From Product Manager/UX Designer to Product Manager/User Researcher

If this blog was a river, it seems to be drying up. But please, don’t jump to any conclusions. It’s not as if I just started this blog and kept it going for a couple of months for the sole purpose that it would help me find a new job, and then slowly abandon it….well actually it does seem I did that didn’t it?

Well, let me explain.

It’s been a busy two months! How busy? Well, I feel like I’ve I’ve accomplished more in the last two months than in my previous 2.5ish years in Product Management…so yeah, it’s been nuts. So crazy that I’m writing the draft of this blog post on a plane…that’s a first for me.

But wait, let me back up a bit..

I moved over to Hightower, a startup aimed at bringing value and efficiency through technology to commercial real estate industry, in early May. After a week of onboarding, I jumped into a team of 3 engineers and 1 designer and started analyzing what we could do to continue bringing value to our users.

Now, bringing value to my user is not something that’s new to me, that’s something I pride myself about, but how we do it at Hightower that is quite different that how I’ve done it before.

At my previous Product Manager positions, I was working on consumer-focused products so I was the the user and domain expert. There was no need to validate what to design and build, but we only needed to validate how to design and build it (i.e usability testing). Since I didn’t have the “luxury” of working with a UX designer, I had to become the UX designer and pair up with a visual designer to help breathe life into my wireframes and mockups.

As you can probably tell, being both a Product Manage—deciding what to build—and being a UX designer—deciding how to build it—was very time-consuming, and it was so time-consuming that talking to customers was deprioritized as I had to heavily rely on my product vision and intuition, which was luckily almost always right.

When I moved to Hightower, I was no longer working on a consumer-focused product. I was now in the B2B world….whoa! This brought some “consequences,” mainly I was no longer the user nor the domain expert. I knew absolutely nothing about commercial real estate. Yeah, I’ve been involved in residential real estate and I’ve worked with one or two brokers, but the commercial real estate industry is a different ballgame.

But not everybody at Hightower used to be a broker or own/manage a building before, right? Right, very few of the team came from a commercial real estate industry, so how did we solve this problem of lacking domain expertise?

User research.

We talk to customers constantly.

Actually, that’s incorrect. Let me try that again.

We listen to our customers, and their stories, constantly.

We all participate in user research and the Product Manager is the chief user researcher in the team. I spend a minimum of 30% of my time connecting with customers, probing them and listening to their stories to gather insights that I can turn into actionable items for my team.

We also go a step further to disseminate the knowledge throughout the company by sharing notes and recordings of our conversations.

Thankfully, by having a great UX designer on my team, I don’t need to worry about UX as much as before, and I can now focus on ensuring that we are building the right thing as a team and as a company.

So moving forward, I will do my best to post articles more frequently as now I feel like I’m a true Product Manager! BYAAHH!

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