April Yang is a Product Manager at Mozart Data. She has been working in product for three years and previously worked at Sote Logistics. Here’s how she got her job in product at her previous organisation.
How did you find out about your current job and why did the role appeal to you?
I heard about the company from a friend who has a strong network among early-stage startups and a shared interest in developing markets. I insisted on an intro to the CEO and made sure to meet the Co-founder. I had been looking for a Kenyan-led, very early stage startup that was solving a substantive problem. An added benefit was that there was no product team yet and the team needed someone to be glue between both the commercial and tech sides of the business as well as between the two geographic sides of the business.
I asked the CEO for the biggest challenge the team was currently facing and then showed that I had resources and was willing to put in work to help resolve that issue. I had a long discussion about the product function the product cofounder wanted to build. We agreed to work on a project together to flesh out a foundational aspect of the product function, and I took the conversation/negotiation from there.
What professional experience did you have prior to this role?
I started my career in management consulting at McKinsey, moved to the near-opposite of that job by joining a pre-seed startup teaching kids to code (built an experiential product there), then finally used something I learned in my university degree through a short stint as UX lead in a medical device startup. I was briefly a VC focused on B2B software and data services. The ability to evaluate startups from an investor perspective has helped me think critically about selecting a team with strong growth proposition and whether I can contribute to that team in its current stage. I came to Nairobi without any personal connections or a job offer in hand, so my network enabled me to find product roles and transition to new teams.
What are your key roles and responsibilities?
I manage an 11-person engineering team and 1 designer. I validate key problems/experimentation to document first requirements, which involves feedback from both internal stakeholders as well as clients.
As a distributed tech team, we have morning and night meetings so that I have most of the day to meet with the local/commercial side of our business. We have done our best to determine which things can happen asynchronously vs. when to just get on a call.
How is your team structured and where does that sit within the larger organisation?
The product team is small and reports to the cofounding team. Each product team member has fairly independent workstreams though we ask each other for feedback regularly. We are at the same “level” as all of our other function—engineering, ops, sales, people ops, and finance.
What are your key tips on landing a role in product?
- Join a community of some kind that matches your domain interests
- Keep in touch with at least one person who is a “connector” in your space
- If you want to work in an early-stage business, reach out after a funding announcement when you know the technology/product lead will definitely be thinking about team expansion-work for free (be reasonable of course); especially as a product manager, this means sharing your thinking and possibly your network. This is one of the best ways to determine if a team values your work and if you enjoy the kinds of problems they face
How did you get your job in product?
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