decision-making process when defining strategic bets
Involving the right set of people can be the most challenging part of defining strategic bets and the one that I make sure is always well thought-through. If there are too many people, the process can take longer and will miss its overarching goal. Conversely, if there are too few people, it will most likely be hard to make a substantiated decision.
After forming a working group, it’s important to have a clear goal of what decision has to be taken and what are the pros and cons of each of the available options.
Lastly, documenting the reasons behind a certain decision is the final step that completes the process.
Three favorite product frameworks
The best framework is the one that a Product Manager will use and adapt to support the situation they face at the very moment the framework is to be used. Sticking too strictly to a specific framework can be comfortable, but might also impair the Product Manager’s vision and their ability to analyze the wider context.
Therefore, when facing a challenge on how to structure my thinking, I search for the best method that can be adapted to cover all aspects of the problem I want to solve at that very moment.
📋 Work and talent
Key traits or skills of a great Product Manager
The product manager role requires a really vast set of skills, but if I have to choose three, here are my bets:
- Sense of ownership: When owning a product, a great Product Manager needs to own it end to end. Making sure that they understand and can impact the processes on all ends to improve a product is extremely important.
- Good communicator: Product Manager needs to communicate their stories and vision multiple times, to different types of audiences, always choosing the right angle.
- Curiosity: A good Product Manager asks (a lot!) of questions. This is one of the main ways of understanding the customers’ needs and the stakeholders’ interests or feedback.
Three favorite interview questions when hiring a Product Manager
I usually focus on the experiences the candidate has had and their understanding of the challenges of the role they apply for.
Some key aspects I like to understand more are related to their way of prioritizing tasks, how they manage stakeholders, and what the company needs to provide them with, so they can perform their job at its best.
Top PdM habits you follow every day/week
A Product Manager may be swamped with a lot of tasks and requests, so to mitigate that and prioritize my tasks, I frequently ask myself, “What’s the best way to bring value to my customers?”
In addition to that, I aim to stay as close to my main stakeholders as possible.
🎤 Customer centricity
Top habits, rituals, and frameworks for gathering insights
Staying as close as possible to the customers. In a SaaS company, as I am right now, this is easier as the number of customers is significantly lower than in a direct B2C or B2B business. I usually take this as an opportunity to participate in sales calls, present our customers the roadmaps we have planned, and talk about their main issues and product improvement wishes.
Winning strategies to collect customer feedback
Within my current setup and possibilities I have, the best is to talk with customers directly. Another base for ensuring a successful implementation is targeting key customers and collecting their feedback while the product is being built.
Finally, allowing some of those key customers to test the product before a full rollout also increases the chances of an (almost) successful [launch].
💡 Inspiration corner
Book that every Product Manager should read
I am now reading “EMPOWERED: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products,” by Marty Cagan, and I am loving it!
Essential reads to stay on top of the Product Management trends
This depends a lot on what my needs are at the moment. My main source of product management insights are discussions I have with my coworkers, friends, or my partner who also work in the product space.
Want to be a part of the Disruption Insights series? Shoot me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn from other product experts:
- "Outstanding Products Emerge When Vision and Values Meet" with Lise Gobet from Spendesk
- "Fall in Love With the Problem First!" with Jan Schütz from finstreet
- "Understand What’s Vital For Customers" with Davide Vitiello from Delivery Hero