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How to Apply Customer Development and Validation Cycle in Your Startup?

Customer Development Process and Validation Cycle
Customer Development Process and Validation Cycle

The core of every business is having a product or a service to offer. For that business to thrive, it requires a base of customers willing to purchase its products. This constantly drives businesses to come up with cool products/ideas that can grant them loyal customers and widen their consumers’ base. But in the rush to present new products to the market, many businesses skip the due diligence needed to confirm the viability of these products or the needs they satisfy. This leaves them with products having no or limited markets than originally assumed.

So, instead of building products in vacuum, you should always keep in mind why you are building them and who you are building them for. One model that can help business, and specially startups, put customers and their needs first is the customer development approach.

What is customer development?
The customer development method was first introduced by Steve Blank in 1990. He defines it as “the formal process of identifying potential customers and figuring out how to meet their needs.”
Steve Blank was the first to offer that startups are not smaller versions of large companies and that new ventures are different than existing ones.

Through his book “The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win”, Steve Blank has elaborated that customer development process aims to validate 4 important steps:
First step: Customer Discovery
This stage focuses on understanding the problems for an identifiable group of users.
Second step: Customer Validation
In this stage you validate that your product can satisfy your customers’ needs.
Third step: Customer Creation
This is the beginning of the execution stage where you start building the sales and marketing roadmap.
Fourth step: Company Building
In this final stage you execute your plan and scale your project.
Customer Development Process

Now that we have a view of the overall process, let’s understand more about each step in the customer development process.

Customer Discovery

Problem exists: A strong pain/problem that you validated with prospect customers
Problem-Solution fit: Your solution solves this problem and customers buy it
Solution-Customer fit: Your solution solves a given problem for these specific customers
Sales Funnel: You build a proposed “sales and marketing roadmap,” which lays out the business activities to move prospects through the funnel.

Design Thinking

We can say that the customer discovery stage really builds on design thinking. But what is design thinking in the first place? It’s a human cantered approach to problem solving and innovation that includes the methods and tools used to make products and services economically viable, technically feasible & humanly desirable.

Customer Validation

Create empathy in your business; product, sales, marketing and customer success all need to empathies with the customer.
Validate MVP (minimum viable product): Understanding the core value that you are offering to your customers.
In this step, sales and marketing initiatives and indicators can guide your: Competitor analysis, conversion funnel, scalability assessment and Keep Customer Acquisition cost /Life Time Value low.

Customer Creation

Create end-user demand and drive that demand into the company’s sales channel. Creation comes after proof of sales.

The process of customer creation varies with the type of startup:

  • Enter existing markets, well defined by their competitors.
  • Create new markets where no product or company exists.
  • Re-segment existing markets (e.g. a low-cost entrant or creating a new niche).

Company Building

Company transitions from its informal discovery-oriented customer development team into formal departments with VPs of Sales, marketing and business development.
These executives now focus on building mission-oriented departments that can exploit the company’s early market success.

Most of startups have business models that are lacking in critical data

Here are questions asked at different stages of the product life cycle that you can ask your team:
What problem are we solving?
Who are our ideal customers? What are their needs?
What channels can be used to reach them?
What methods can we use to maintain customer growth?

And at the end, remember “Start with the problem, not the solution”!

You can watch the full webinar here.
Learn more about our Product Management Program.

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Knowledge Officer launches Tech Fellowship to upskill the next tech generation in the MENA region

The fully subsidized program will upskill 2,000 professionals in Product Management, Marketing, Customer Success and Sales

Knowledge Officer is thrilled to announce the launch of the Tech Fellowship, a comprehensive and fully funded program for most in-demand specializations. During the fellowship, the first of its kind in the MENA region, the learners will be able to learn top skills and get certified in Product Management, Marketing, Sales Development and Customer Success. The program aims to gradually close the skills gap in the region and foster innovation via world-class education curated by top experts. 

