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Product Management as you Have Never Seen Before

Based on an episode with Aline Baldino & Talita Morais 🇧🇷

elcome to Latinx in Power, a podcast aiming to help to demystify tech, the way we do that is by interviewing Latinx leaders all over the world to hear their perspective and insights.

We talked with two amazing Product Managers part of the nonprofit Mulheres de Produto, Women in Product community in Brazil and also co-writers of their most recent book launch!

Aline Baldino is a Product Manager at Super Dispatch, and Talita Morais is a Product Manager at Get In and also the VP and Partnership Director of the nonprofit Mulheres de Produto.

In this episode we talked more about their careers in Product Management and also their work for Women in Product community and their recent launch, the book “Product Management as you have never seen before”, the first book about Product Management written by women published in Brazil. What a milestone! Fun fact, our host is also a co-writer of this book.

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What does it mean to be a Latina for you?

Aline: As a Brazilian, we sometimes have a tendency not to see ourselves as Latinas, because we speak a different language and are disconnected from this reality. I think that having had the experience of living in the US in the past made me see how connected we are and how much we share the same problems as countries in Latin America as a whole and how much it makes sense for us to get together to learn from the other countries’ experiences, see how they fix problems and fix these problems together because of our geography and everything that we share, I think it’s really good to build this connection with our Latin American countries and see what other women are facing over there.

Talita: I couldn’t agree more with Aline. I feel the same way and I think we share almost the same history. And for me, it’s an honor to be part of Latin America. And as a Brazilian, of course, as Aline said, sometimes, we don’t feel so connected, but I think we share the same problems, the same history. I can see that in Latin America, we have incredible women and we are consuming more material and written books from those people. So, it’s exciting to see how we can now get more connected. So, it’s great.

Thaisa: I feel the same way. I moved to the US almost nine years ago, it was something new to me. Then things are changing for folks in Brazil now, in Latin America in general. We might feel more connected with each other and consume more content about our people. There’s a bunch of artists out there. In Brazil, we have Anitta. I’m a big fan of Anitta. Bad Bunny is another great example, he’s amazing. I think all of this is helping us to feel more connected and for sure, we have a lot of similarities. Also, a lot of differences as well, but a lot of things that connect us with each other. Being far away from our main countries, it’s something that unites us even more.

How was your process getting into Product Management?

Aline: For me, I took a course when I went to university, but when I decided that I really wanted to go into technology, I actually studied systems analysis and development. I worked as a systems analyst for about five years in software factories where you would go and talk to the users, understand their problem, do the whole solution shape-up, think about prototyping business roles, data structures, and all that. I felt like a natural progression to that would be to work in a more flexible, more iterative process in which you could update the processes of data software more often and you really be more in contact with users. I took the product owner certification in 2017, because I wanted to move into the product owner position and I started job searching. At the time, Olist, which was the first company where I worked as a product manager, was looking for a product owner/product manager. I applied and ended up being accepted and going into product management without pretty much any context of what product management was. I had to learn on the go. So, being able to have this opportunity to start without any experience, without any prior knowledge on product management was really important for me. Getting started and learning from my leaders at Olist and also being able to study during these periods, I had a lot of books to read, a lot of podcasts, and other material to consume about what product management is, so that I could improve my processes at Olist. This is something that I really thought was valuable for me going into this process of writing the Mulheres de Produto book, because when I was starting, I read the Product Book, which is a book from Product School, which has a similar objective than our own, Mulheres de Produto, but it is in English. This is something that I think is going to be very valuable for people who are getting started just like I did without any experience or background in product management so that they can improve every day.

Talita: I started my career as a quality assurance professional. I was always testing products. Then, I decided to make this transition to product management. On those days, we were actually talking more about a product owner, because of Scrum and so on. My first PM role was a product owner. I think I spent maybe two years trying to learn this role on a daily basis. I think this is something very special from our field, because we really need to learn every day, and learn how to do things every day, and new tools, and so on. We can obviously read, we definitely have many important books as Aline mentioned, and we definitely need this direction. In the beginning, the theory is very important, but we can see that the theory can be a little bit different in practice. I was working as a product owner for two years and then I could make the transition to be a product manager. We could see that the role is evolving the responsibilities and what is expected from us. I’ve been facing this. Now I can see that what is expected from me today is very important from what companies were expecting from product people like five years ago. I made this transition with help from so many people that were working already in this field. I read a lot, for example the book Inspired, Product management in practice and then the Mulheres de Produto community played an important role in my life, because since the beginning, I could learn from so many credible women. Now I work inside the community in a different way as VP and Partnership Director of the nonprofit, Mulheres de Produto. I think this is how I could make this transition. I always say that I have two jobs. I have the official one as a product manager and then the job from my heart, which is the work I do inside Mulheres de Produto.

