Job swap: from Junior Exec to Product Owner

By Lucie MacNeill

“My experience as the PO would allow my confidence to grow and motivate me to constructively challenge opinions…”

I should probably start off by saying that for a good month or so when I first started working at Skyscanner, if asked, I probably wouldn’t have been able to define what a PO (Product Owner) is. When asked by friends and family I would explain “Oh, just Skyscanner’s novel way of describing a manager”, but as I spent more time here I developed my understanding for Skyscanner’s squadification model, as well as becoming an abbreviation expert! 
For those of you who aren’t actually all that sure what a PO is, let me quote Scrum Methodology for a more theoretical explanation:

‘The Product Owner is the one person ultimately responsible for the return on investment of the product development effort. The Product Owner influences the development effort by conveying his/her vision to the team(s) and prioritizing the product backlog.’

PO Role

In our squad the PO has various remits and responsibilities including:

  • To review and analyse our traffic stats to establish what’s working and what’s not
  • Run the team meetings, helping to spread workload and establish why an activity is blocked or incomplete
  • Deciding on the squad goal

So you can imagine my apprehension when my squad PO asked me whether I would like to take on the role for a week! I was worried that people may not like my choice of goal, or perhaps not warm to the prospect of me, as a junior team mate, asking about a task I clearly knew nothing about? And more importantly, what on EARTH am I supposed to do with these mysterious ‘stats’ that people always chat about? I’m just in a junior role, how could I possibly know for sure what I was talking about? 
Reservations aside, I was assured that the idea of us all trying ‘a week in the PO’s shoes’ was simply to help develop our skills and understanding, in addition to developing a greater sense of ownership for the growth we are expected to deliver in the UK. My experience as the PO would allow my confidence to grow and motivate me to constructively challenge opinions (something Skyscanner and our non-hierarchical structure encourages across the business). 
So I agreed to give it a shot.

Learning and realizations

I can honestly say that I learnt more in the space of that one week and gained more confidence than I had done in my previous five months at Skyscanner. 
I had no choice but to brush up on my analytical skills, and as a result I was so much more clued in to the decisions on possible goals or tests. During my time as PO I also introduced a stats spreadsheet with a summary to help us all watch out for possible trends or changes — which, not to blow my own trumpet, we now use on a weekly basis.

However, while the ‘work learnings’ were huge, I think the biggest learning from this experience for me is that doing something that you aren’t an expert in is nerve-racking and can occasionally make you feel like a fake, but it also helps you realise that everyone is in the same boat and we all suffer ‘imposter syndrome’ at times — it’s how you respond to that challenge that is important. I now realise that we are all equals on the same team and I feel far more empowered to share my opinion or take on a task that may be out of my comfort zone. 
So while the dictionary definition of a Product Owner may be ‘the one person ultimately responsible…’ our squad challenged this and made it a team effort and thanks to this our squad is now better than ever.

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About the author

Hey avid blog readers! My name is Lucie Macneill and I am currently on contract as a Growth Junior Executive here at Skyscanner until October. I graduated from the University of Strathclyde in 2015 in International Business, and a short one week later I landed my Growth job here at Skyscanner.

Whilst my main passion lies with my two beautiful Ragdoll cats, my other passion is the aviation industry and travel (despite a tragic fear of flying). My role at Skyscanner involves driving growth for the UK and Ireland and I’m often described as a T-shaped employee. I support everyone from content to social, country marketing and PR! Call me jack of all trades!