We are very excited about launching the Tech Fellowship as part of our MENA Skills Initiative with a fantastic range of partners in the Middle East. There has never been a time where impactful and market-driven training is needed more than now. We promise our learners that we will do our best to help them navigate the current uncertainty due to the instability in the job market and to give them a solid opportunity not just to upskill but to have amazing job opportunities as well

Says Ahmed El-Sharkasy, the CEO and Co-Founder of the Knowledge Officer. 

The fellowship programs will be taught fully online with assistance from the Knowledge Officer’s learning experts and career advisors. The learning methods are a mix of self-paced, data-driven learning on the Knowledge Officer mobile app or on desktop, as well as live expert-led sessions and human-graded assignments. The learners will be provided full support and personalized feedback as well as interview preparation sessions to ensure they are ready for the new role in their chosen field. Upon program finish, candidates will be eligible for an industry-recognized certificate of completion from Knowledge Officer and job placement support with our partners.

The fellowship is initially open for learners based in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Jordan with a highly competitive application process and 2,000 fully-funded seats available for the best candidates. The partners that are supporting the initiative include PwC, Mint by EG Bank, Careem and Zain among others.

The program will last 3 months with the Product Management cohort starting first – on the 14th of February. To find out more and apply, visit this page. 


About Knowledge Officer
Knowledge Officer is a training partner for individuals and organisations. By using Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing, it offers a personalised learning journey to hundreds of thousands of individuals worldwide on their path to the dream career goal. Knowledge Officer helps companies to retain and grow a competitive workforce through free, Plus and Pro learning plans in careers such as Product Management, Marketing or Entrepreneurship. The startup was awarded Innovate UK grant twice and was part of Facebook Incubator.

For media enquiries contact:

Natalia Slota

Growth Marketing Specialist

natalia.slota@knowledgeofficer.com

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How to Build a Career as a Product Manager?

Source: Unsplash

Whether you have chosen Product Management as a career or still wondering about the next role, this article will give you the complete guide on how to become an effective Product Manager with explaining the qualifications, responsibilities and tasks of a Product Manager. 

On top of taking you on a quick visit to a typical day in the life of a Product Manager, we will discuss the most asked Product Management interview questions, giving you the secret answer to each, and some tips on how to successfully pass a job interview.

As a learning specialist and a career accelerator advisor at Knowledge Officer, I have helped more than 100 learners from different backgrounds, levels of knowledge and experience to start and develop their careers as product managers during the last year only.

Let’s check out the most frequent questions learners ask when starting their journey.

What is Product Management?

A simple definition of Product Management that you can find everywhere online is that:
 

Product Management is the intersection of the three aspects of Business, Technology, and UX.”

To elaborate on that definition, I’d like to explain product management in a simpler way from another perspective. Let’s take a look at a typical journey of a product. Regardless of whether this product is a tech or non-tech; if it’s an app that you like or the new coffee machine that you use every morning.

For a product to be released to the market, it starts by being just an idea. This idea needs proof of need, validation, functionality, and authenticity to transform into a valuable product. When the idea is set to be solving a real problem for a specific customer segment that is clearly defined, the product is then ready for the design process. 

The design process encompasses the user experience, user interface, and whole user journey of interaction while using the product. Then, that product needs to be in a good market that attracts its target customer segment. Here comes the interaction phase with the customers when they use it, buy it, and hopefully return to use it many times.

Of course, it’s not that high-level nor simple. And the product won’t be doing this on its own. It needs someone to manage the whole process, make sure it’s smooth and aligned to the company’s vision and strategy, validate the insights, and analyze the data across the whole product delivery process. 

A Day in the Life of a Product Manager.

As a product manager, you should discover the product, manage a smooth delivery process, deliver it, align it to the business scope, and market it using the right channels to the right customers.