What’s the difference between being a product owner versus being a product manager? Can you describe what are the main differences?

Talita: If we’re talking about the daily basis activities from a person who works with products, especially. The field here in Brazil is not as mature as it is in the United States, for example. So, here we definitely can see product owners working with the same responsibilities as product managers. I think this is very difficult to make a difference here in Brazil, but this is something very related to the company, because we do have companies here that have both roles with some product managers that can even manage the products owner’s careers, for example. This is something that can happen. Maybe two years ago, we could say that, “Okay, the product owner is actually the role from a framework called the Scrum and the product management is the role of a person that is fully responsible for a product.” We could say that, but again, here in Brazil, I can’t see so much difference, because we have, depending on the company, different expectations from those roles. So, this is at least what I can see here from the Brazilian market, let’s put it this way.

Aline: As Talita said, I think the product owner role was born inside this context of Scrum and Agile management. It’s really a role in which you’re really inside the engineering team. You are there every day, you participate in all their rituals, you spend a lot of time grooming tasks, putting them, determining how they’re going to be, learning how they’re going to be developed. The product manager role is a little bit external to this and more in terms of how you see the company’s strategy, how you turn a company strategy into the product strategy, and what is the decision-making process that you’re going to do to determine what is going to be next so that you can achieve your strategy and your goals as a company and as a product. Like Talita said, I think that the majority of people, especially here in Brazil, are doing either both jobs at the same time or a mix of the two jobs. It’s really important to determine, based on the company, how this handoff is going to be. You usually have an executive, a PMO, someone who is responsible for the more high-level strategy and how that gets handed off into the product management activities, which is determining the pebbles and the rocks that you’re going to develop as initiatives. Then, how you’re going to share the product ownership with your engineering lead, with your engineering team so you don’t get overwhelmed by doing both things at the same time, because that can happen many times.

Thaisa: I love what you both said about your trajectory and the difference between those two. I think maybe an insight for folks who are reading us is the fact that you should check how mature your market is about a product role and also understand the difference between those two roles. For example, if you’re looking for a job right now, even here based in California, in San Francisco, I see that people and companies don’t understand the difference sometimes. Sometimes folks who are looking for a job, they might see a product owner role, but in fact, they are looking for a product manager or they might be seeing a product manager role, a job description about a product manager and then when they have that interview, they might realize, “Oh, this is in fact program management role.” The tip is to understand your market. Ask questions, read the job description, but take the time during the interview to understand a little bit more, what are their goals and what they’re looking for, because they might be using the wrong terms.

How did the idea of the book start? How was this process of creating the first book about product management written by women published in Brazil?

Talita: Wow, this is something that we all here are very proud of. I would like to tell you about the Mulheres de Produto community, where all this product began. We are a community that has 10,000 women working together and having conversations over Slack, which is our main platform. We have the mission of reducing the gender gap we have in the technology field here in Brazil. Well, maybe someday we can talk more about this gap over Latin America, because we are aware of this problem. We are in this field and we know all the challenges. Over this community, we try to reduce this gap and to give voice to incredible women, incredible professionals in order to make them say what they want to say, to share their point of view about the field and to share all the knowledge about product management.

Talita: It was very funny, because we sometimes talked about, “Okay, what if we just write a book? What should we do about that or should we do something about that?” It was always a project that actually looked so big, and something we could never achieve. One Day, a friend of mine, Bia, just said, “Okay, but maybe we should organize and try to write a book. Write a book together.” Then, we decided to, “Okay, we definitely can write a book, but let’s call all the women, let’s call the community. If we are thinking about writing a book, it needs to be something made together with other women.” We made it this way. We asked 31 women to join this project and two of them are here. Actually, three because I’m part of them.

