Davide Scalzo, Product Manager Octopus Lab, speaking at Product Leaders 2017, just got interviewed by our colleague, Steliana Moraru, Event Manager.
Read on to discover his professional experience, lessons learned and challenges met along the way. This is the first part of the interview. Read the second part here.
Steliana: Your past experience goes from UI/UX to programming, tech savvy to project management. Currently, you are Product Lead @Octopus Lab and Founder at Dramsclub. Share with us a bit more about what professional experiences you value the most and what is current role looking like?
Davide: As you rightly picked up, my career spanned disparate roles, including, early on, designing yachts! When I look back at the different choice I have made, I can identify two main reasons why I worked in such different vectors (Enterprise B2B, Agency, B2C marketplace, fin-tech are all very different). The first one is the constant drive to learn, as an individual, I get bored relatively easily and constantly need new stimuli and learning opportunities. The second one is about teams. There is no revolutionary idea that would make for an exciting role if the team is less than excellent. The combination of excellent people and new domains makes for a great professional experience where you learn, innovate and have fun doing so!
Now my role bring in other disciplines which are new to me, managing product and operations, I have to think about legal concerns and compliance in a lot more detail than I used to, I have to think about operational efficiency in different ways and with different solutions than I did before, but the so far our product has become the second biggest in its field and profitable in less than 9 months from launch, so that’s exciting!
Steliana: What would be some lessons you learned along the way and would be of help for Product Leaders audience?
Davide: There are a lot of things that I learned in my career, but probably only a select few can be applied in a generic way without setting up some context first.
Hiring: At the risk of sounding boring, always hire for excellence. If you get less than awesome team members, the quality of your work will degrade over time, so will the quality of your team. It’s a downward spiral which is difficult to stop and you’ll find yourself micro-managing and be chasing every single bit of work to get the job done on time and to the standard required. On the other hand, if you hire for excellence, your main job will be to nurture an environment of creativity and ensure that your team is happy. Much more fun and better results!
Talk to customers: Customers are your best investors, marketers, advocates and product managers. They just don’t know it yet. Talk to them as much as you can, join your customers’ support team for half a day per week or find other ways to engage with them as much as you can. This is valid for everybody in the team, PMs, designers, engineers, managers, knowing your product vision is important, knowing your market is essential, but without your customers your business is nothing, so just stop finding excuses and just talk to your customers.
Be Data drive, in moderation: I love data. I really do. When I have free time I like to loose myself in charts and statistics. Building a business is a discovery act, and data is your map, however, you can’t always rely on it, and you need to be aware of some pitfalls. For example, analysis paralysis is a thing, and you might get stuck trying to find answers rather than shipping stuff. If your team is awaiting to know what needs to be built, you might be overdoing it. Also, I have seen some teams making “data-driven” decisions based on very little data, always be careful when doing that as your gut feeling might be better than some weak statistics.
Steliana: What metrics do you use to measure the success of the product?
Davide: It really depends on the product and the nature of the business. Some products are heavily utility focused, think back-office systems or even e-commerce sites like Amazon, the intent of the user is to get a job done as quickly as possible so they are optimized for that, therefore for those type of product makes sense to measure task completion time and similar metrics. For other products, the intent is a lot more inspirational, fashion, travel, luxury goods, social networks etc.. require much more focus on the experience which might require metrics that are more tightly coupled with the nature of the business. And then, of course, there is the awesome framework of the pirate metrics from Dave McLure, which I find incredibly helpful to provide a high-level view of where the business is and where it should focus in the current/following quarter.
Want to meet Davide and ~200 tech product practitioners? Join today Product Leaders (un)Conference, 8-9 June, Bucharest, Romania!