Some of the common tasks and responsibilities most of the Product Managers do every day are; 

  • Communication with team members: Not only communicating plans and different inputs to all teams that are working on the product, but also communicating with the management team and stakeholders. Everything needs to be clear, detailed, and consistent among all team and company members. 
  • Analyzing data, thoughts and insights: Product Managers are making decisions all the time. It’s relevant to the nature of managing different teams and caring for the product aspects. It makes much sense to be responsible for a big process with internal and external inputs with different mindsets and specializations. So, data analysis is essential. Everything you are being said, reviewed and exposed to, needs to have data reference. For your decisions to be correct and strong, they must be scientifically proved and based on data. 
  • Product post-release: The data analysis corner in the job of a Product Manager is not only specific for the process of releasing the product. It extends too far away from market release. You can’t release your product and leave. You have to analyze everything going on, make sure it’s in the right market, customers are responding positively, and moreover, what could be enhanced, what suggestions the customers have for improvement so that you consider in second product iterations. 
  • Prioritization of tasks and backlog: Having a big backlog and bank of tasks is ordinary in the lifecycle of a product. But it goes without thinking that prioritizing saves you much time, much effort, and maximizes the whole process efficiency.
    It also goes for any issues, problems, or you might be previewed at any time by anyone. When you are proved that any issue, problem or a suggestion you’ve previewed is real and worth operating on, don’t forget to manage your priorities and give the issue a suitable place in the plan/schedule in a way that matches your current situation, company scope, urgency status, team capacity, and so on. 
  • Conducting user interviews and collecting feedback: It’s not necessarily for the product that the PM is working on to be a brand new release to the market. Most of the time this is the case, but there are also existing products that need enhancements, growth, and competitive edge to the market. Both types of products require the Product Manager to collect feedback about them from using customers. But the latter requires this stage at the very beginning of the process to identify the issues that could be enhanced. This is done in many ways, but user interviews are the most interactive and effective way to get valuable feedback about your product if conducted well.
  • Ongoing Product development and iteration: This point is related to the previous one. A successful product manager works on how to transform customers’ feedback and insights about the product into new features, enhancements, and takes the product into whole new directions that satisfy the customer and meets the company’s strategy and revenue. 

The responsibilities of product managers can differ from one company to another taking into account different factors that impact the process entirely; such as the product nature, company regulations, company size, business strategy and growth stage, the industry itself, product type, customer development and service, and so on. But most of the previously mentioned responsibilities are done by almost every Product Manager out there. 

What does it take to be a great Product Manager?


During my experience with Knowledge Officer, I have contacted great product management mentors from the biggest companies in the world and conducted different sessions with the learners. I have also been observing the changes in their lives and characters. And I can confidently share some of the most important things that successful Product Managers do to stand out and succeed regardless of the product, company, and the team.

  1. Set objectives first or ask about them.
    Everything results in its best when you have the clear objective you’re working for. The objectives will lead you in the right direction and help you make better decisions. For example, setting a metric for a specific feature, you can set millions of metrics that will result in numbers. But those numbers won’t be insightful unless they are for relevant metrics to the objective of this feature.
  2. Be data-centric.
    As we’ve discussed earlier, PMs take decisions all the time and give opinions about different topics. An effective PM refers to data, proving things by numbers and feedback. Also, a gut feeling of a PM is a gift that great PMs entail, but science-based decisions and knowledge are intrinsic.
  3. Make your plan full and complete.
    Sufficient plans include the fair details that the team, stakeholders, and anyone relevant need to know. But full and complete plans entail the basic plan, detailed descriptions, expected scenarios that might happen, and suggested solutions.
  4. Be curious and keen on other products.
    Having curiosity towards other products in the industry helps you as a PM a lot. Not only you will get exposed to more ideas, trends, and innovations but it will also allow you to assess your product position and status in the market and to your customers. One more thing is not to limit your curiosity to other competitive products only. Products from all backgrounds, aspects, and industries can give you millions of ideas and directions to follow that you might have not thought of before.
  5. Details matter more than you think.
    Be organized and pay attention to the details. Things that you might take for granted, or consider that they are known to your team members by default can cause you damages. A complete picture of the plan and all ongoing changes and edits can do magic to your processes for having a great product. This will also save you much time, many conflicts, and delays that arise from misunderstandings, lack of communication, or flawed data.

What are the top skills of effective Product Managers? 

