#GirlsWhoProduct: SC Moatti
By Katsiaryna Drozhzha on June 25, 2018
SC Moatti needs no introduction. She is a technology visionary, a former Facebook executive, the author of award-winning bestseller ‘Mobilized’ and the founder of one of the largest communities of product managers — Product That Count. SC has lead dozens of mobile product that are now used by billions of people and was called ‘‘a genius at making mobile products people love.’’ A strong advocate of ‘Mind-Body-Spirit’ framework, SC argues that a strong product manager should first and foremost care about the beauty of a product.
In this interview, SC breaks down the concepts you need to know about a product manager role and brings her personal experience that will inspire you to dive into the profession.
What do you think is a secret recipe to find inspiration in the world of product and don’t depend on other people setting the bar?
SC: When I give conferences for young women, I usually tell them to stop listening to any role and start making their own role. You can make up your own rules. Or there is also a more traditional way to say, “Hey here, work hard!’’
A good example can be the things that happened in my life. I grew up in downtown Paris in an insider Parisian family, international, but still very Parisian. Like any good Parisian, I was pretty much anti-American. But to my surprise when I took my first trip to the United States I loved it. I didn’t really want to love it, but it was impossible not to fall in love with it. So when I came back to France, all of a sudden I became completely pro-American and a few years later I moved to California. You might ask why California? Well, because California is not only opposed to the East Coast, but it’s the farthest in culture from Old Europe. Old Europe which is very status driven, where there is ‘’not a lot of elbow room,’’ meaning that you cannot really spread your wings there. I saw in California an incredible reach of opportunities where you could really build your own destiny. That’s what I wanted to do.
Why did you choose product management as a career?
SC: Because I knew I was going to start companies. I guess I also needed to start building credibility for myself as I didn’t have enough of knowledge and confidence. So basically what I did, I started talking to mentors, asking them to show my gaps and what I needed to do to go from where I was to where I wanted to be. Where I was was an MBA engineer. And where I wanted to be was a successful entrepreneur. The answer I got from my mentors was, “Find a product management role at a well managed company.’’ And that’s what I did. That advice taught me to think about what the customers really want and how to make them happy. If you don’t have an understanding of that, then your product is not going to be successful. You can build everything you want, but if you don’t build something that sales or that is used — you’ve wasted your time.
The other key skill that I have learned was to get things done. Without necessarily a lot of authority, but more with influence, for me that was difficult. I had to learn new things about motivating people and communicating my ideas — that’s pretty valuable everywhere.
If you could describe ‘product’ in one sentence what would it be?
SC: A product solves a customer problem. And products that count is a product that solves a customer problem that’s meaningful and it’s at scale. It adds value at scale.
In your talk at Productized Conference 2017 you have stressed the importance of building beautiful products. Can beauty be a key to building successful products? And how did you come up to this conclusion?
SC: Yes, that’s another sort of embarrassing revelation. After many years of building products that are used by billion of people, like Facebook or Nokia, and having my own companies a few times, people would ask me, “What makes a great product?’’
And I didn’t have the answer. It was a very embarrassing moment, so I decided to write a book. I stayed there in my ‘ivory tower’ with a bunch of interviews and over a decade of experience, and I asked myself, “What is the great product and how do I communicate that effectively to people so that they understand it?’’
I also started ‘Products That Count,’ which is now one of the largest networks of product managers. It helped me to understand that other people’s brains, effort and collaboration can help us define what a great product is, similar to what you are doing at Productized.
Products That Count is one of the largest communities of product managers and founders with access via talks, podcasts…productsthatcount.com
What I learned from these experiences is that technology is an extension of ourselves and that’s how we think of our technology products. If we want to think about what makes a great product we have to think who are we when we are best self.
Then I used the Mind- Body-Spirit framework to describe that. Starting with the Body role set- the best products have to be beautiful because we all want to look good. And by beauty I don’t only mean a pretty picture, as it’s a lot about efficiency. A great product needs to be beautiful on many levels.
Then the second role is the Spirit role which is: we all care to have meaningful lives. Similarly to what we want for our products is that they give us meaning and that they become very personalized. I think there is still a huge area of opportunities for products that are not yet personalized enough.
And then the last the third rule is Mind — we all want to learn, we all want to grow. People who read this interview they are all curious and they want to stretch themselves. So therefore our products need to learn and grow with us.
We have also developed a lot of great methodologies for that theory, trying to turn product management into a science, like A/B testing or customer development. Honestly, I think it’s great because it formalizes our thinking and leads to very incremental thinking. I think there’s a need for more disruptive ways to stretch the mind and to reinvent our products.
