What’s great about Product is that it’s at the natural intersection between technology and business. Building products that give value to its users with teams that I enjoy working with is what gives me a lot of purpose and joy in my working life and although being a product professional isn’t my end-game (I aspire to work at an incubator or accelerator after I better understand what it feels like to work in the trenches with a startup), I’ve found that it’s a meaningful learning journey that pushes the boundaries of what I know when it comes to validating, building, and launching products and services.
Below is a distilled list of products that I’ve had the opportunity to help build alongside some amazing people and a quick recap on the key learnings I’ve taken away from these experiences.
Plentina BNPL Mobile App
It’s a microlending app that offers store credit with a pay later scheme which allows users to grow their creditworthiness (and credit limit) with each repayment over time. Being the company’s first product manager, the job came with a lot of hurdles and just as satisfying wins. I learned how to:
- Work with founders to better define the product vision and roadmap
- Prioritize features that need to be built alongside fixes that need to be addressed due to daily business activity
- Establish both engineering and product workflows that allowed the organization to shorten a feature’s delivery time
- Deliver features alongside the engineering team that improved the usability and profitability of the product
To be candid, it is difficult to measure just how much usability and profitability improved after certain features were released due to the lack of metrics tracked by different teams in the organization, which is also why I have the interest in improving not only my analytical skills but also understand how I can play a hand in organization-wide alignment.
Within my time at Plentina, I also had the opportunity to define the requirements and set the roadmap for new product lines the company wanted to pursue, with Plentina Invest being one of them. Fundamentally, I took part in conceptualizing the larger Plentina product ecosystem and defined the steps necessary for the team to deliver these new products to market within management’s required timeframe.
YYY Jobs Mobile App
A jobs platform that focused on jobs for blue-collar workers (construction, retail, factory workers and other skilled professionals). After 2 years of development, the product was able to scale outside the Philippines to parts of India (Kerala, Chattisgarh, etc.), Africa (KwaZulu-Natal, Gambia, etc.) within a year with the support of local organizations in the field. Here, I learned how to:
- Perform in-person usability tests and user interviews with the target demographic
- Localize not only the app interface but also the related marketing and communications material stakeholders needed to adopt the product
- Persist in the attention to detail for every feature deployed regardless of how small the change appears to be
- Work with international team members and stakeholders in co-creating a product with a shared vision
KLIK Mobile App
This one was a product that I didn’t expect to get to work on. It’s a dating app that worked like Tinder but users were only allowed to take photos directly from the app and were disallowed from using photos from their phone’s Gallery. It was a product in collaboration with local celebrity, Slater Young, and grew to about 15,000 users until it was discontinued. In this opportunity, I learned how to:
- Manage stakeholders (investors, partners, and the development team) to work towards a version of a product that was suitable for the market
- Understand the importance of designing a product that fulfills a user’s job-to-be-done as soon as possible (perception of value).
- How deploying an application across multiple platforms applied different usability principles that impacts how feature requirements are defined
Aside from these startup products, I’ve had the opportunity to work on building other software for clients in my time as a Project Manager at Symph. I refrain from including these projects in this list as the level of engagement I experienced was mainly at the client-consultant level. Overall, in those experiences, I learned how to:
- Work closely with engineering teams and understand the importance of defining a clear goal for efficient workflows
- Adapt to different business needs and make sure to understand what the business goal is first before building
- Be flexible in learning about the industry I am building solutions for; better context influences better decision-making
Bonus! Communities I’ve Helped Build
It’s no secret that alongside my full-time roles, I actively volunteer in the local startup ecosystem. I’ve had the fortune of being involved in the Asia-Pacific region, getting the chance to facilitate pivotal community programs in countries like Brunei and Indonesia but highlighted below are the lessons learned from communities I’ve had a deeper involvement with.
Cebu Startup Ecosystem
The program that I am most proud of in this community is the establishment of a regular meetup titled Community + Government. The goal of this meetup was to have an active dialogue between local government champions and the startup entrepreneurs who truly understood the type of support they needed from regulators to better grow and operate their respective businesses. Alongside more targeted government support, the establishment of the Startup Island Mentorship Program resulted from this meetup and continues to support entrepreneurs in Region 7 to this day. I learned how to:
- Empathize with the needs of multiple stakeholders and facilitate difficult conversations towards a collaborative future
- Be critical when making partnerships and bets on whom to work with in the long-term
Bohol Technology Community
This is where it all started for me. Bohol doesn’t have much (yet) when it comes to a “startup community” but there are highly skilled individuals present in the province who are willing to share their skills; they just need an instigator. I learned most of the basics from my early years here (event organizing, writing sponsorship proposals, volunteer management, etc.) and, now that I am based here again, my latest project is Sprout Up Bohol — a non-profit organization that organizes trainings and networking events for the members of Bohol’s digital economy (software developers, creatives, freelancers, marketers, virtual assistants, etc.).
I co-founded the organization to not only formalize the grassroots movements we’ve started to bring in more opportunities for the tech community in Bohol, but to also use it as a playground in creating a model that can be adopted by other non-metro (rural) areas in the Philippines in the activation and empowerment of their respective tech communities to foster innovation and startup ecosystem growth in a way that best fits them, as current metro area-based “let’s be like Silicon Valley” models aren’t sticking.