We can say that a Product Manager knows one thing about everything and everything about one thing. He doesn’t have to be an expert in all aspects but an excel in one major with sufficient knowledge about others. Besides this- regardless of the aspect of expertise – a Product Manager needs to entail a unique set of skills that helps him get the work done perfectly and smoothly when combined. The following list shows the most important;

  • Leadership: Product managers lead different teams to get one end-goal. Strong leadership skills with the balance between being a team player and a leader make great PMs. 
  • Cross-functionality: The teams PMs lead are from various mindsets and priorities, engineering, marketing, design, UX, and much more. A successful PM needs to know how to handle and merge all team differences into the favour of the product to guarantee fewer conflicts and smooth workflow.
  • Time management: A PM is sticking tight to timelines, roadmaps, and frameworks that need to be met. The ability to manage time to get the most out of it and leaving margins for emergencies, edits, tests and changes help to get things more effectively and efficiently. 
  • Customer-centric: At the end of the date, the product is all about the customer and for serving the customer needs and problems. So, referring everything to the customer needs and feedback is what Product Management is all about.

“Having a perfect product that doesn’t appeal to your customer is like having no product at all”

  • Prioritization: Knowing how to prioritize tasks and issues is a collection of skills. As it comes along with how to well estimate time for each product cycle phase (Time estimation), how to relate things to the big company vision and strategy in order to prioritize things correctly (Strategic-thinking), and how to consider different factors such as the team capacity in order to come up with the correct order of priority (Team management and Decision making). 

Most asked Product Management interview questions. 

During my journey with the learners I’ve helped, I have conducted more than 40 mock interviews at the end of their learning journeys. As a result, I can confidently say that you can answer all interview questions even the ones you haven’t been exposed to before as long as you can identify the objective behind the question asked. 

Product Management interview questions vary, a lot – from product, technical, analytical to behavioural or communication topics. But every question has an objective. You are asked to be assessed around a certain aspect or skill. 

The following 4 questions are an example of how to guess the question requirement, how to answer it, and how to pass the interview confidently and successfully.

  1. PRIORITIZATION.
    Q. When you have two important things to do but can’t do them both, how would you prioritize your resources?


    To prioritize features or tasks, there are many scientific methods and tools to help, such as Effort/Impact scale, RICE, MoSCow method, and much more. But from my experience, I can say that the most important thing about prioritization is to consider all factors that might affect your product at the end-stage. Whatever the method you’re choosing, make sure you consider your team capacity, company vision, current company goals and strategy, resources etc.

    Let that stand out in your answer, and make sure you are aware of at least one of the previously mentioned or any methods of prioritization.
     
  2. PRODUCT DESIGN
    Q. How do you know if a product is well-designed?


    To answer a question about a product, feature, or any design, you have to set specific criteria and compare the product to and come up with a reasonable answer.

    According to Dieter Rams, a famous industrial designer, a good design is; innovative, makes a product useful, understandable, honest, and long-lasting.

    Choose any number of criteria, compare the product to, assess it, and give the interviewer a reasonable and science-based answer. It will be a flawless answer if you add a suggestion or improvement to the part where you find the product weak or needs an enhancement of any kind.
     
  3. SETTING METRICS AND KPIs
    Q. Choose any specific feature for Amazon.com. How would you set the metrics to assess the success of this metric?

    Metrics and KPIs are essential and vital in Product Management. You will always do that kind of task.
    Two important things here;

    – Product metrics and KPIs usually fluctuate to support one of the customers stages a company walks through, acquisition, activation, retention, revenue, and referral. Or what’s called the AARM Metric; Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Monetization. Which stage you’re targeting, to choose a relevant metric and track a corresponding KPI.
    – Before you set any success metric, you have to set a metric that is in line with the company vision, strategic goal, and product objective.
  4. USER EXPERIENCE (UX)
    How would you modify Amazon’s home page?

    This is a UX question with no doubt. User experience is also very important to PMs as it’s everything when the customers use your product. As a result, you have to refer to having feedback and inputs from the customers to suggest your modifications accordingly.