For somebody who wants to enter into the profession and actually start loving the product, he/she should start with inspiration and a motivation to work.
What motivates you and what challenges are you looking for in your daily life?
I have pretty much set a routine in the morning, such as exercising, catching up on the news and emails. I have a never ending to-do list. You know, a lot of what drives me now is that what I am doing now is not about a job anymore. By that I mean that I’m building things that I think have a very meaningful impact on people’s lives and careers. A lot of my work involves investing in companies that are building products that count, and then developing the Products That Count networking. The thing that motivates me the most me is when people write me emails how I helped them to change their prospective, whether it was a video, a podcast, an article, or my website or the book.
Today my work is about how I can leverage this network and stretch it to touch more people. There is a really good book on motivation. It’s called ‘Primed to Perform’’ and gives three reasons.
The first one is to ‘Play’ because we are motivated when we enjoy what we are doing. The other one is the ‘Purpose’ — we do something because we think it is meaningful. The third one I think is called a ‘Useful Platform’ because it gets us places and gets us to accomplish a bigger life goal.
Can you think about the ways that help you balance your personal and professional life?
I practice goal setting. Every three to six months I set out goals for myself, where I set my own organization and where I do New Year resolutions. I usually put these resolutions in a very visible place, so that everybody can see them.
The most critical resource I have is my time. To manage it, I create what I call a ‘shadow calendar,’ that is kind of how I wish I could spend my time and match to those priorities. For example, if I wish I could spend more time exercising, I dedicate time on my shadow calendar every day for exercise. If I want to raise funds, which I just finished doing and it’s oversubscribed now, then I dedicate time to do some research. And then on a week by week basis I set a one page list of the things I must deliver for myself.
I also try to book times and meetings that match that shadow calendar. It helps me locate my time the way that is going to get me to reach my goals.
What are the skills that might help women to land their first product role? Where do you get your first project rolling?
SC: There are several essential aspects in the the role of a product manager, such as the credibility and the knowledge that you need to do the job well. Attending classes and different events, subscribing to all those blogs like Productized or Products That Count, networking with people — that will get you the knowledge.
What’s much harder to get is the credibility. Let’s say you get a job as a product person. How do you get the credibility to influence your team? It comes with a lot of soft skills: influencing, convincing, taking your ego outside of the equation. So if are coming to a team and you say:
“Well, I think we should build this feature because I think so.”
It’s going not only to give you zero credibility, but it will destroy your credibility. On the contrary, you can say:
“I come from a marketing background and I did a user survey and our users want this. Therefore, I think we should do that to address this.’’
Than you have instant credibility. Or, for example, if you have a customer support background, you can say.
“I looked at the complaints of our customers and this is what they are most dissatisfied with. So to fix it I think we should do this.’’
You can basically recommend things that will make customers happy. It’s hard to argue with that as you get to live because you have customers. Start building your credibility by leveraging your expertise in marketing, customer support or engineering, whatever that is.
There is also is a third, internal aspect: “Do you believe you can do that job?’’ That’s often the biggest barrier. I speak to a lot of young men and women about working as a product person. A lot of them claim:
“I really want to become a product manager but right now I’m an engineer.’’
Who says that you’re an engineer? Why don’t you say you’re a product manager? Maybe that will make you a product manager.
It’s all about the way you think of yourself.
If somebody tells you that you cannot be a product manager if you don’t have a technical experience, just go take a little class or read some technical blog to educate yourself. Then you can say, ‘’Well, I might not be an engineer but I have a certification from this or that institute.’’ Boom! Objection handled. You see all these obstacles as a dump on the road as opposed to like walls in front of you .
The internal sort of obstacles you set for yourself are often the biggest.
To put it in a nutshell, if you want to be a product manager you have to start walking in the shoes of a product manager before you actually have the title. When you introduce yourself, introduce yourself as a product manager. Start acting as if you already are a product manager, make suggestion, influence people, and in a no long time you are going to be product manager.
What advice would you give to women who want to become product managers?
Like anything in life, anything you want to become, an expert in any field, what I recommend is to be a part of the conversation about the product. You will be surprised how many people are not in the product conversation. The fact that you join the conversation is going to make you stand out and make you a product manager. As you join the conversation, you can already shape the conversation and then you will want to drive them. Afterwards you will become a product leader.
This project was made possible thanks to our partnership with Zalando Tech. #GirlsWhoProduct is a series of interviews with women that have been able to beat the ‘product’ ceiling and get into the profession. Our mission is to inspire, connect and empower more women to get into product roles and help them consider ‘product’ as a venue of personal and professional growth.
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