Talita: This was maybe the most challenging thing I ever did, because we needed to organize everything, the idea and then invite all those women and then read everything. We were very excited about this project. “Okay, oh, my God, is it going to be okay? Are we going to have success with this?” I don’t know, we were very insecure in the beginning. We had so many challenges in this journey, let’s say it like that. I was organizing and writing. I had so many feelings about the book, because I needed to organize the schedules, milestones, the deadlines we had. As a writer, I needed to write everything and have everything done before the deadline as well. I was playing both roles. It was challenging for me. I feel very proud of this project, because we definitely could get together. Women that really know how product management works, they have the knowledge, they know everything about their work as product manager, they think about the strategy, think about all the data and everything a product manager needs to do. I think it’s a huge project. We could make it. We’ve nailed it. So, it’s something that makes me very, very proud of. Now, we can see the book is being sold. People are buying the book. In this way, we can spread all this knowledge and make those women references. Here in Brazil, we definitely have, as I said, incredible professionals. They are references and we need to know that and to give this voice to those women. As we say, “Okay, we have Inspired from Marty Cagan. Now, we have the Mulheres de Produto book with all those women,” and 31 references. It’s amazing. I really love these projects and I’m very proud of achieving this huge goal. We made it.

Aline: I had been more actively participating in the Women in Product community. I joined Slack and participated in some of the discussions. During that time that I mentioned, when I got started, I didn’t have any knowledge, I was really lost, didn’t know what to do, I really needed inspiration, needed to have people that I could ask questions that had faced these issues and knew how to at least have a direction on how to solve them. That’s why I joined. I hadn’t been very active in the community for some time. You end up being engulfed by all of your day-to-day tasks and all of the things you have to do. I ended up not participating for a while. I happen to be working with Jessica, who is also one of the organizers of the book, one of the ambassadors of the community. She came to me with this proposal. We were working together that time at Saipos and she asked me if I would be interested in writing a book with her, writing at least a chapter of the book, and sharing this chapter with her. Honestly, initially, I was really shocked. I thought that I didn’t have anything to share. I think that a lot of people may have this feeling when you’re working in an area, that everything that you know is things that other people already know and that you don’t have anything to share. In reality, you do. You have your experience. You do have how you’ve taken all the theory out there and applied it to your day to day and all the difficulties that you had during this process. At the time, I was already going through this gigantic hurdle of starting the product area from scratch at Saipos, working with determining what the product system we were going to use, how we were going to manage all of our initiatives, how we were going to do the prioritization, working with a lot of product managers that didn’t have a lot of experience, and trying to do for them the same thing that was done for me in previous experiences. She convinced me that we could share this experience and talk about this in the book. It was great. It was great that she convinced me, because it was a process that I had never gone through. Going through it and agreeing with her on which parts each one of us would write, how we were going to piece all of it together and make it look cohesive, and sound like it was written by someone who really knew what they were talking about, and putting all the diagrams together and everything, making the whole thing make sense at the end was really challenging. It’s something that I would recommend to anyone who is trying to learn about a subject, start writing your chapter about it and you will realize all of the gaps in our knowledge that you have and everything that you have to go and do research on and all of the things that you still have to put together in your head. Sometimes, we think we know something and when we start writing about it, that’s when we realize that there are gaps in our knowledge. So, it’s something that I would recommend. Even if you don’t have a book to write, try to do that process. Just write a chapter and you will see exactly where you really need to go and look for more knowledge.

Talita: Aline said something very important. I think everybody felt this way, like, “Oh, my God, do I have something to say? Is my experience enough?” All those things were on our mind somehow, we were feeling this way somehow. I think we could get through it. I’m 100% sure that everyone could get help from each other, and share experiences, and share those feelings. Here from this side, we were five planning everything. We were writing this book for two years. In two years, Jessica could have a baby. Everyone in this planning group changed jobs. So, everything changes in two years, but we were there together, we could face those feelings and face some problems, I don’t know, difficulties, challenges to get to the launching, to get to, “Okay, now we have the book here in my hands.” So, it was important to have our community. It was almost like a smaller community inside a bigger one. So, that’s why I am a big fan of communities. We definitely are stronger with that. This was something very special from this project, and very important and maybe one of the reasons for our success.

