My Journey as a Product Owner by Palak Desai
The Digital Strategy & Product department of CBC is committed to providing their people with the support they need to build their development plans to foster career growth and progression. By taking on exciting new roles, individuals are able to experience and learn other aspects of the business, broaden their perspectives, and acquire new skills and competencies. The series Jumping Across Career Streams at CBC invites people who have taken the courageous leap to tell the story of their journey, highlighting the support they received and opportunities discovered along the way.
This story is about Palak Desai’s journey in becoming a Product Owner.
The role of Product Owner (PO) has been an aspirational role for me since I started working as a QA Automation Developer. After graduating University with a degree in computer science, my first job was working for one of the world’s biggest social networking platforms and testing their products.
I started working with the product owner closely and began to understand how the role impacts the product. I started asking a lot of questions: “Why was this developed? What user needs is it serving? How can we make it better?” The answers I received to these questions fueled my interest in product work.
The day when I came for an interview for Senior QA Automation Developer at CBC/Radio-Canada, I was taken to a huge boardroom (pre-pandemic days) and one of the questions I was asked was “Why do you want to join CBC/Radio-Canada?” I told them how excited I was to make a difference in millions of Canadians’ lives by making sure our products are inclusive and intuitive. CBC gave me a purpose and created a sense of community and belonging.
I started working with the front-end team for the CBC website; I was responsible for developing automated test cases to maintain the quality of the code for the website. The website is huge — it spans across sports, news, lifestyle, music, and more, so it was important for me to understand how the end user is using the product. My interest to create a difference pushed me to participate in user interviews and accessibility workshops. I learned how one can have empathy for users who are using the products we develop.
I tried a lot of new things after joining CBC besides getting involved in user interviews — I also learned about user research and triaged real user issues,and my manager supported me in this journey. CBC acknowledges the need of changing careers and providing opportunities for people to grow. I worked across multiple teams and grew my understanding of how each service is different and how they correlate with each other. I shadowed the Product Manager for our team, which helped me to understand how communications and negotiations work.
My next step to switching careers was to implement and practice the skills that are required to be a Product Owner. I started small — I improved my facilitation skills by running demos, retros and community QA meetings. I started making roadmaps for the quality milestones of the projects I was involved in. I made sure to improve the communication and understanding the impact of the code I was writing, sharing it with the right people, making sure we can scale it. I was working as a QA Automation Developer but I started seeing the changes.
As time passed, I felt more ready for the PO role. Many teams which have huge portfolios started getting Product Owner roles which would work closely with Product Managers and be more focused on the short-term goals/strategy. I felt it was time to interview for this role. Often people wait for the “right time” and time flies by. I wanted to give it a try and learn from my experience. I started prepping for the interview. I had a specific interest in the type of product I wanted to contribute to and with the right opportunity I cleared the interview.
My advice to everyone looking to switch careers is to first understand what skills you need to improve on and what your strengths are. And remember: there is no “right time” to make a change.
Fast forward to present, I’m thrilled to be a Product Owner. Each day, I learn and continuously improve, thanks to every person I work with. I still have a lot to learn, and I embrace that challenge. Much like software development, it is an iterative process — keep pushing and take small steps, one at a time.