Staff Interview — Léopold Lambert, OSS Ventures product manager
Product Manager at OSS: The opportunity to make a real contribution
OSS is a young company, which makes Léopold Lambert’s perspective all the more valuable, as he is one of its longest-tenured employees. Having joined the company as a junior product manager intern, he now works as a project manager, guiding startups through the product creation and development process.
After completing a traditional course of studies in general engineering, Léo took a gap year to pursue business-oriented internships, including positions at an investment fund and in project finance, to complement his technical background. He deepened his business operations and data analysis competences further and got a taste of startup life by working in operations at an Australian startup, then joined OSS about a year after the company’s creation in 2019.
Why did he choose OSS? When asked the question, Léo doesn’t stop at just one answer. OSS’s unique business model and positioning as a startup studio in the industrial space was a major factor. He did not want to work for an investment fund and spend his days on the internet optimizing investments without any real contribution to the businesses or the industry, but in the far more fulfilling work of creating solutions and optimizing until they have a stellar user experience and performance. The team was also a major part of his decision. At the time Léo joined OSS, the team was very small. They welcomed Léo warmly, coached him thoroughly, and mixed an extremely high level of expectations in with their welcoming spirit. To this day, Léo has a high level of responsibility, and which keeps him engaged and learning.
Paving the way to startup success
Since joining OSS, the team has grown and Léo has settled into a routine — or at least, as much of a routine as an OSS project manager can have. He works closely with the OSS UX and product designers, fellow product managers, and the expert in OSS’s management suite (CTO, CPO, CRO) to accompany startups through their first six months of existence. Léo and the rest of the OSS team ensure the startups have a structured routine as they conceive, develop, and test a product, to keep them on the demanding timeline OSS requires of startups. This is no small task, because the OSS team and the startup cofounders must have a minimum viable product (MVP) at the end of those first six months. In black and white, the process seems straightforward, but Léo points out that each startup has its own specific challenges and considerations. The product development process at OSS hinges on a series of iterations. Each time the cofounders and OSS team propose a solution (a product) to factory users, they must understand the expectations of users and decision makers, then conceptualize, create, and test that solution. Once they have the results, they can then evolve their solution into a new iteration, which they test again until they have an MVP.
Not only does Léo assist the team in proposing the solution, he also helps determine, construct, and lead the tests the product will undergo to determine its success (or lack thereof) and whether it can scale among different sizes and sectors of factories. This, in addition to preparing the startup cofounders to run their business more or less independently from OSS, including helping them develop whatever skills they may lack, including in client relations, product design, and operations. Put simply, Léo says, the role of OSS is to ensure the startup will succeed. Though everyone on the OSS team supports that mission, Léo and the other product managers closely accompany the startup during their product iteration phase, ensuring the foundation of the business is strong. And thanks to the breadth of experience among the OSS team, which has launched nine startups to date (Léo himself has helped to launch seven of those), they are able to anticipate to a certain extent the obstacles a startup will face and help the startup resolve them in an efficient and effective manner.
The profile of an OSS product manager
When asked what sort of person is best suited to the project manager position at OSS, Léo didn’t hesitate to say adaptability is the most important quality because every four to six months he begins working with another startup and a totally different team. In addition, an OSS project manager needs a strong sense of curiosity because the fast pace of work can sometimes demand he step outside his comfort zone to do tasks in which he doesn’t have formal training or that he doesn’t perform normally. At that point, his natural love of learning and curiosity kicks in, and he must teach himself the necessary skills to move the project forward. This desire to learn goes hand in hand with the final quality Léo finds necessary in an OSS project manager, which is an ease with the unknown. The team never knows what will work and what won’t when developing a product, but Léo says the important thing is not to stop, because with progress comes the learnings that permit the project to advance.
As Léo says, to work at OSS is to work in a stimulating, enriching, and varied environment thanks to the people he meets, the issues he tackles, and the skills he develops. And his job as product manager certainly allows him to fulfil that goal of making real contributions to businesses and the manufacturing industry at large.
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