Product Manager has become a buzzword in the IT industry, and is definitely one of the most desirable occupations on the world market. We talk about what that role actually entails with Peđa Rajković, an experienced product leader who, with teams, created strategies for the development of dozens of digital products from idea to launch, through the first to the millionth user. Some of them are now world-recognized brands from the telecommunications, digital media and TV industries, such as the EON TV platform developed by United Cloud.
Interview with Predrag Rajković
Pedja, tell us what the Product Manager role entails, and what is the most exciting part of it?
"Every company that has a product or service needs a visionary who will truly understand the needs of its end users and transfer that vision to the development of the product, as well as to the people who work on it. That role is most often called a Product Manager, although the name can vary across different industries."
"In the IT industry, where I come from, a Product Manager is someone who follows a product from its inception, researching everything it needs to solve for the user, making assumptions about the solution, prototyping, and development. By launching a product on the market, our business gets further challenges, because it is necessary to monitor the entire ecosystem in which the product lives, from user reactions to events in the entire industry on a global level."
"The higher the number of users, the more exciting our work becomes. In such an environment, one of the key roles of the Product Manager position is to convey to the team his positive energy, vision and desire to get things done from start to finish, as well as to motivate others to do the same."
What kind of companies need Product Manager positions and why?
"To every company that has a product or service, to startups who want to launch their ideas, to entrepreneurs who want to establish their own companies, and to all those who want to start their own businesses. In a small company, Product Managers are usually the founders of the company in the beginning, but at some point as the company grows, as the complexity of the product increases, there is a need to hire people in the Product Manager position. It's very hard for me to imagine a larger company with its own products functioning without multiple product managers. In the company where I work, there are 14 production lines, each of which has a person from the field of product management who leads it. In addition, within the more complex lines, several product managers of various specialties work alongside the line leader."
What does working in a product company look like and why is it the best place for career development?
"There are many examples of why a company that develops its own products is an ideal place for someone who wants to develop in the direction of Product Management. Only there you can gain experience on how to go from an idea expressed in a sentence or two to a final product that is used by hundreds of thousands of people."
"In the company where I work, we have launched more than ten products from scratch. Some of them are in their mature stages with millions of users, while others are in the Discovery stage or have specialized purposes."
"One of the most popular is EON TV, a brand that is recognized and used in markets with a total of 40 million people. It is one of the first products that gave people the ability to change the classic way they watch TV. Recognizing their daily needs and lifestyles, we developed video-on-demand and pay-per-view capabilities, plus the classic way of watching live TV channels. It brought the major improvement in the user experience and brought TV into the flow of modern lifestyle."
"That's why the most exciting part for me right now is when we gather feedback from users around the world, develop solutions further and watch what the future of TV viewing will bring us."
What qualities are important for someone who wants to work in Product Management?
"There are people who like to observe life and work with great curiosity. They wonder why things work the way they do. That's why I think that constant and persistent curiosity is one of the most important qualities of a Product Manager and that "why" is our favorite question."
"I want to emphasize that a good Product Manager is not (only) a technical person who has a good understanding of his product, he first of all understands people and their needs. Namely, products are not there to be beautiful or functional, products are there to solve some problems for people. That's why a Product Manager should be a visionary who doesn't give up easily and a natural leader who knows how to convey the vision to people and inspire them to follow him."
If I had to summarize the character traits, I would say they are:
What are the advantages of working on your own products?
"If you want to get into product management, there are two options: work on your own product or work on someone else's product. The degree of influence you can personally have on development differs drastically between the two cases. I consider myself extremely lucky to be working on my own products e.g. to those developed by my company end-to-end. Not only do I help create certain functionalities, but I influence the future of user behavior and the success of the company. Also, when I look back, I see the concrete results that the team achieved and together we follow the life of the new things that we brought to the market. What you have made is seen and used by your friends, acquaintances and a much wider audience, and you will be proud of what you have made. In the process, you grow more and more and perfect product development techniques that turn each next product you work on into the next success."
Give us an example from practice, what do the stages in the development of a product or functionality look like?
"An interesting example is the work on personalized TV profiles in EON TV, and I can explain through the example of creating a child profile within the EON TV application. While the profile design for adult users was based on the existing EON design, the profile layout for children was unknown. It was necessary to create not only the visual identity of the application adapted to children but also the entire organization of content that would be logical for little ones."
"We started from the standard principle of Product Management - always ask the user. This time it was children aged 6 to 11, with whom we organized discovery workshops. In the end, each group of children actually made some kind of mock-up of their own profile, which were put on our walls throughout the company as inspiration when they came to life."
"After the launch of the profile, we conducted a survey with children and their parents. That's how we understood how they actually use our product, which avatars they like, how they get to the desired content, whether they use the content categories we created for them, etc."
Who can plan the development of their career in Product Management, are they only people who have a technology background?
"Actually, no, and it mostly depends on the product itself. If the product is more "technical", e.g. less exposed to end users, it will also require a Product Manager with deeper technical knowledge. On the other hand, with products more oriented towards end users and their interactions, technical knowledge can also be a hindering factor. The point is that the Product Manager must keep the user and the problem they are solving in focus. Therefore, a deep level of knowledge of technology is not necessary, but every Product Manager will have to develop a certain degree of knowledge in his work."
"We have product managers with a background in economics, mathematics, of course, engineering, marketing, and even philology."
Can you give us examples of some globally successful people who developed their careers as Product Managers?
Anyone who ran their company or product in a start-up was called CEO or CMO, or VP of Product if he is the one who creates the vision and makes the decisions, while actually, he is a Product Manager.
In this sense, it is easy to imagine Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Larry Page.
See also United Cloud's profile on Joberty and their open positions. Right now, they have two open positions for a Product Manager in their team.