Member Spotlight: Product Manager Jenna Hirji
UW Blueprint is a student-run club that provides top-tier tech for non-profit organizations. Founded at the University of Waterloo in 2016, we could not have provided strong partnerships with NPOs without the dedication, passion, and time of our members. Throughout this term, we’ll be spotlighting different members and teams that have left a tremendous impact on Blueprint as well as the projects they’ve worked on.
Tell us about yourself and your background with Blueprint!
Hi, I’m Jenna! I’m going into my fourth year of Management Engineering at UW and I’m interning at Clearco this term. I’m currently a Product Manager on the HeadsUpGuys team, and this is my seventh term on UW Blueprint! I started on the executive team for two terms, first in the VP Internal role and then as President. These experiences aligned really well with the goals I had set when joining Blueprint in the first place; to find and build community, and to explore tech for social good.
From there, I transitioned to product and have been a PM ever since (and also VP Product for a term during that time). I found that my passion for fostering community and positive culture has translated to each one of my roles and I’ve learned so much along the way.
Could you tell us about your role with Blueprint?
My role as a Product Manager (one of two on the HeadsUpGuys team) spans the scoping, design, development, and launch of a product to meet the needs and goals of our non-profit client and end users. What this can look like in practice is working closely with the client, defining the problem, scoping and prioritizing features, and roadmapping. The role of a product manager is super collaborative, and Product at Blueprint is no exception. Frequent communication with the client, product designers, developers, and the project lead carries from product discovery into the execution phase when the scope of a PM’s role shifts to encompass more of a project management aspect. The execution phase of a project includes responsibilities such as writing tickets, sprint planning, facilitating design and dev collaboration, user testing, and helping to eliminate any team blockers.
Another important piece of being a PM on Blueprint is the team building and culture aspect (which, if you’ve read this far, you know I really enjoy). There’s a lot to this side that is layered into collaboration dynamics and communication styles in an overall sense, but relationship building through team retros, 1:1s, and socials tends to be a pretty important chunk of PM at Blueprint.
Overall, I aim to empower my team towards a few common goals: deliver a product that brings value to users and our non-profit client, learn and grow in and outside of our crafts, and have an awesome time doing so!
What has Blueprint taught you, and how has it helped you grow as a PM?
I’ve learned so much from my time at Blueprint thus far, but here are some highlights:
Blueprint was where I first started to uncover the ins and outs of product management. It was an environment where I felt supported and where I developed the self-confidence to listen, gather, and apply input from my team members while simultaneously thinking critically to lead with my own point of view.
I also honed my communication skills, specifically learning to strive to meet both functional and relational needs when communicating with others.
Team culture is 100% a running theme here, but through Blueprint, I realized just how much of an impact culture and collaboration can make on both tangible and intangible outcomes.
Lastly, my experience at Blueprint helped me to understand how much I value working on products that solve problems I truly care about, and similarly, how much I value working within organizations whose missions I resonate with.
What is your favourite part about Blueprint?
Being a part of Blueprint has, without a doubt, shaped my entire undergraduate experience. A lot of it boils down to the sense of community — it’s a big part of what kept me grounded during the pandemic and what continues to bring me joy. I’m so lucky to have made such incredible friends and to be able to work with them on impactful projects that support nonprofits.
Moving forward, what are your plans and goals for the future?
In the future, I hope to continue in the Product space both within Blueprint and through professional opportunities. I also want to continue giving back to the community through volunteering and perhaps social entrepreneurship, I’m not yet sure!
Something that I’m working on more generally is trying to incorporate more balance into my life. Previously, I think I (somewhat consciously, somewhat subconsciously) defined my personal success by how much I could juggle at a time, but in doing so, I would sacrifice things that I really shouldn’t have — like sleep! I’m now, slowly but surely, shifting my behaviour to align with my new, healthier definition of success; one of happiness and fulfillment. While that still includes an emphasis on personal and professional growth, I’m learning not to put so much pressure on myself and to take time to enjoy my life 🥳
Tell us a fun fact about yourself!
My friends and I wound up as extras in an indie film while on a 5-day canoeing and portaging outtrip in Georgian Bay!
What can we catch you doing outside of school/work?
I’ve been getting really into cooking lately and trying out different recipes — one of my favourites so far has been an orzo dish with shrimp, tomato, and marinated feta!! I’m also a really big fan of board games, my Spotify playlists, and watching shows or docuseries on Netflix.
Tell us about your favourite memory with Blueprint!
As you might imagine, it’s tough to pick just one thing from over two years’ worth of project team and Blueprint-wide memories. One that never fails to make me smile when I think about it happened back in May 2021 when my first project team (The Shoe Project) celebrated the launch of our product. We played games, laughed until our stomachs hurt, and just hung out on Discord for hours and hours. The whole team vibe was just really fun and lighthearted, we roasted each other a bunch and learned a lot together — I’m so grateful for them all.