Thaisa: It’s so interesting what you said, Talita, about those two years and the amount of things that changed in our lives on top of living through a pandemic. We got vaccinated. I lived in six, maybe seven different cities in the United States, because at that time, I was a nomad and now I’m in my forever home. All of that also on top of full time and a lot of other things. I think for me, it was so interesting, because it was Cassi who messaged me first, and then we talked, and she shared with me that the Mulheres de Produto were thinking about writing a book. For those who know me, my absolute dream was to write a book one day and it was something that I was like, “Oh, I want to do this. This is very ambitious. I have no idea if I’m going to be able to do that, but I really want that,” and then I was like, “Holy shit. This is happening.” As a writer, everything that you both said about feeling insecure, feeling that we didn’t have a lot to say, and at the same time writing about it, and then having this realization, “No, this is important. This is very important, and a lot of people will feel inspired by that. They will learn from that.” And also, as a writer, everything was so organized. We had all the milestones. I can imagine the amount of work all the organizers had to plan this book, like 31 women and making it a way that felt very seamless. I’m very proud. So, thank you, Talita, and all the organizers. Everything was amazing. The book is definitely so beautiful too.

Talita: Yeah, this is our work. We could work together. This is something amazing for me. It was truly teamwork. We could work together. We could deliver an important thing that is this book. So, congratulations. And thank you, because yeah, again, this is something that we should be very proud of. What we’ve done is amazing!

How about the Spanish version of the book or English version of the book?

Talita: We definitely want to think about a Spanish version and even an English version. Maybe next year. We’re thinking about that like, “How could we manage and how could we launch those two versions?” But yeah, I think next year, maybe we’ll have both. Please wait for some news next year related to this book.

Which resources helped you in your journey?

Aline: Our chapter was specifically about OKRs and about continuous discovery and using the opportunity solution tree. In order to get more in-depth knowledge, it was great that at that same time, Teresa Torres was releasing her book about continuous discovery. So, that book is amazing. It’s really a recommendation for anyone who wants to understand how to talk to your customers, gather insights, share those insights within the company, get people on board with you from executives, stakeholders, pretty much everyone in the company on board with any decisions that you make because of the insights that you’ve gathered during your discovery process and experimentation, so that’s a great book for anyone who wants to do a more discovery-oriented product management work. We also talked about OKRs, Measure What Matters by John Doerr is a book to help you to understand how OKRs were created, how they came to be, what were the problems that they were trying to solve when they thought about OKRs. I think that the good thing about this book is it tells us stories. It’s more engaging than just prescriptive, “You should do this, you should do that.” And also, because you can take all of the practices there and all of the principles and apply to any goal setting and desired outcome setting that you use in your company. Currently, here at Super Dispatch, we use traction, which is very, very different from OKRs. At the end of the day, the principles of understanding desired outcomes and how to reach them and how to split this work into small deliverables until you can reach and manage your goals is a knowledge that can be applied to your day-to-day life. So, these two books, I think, are an obligation for any product manager to have understanding about these two topics.

Talita: I would recommend two books. One is Product Management in Practice from Matt LeMay and Escaping the Build Trap from Melissa Perri, because they really talk about real life in product management with real examples. They bring for me a very good view about reality in terms of what you need to do and what are the expectations from this role, from product management people, and especially talking about the soft skills. I think those books really made me think more about product management in a more, I don’t know, human way. Not as much as we see from frameworks and more about what is the real life of product management, as I said. So, I highly recommend Product Management in Practice from Matt LeMay and Escaping the Build Trap from Melissa Perri. Maybe next year, we can recommend our book in Spanish and English. Let’s see.

I hope you enjoyed the podcast. We will have more interviews with amazing Latinx leaders the first Tuesday of every month. Check out our website Latinx In Power to hear more. Don’t forget to share comments and feedback, always with kindness. See you soon.

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Insights and exposure to Latinxs leaders around the globe. In each episode we feature insightful conversations about their journey, stories behind their trajectory, plenty of laughs and learnings.

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Thaisa Fernandes

Product Management & Global Partnerships | Host @ Latinx in Power Podcast | Book Co-Author @ Mulheres de Produto