It’s Not Just About Building Product — It’s About Building People: Insightful Chats with Yassen Horanszky

Yassen Horanszky is the Founder and Managing Partner of Luniko Consulting — a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategy and project management for digital transformation initiatives. One of the many hats he wears is that of an ERP Product Management Consultant: helping organizations develop, plan, and implement up-to-date digitally robust Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. I had the pleasure of meeting Yassen twice over the past year and through our chats, I discovered quickly that people are at the core of everything he does…

Downtown Calgary Stephen Avenue Skyscraper and Art
Downtown Calgary Stephen Avenue Skyscrapers and Design | pixabay.com — MICHOFF

During a sunny afternoon late last August, I sat on a bench in downtown Calgary contemplating my third career pivot. I came to embrace the idea that economic downturns are great opportunities to reinvent oneself. I then headed over to a local coffee shop eager to satisfy my millennial thirst for coffee, with my third americano of the day. Upon arrival I was greeted by a good friend of mine who introduced me to Yassen for the first time.

Yassen greeted me with a smile; he was very friendly and welcoming. As we had a seat, I was eager to ask him why he decided to start his own company. He shared with me that in his previous role he “realized companies were sitting on a wealth of data, but hardly utilizing the vast majority of it”, at least to any substantial amount. This struck a major chord with me, as I too experienced this, and I wholeheartedly agreed that it was rather surprising that organizations continue to function this way in a world that is ever-increasingly interconnected and working to digitally transform as part of the Industry 4.0 economy. Through his realization, Yassen seized the opportunity to build a consulting firm that enables organizations to utilize their data to its fullest potential.

He went on to explain to me that he not only focuses on helping organizations with creating good processes and employing the right technology, but to “train and educate people within the organization they work with so that they can continue realizing value long after [Luniko] has left”. Hearing this made me appreciate that you can have all of the data, processes, and tech you want, but if people are not empowered then you will have no real change.

This compassion for people led me to become more curious about Yassen as a person, where he shared with me that he grew up in Mexico and later confesses with a smile that his “creativity comes from tequila and tacos”. Personally, I appreciate indulging in a good Reposado to help with creative prose, but in essence at a deeper level Yassen was essentially alluding to bringing out creativity in others allowing them to come together and share ideas — whether it be family, friends, colleagues, or acquaintances.

“everybody has different gifts, and everybody has different talents”

He also believes in contributing to community as I learned through Yassen’s remarks as he passionately described the work his firm had done to help digitally excel an immigrant services non-profit organization in Calgary. Yassen’s people-centric approach is evident through his belief that if you “maximize value for customers then revenue will come”. Thus, he focusses on truly getting to know customers and learning what their problems are in order to gain trust and deliver solutions that are in the best interest of the user. This mindset should be inherent to every product manager and these words were recently highlighted to me again after watching Dave Wascha’s (2017) captivating talk “20 Years of Product Management in 25 Minutes.

After about an hour of engaging dialogue with Yassen our conversation drew to a close, as we had other commitments to attend to. I was left refreshed and inspired that there were people and companies out there that shared values similar to my own. I felt like the digital transformation space was the right direction for me to pivot into for my next career transition.

Man laughing with friend in the office
https://www.lunikoconsulting.com/

Fast forward 7.5 months later, after I was accepted into the EDGE UP 2.0 Product Management program, I met Yassen for the second time just after a classic mid-April Calgary snowsquall in an unassuming downtown coffee shop. As we approached the barista at the counter Yassen graciously offered to buy my coffee — a large americano as usual.

As I had started to gain more knowledge of product management, I was able to glean more insight into Yassen’s thought processes and how he actively listens to clients. As Yassen begins, he explains how he helps organizations realize their ‘why’ and alluded to Simon Sinek’s seminal 2009 TED talk “How great leaders inspire action”. Yassen tells me that he “continues to ask questions until there is a clear vision of what the organization’s ‘why’ is.” These questions help him visualize a broad picture in his mind centered around the goals of the ‘why’, in order to develop a roadmap (the how) to get to the necessary product or process (the what).

Yassen believes that “everybody has different gifts, and everybody has different talents”. For him, one of those talents is “seeing opportunities and having the clarity to seize them” in addition to seeing the potential in people. As each person is unique, Yassen believes in understanding each person’s potential to help unlock their value, and in turn deliver value to the organization he is working with. This concept mirrors another one of Simon Sinek’s (2014) TED talks “How good leaders make you feel safe, where Sinek essentially describes great leaders as passionate people who uplift others, at times at the expense of their own comfort. These servant leaders instill feelings of trust and cooperation within others so that they can prosper and contribute to something greater than themselves. Yassen articulates to me well that the goal is not to do business with everybody, but to do business with people who align with your philosophy.

two men working together at a computer discussing options
www.lunikoconsulting.com

Yassen emphasized that the development of trust is crucial for the success of a project. It allows you to obtain buy-in from stakeholders within the organization. If people believe and trust in what you are offering, it is much easier to train and educate them on the implementation of new technologies and processes so that they can continue using the product you have designed long after the project has finished.

Yassen and I shared in the commonality that people are truly at the core of success, and that it is rather an inherent skill to be able to interact with different teams that have different communication styles across an organization to deliver the same message, empowering people to aspire to a common goal. Translating between individuals that are all unique is a very nuanced role that product managers play, as was strategically highlighted by Matt Lemay (2018) in his book “Product Management in Practice: A Real-World Guide to the Key Connective Role of the 21st Century”.

It was clear from our conversations that Yassen values people, especially those who are authentic, coachable, open-minded, and have a willingness to grow. As management consulting teams can sometimes work long hours for project sprints, Yassen indicates that it’s important to have fun while you work! Having a team of individuals with the aforementioned traits makes working during tight deadlines much more enjoyable.

In summary, have a drive to learn new things and work passionately for something you truly believe in — these are words I live by. It was energizing speaking to Yassen and gaining a glimpse into the world of digital transformation through the lens of a management consulting firm. I am in line with Luniko’s motto — a quote from Terry Wireman — “Yesterday’s excellence is today’s standard and tomorrow’s mediocrity”. The future is bright; keep striving to be the best you, while uplifting those around you.

References

LeMay, M. (2018). Product Management in Practice: A Real-World Guide to the Key Connective Role of the 21st Century. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media Inc.

Luniko Consulting Images — Permission granted from Yassen Horanszky https://www.lunikoconsulting.com/

MICHOFF — Pixabay Image https://pixabay.com/photos/skyscraper-office-building-4016229/

Sinek, S., TEDxPuget Sound. (2009, September 16). How great leaders inspire action [Video]. TED. https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?language=en

Sinek, S., TED 2014. (2014, March 4). How good leaders make you feel safe [Video]. TED. https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_why_good_leaders_make_you_feel_safe.

Wascha, D. Spread Ideas. (2017, September 11). 20 Years of Product Management in 25 Minutes [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/i69U0lvi89c.

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Cheryl Hodgson

Cheryl Hodgson

Product Management Consultant | Human sponge; soaking up all the tidbits of knowledge that I can!

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