    The smart thing to do here is to put yourself in the customer shoes and try the product yourself. Then, get back to your PM suite. Ask more questions to narrow down the question aspects.
    Q- Considering web or mobile?
    Q- Which part of the landing page?
    Q- What category? For a specific segment or all segments? And so on.

    Then, translate the customer insights, and the interviewer inputs into ideas and suggestions to improve your feature/product, all based on user feedback, information, and some assumptions if needed.

    It’s totally fine to ask openly about the product or the App you’re to assess it instantly, especially in the case where you haven’t used the product before.

The list can go infinite. But as long as you’ve got the skills, the knowledge, and the understanding of the role and the product, you can pass beyond the boundaries.

How to prepare to the Product Management interview:

  • It’s fine to take some time to think and prepare your ideas and thoughts before getting to answer the question. Don’t rush. 
  • It’s totally fine to open an App or take a look on a website if you’re asked about and didn’t use it before. It’s better than talking about something you don’t know at all. 
  • It’s preferable to ask any needed questions to clarify the interviewer question and to help you narrow down your options to get the correct answer.
  • Don’t claim that you know a product that you don’t really know and start talking about it just to give an answer.
  • Be honest! It’s the quickest way to get you an authentic result and assessment.  

In today’s competitive market, the scope is broad, knowledge is free and skills are easily gained by the right resources, practice, and hard work. 

The any-size skillset that you have can get you different jobs in companies of different sizes from all types of industries. You just need to well-assess your skills, define the gaps, allocate the parts that need a boost, and determine what it takes to get into the career job that you dream of.

I hope that you have enjoyed this guide and that you have got all the needed knowledge to know how to build a career as a Product Manager. 

Would you like to learn more and become a certified Product Manager? In just 6 months learn from the most successful PMs from Apple, Google, Booking.com and more during the Knowledge Officer Pro Bootcamp!

We’re also currently running the MENA Tech Fellowship where you learn top skills and get connected to the best job opportunities in your region.


Dina Sabry is a career accelerator advisor working on creating and curating the content of the Knowledge Officer platform that enables learners to develop their skills and career jobs. Being a part of the learning team of Knowledge Officer as a learning specialist, she has helped more than 100 learners to kick-start and develop their career jobs as Product Managers.

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5 Steps to Landing Your Dream Job Interview

“I have been applying for jobs for the past 3 months and no replies” – how often have you encountered this situation in your life or heard this from a friend or a colleague? Probably a lot!

Over the past few years, I have been trying to analyse the changing behaviours of both job seekers and employers/recruiters to try and understand how I can get better at recruiting people for my startup as well as advising Knowledge Officer program graduates and my friends. This article is the result of my experience in the tech world over the past 10 years, reviewing over 1000 job applications and helping over 100 people preparing for their next career move.

To make this short, I will focus this piece on the job seeker angle and cover the employer/recruiter angle in the next one. I will also focus more on junior and mid-level job seekers as I believe those are the ones facing the biggest challenges at the moment.

Thinking about applying for a job in your country or abroad? Doing a career transition? No response or feedback? Here are 5 pointers that might move you faster in the process and land a job interview.

Step 1: Invest in your digital presence

One mistake that many candidates do is that they miss investing in their resume and/or LinkedIn profile. A massive mistake! And by “investing” here, I am not talking about buying a template or updating your profile with the latest experience, focusing on your achievements/impact and not just listing your responsibilities, etc. These things are definitely a no-brainer. I am talking about real investment in terms of showcasing your portfolio in the past years and most importantly, what you can bring to the table.

Get to the point! How can I do that?

  1. Pick the title that you are applying for, e.g. “Junior Account Manager.”
  2. Search for 10 job posts hiring for this role in your country (or the country of your choice) from 10 different companies
  3. Study the responsibilities and qualification sections for each job post and come up with patterns and trends.
  4. Go back to your LinkedIn and Resume and make sure to use a similar language, titles, keywords, and highlight your achievements in the areas relevant to the patterns you have seen. I have to be clear here that you should not fake anything as you might win an interview, but you will lose big time in the screening!
  5. Seek recommendations from experienced people holding this title now and ask them to share it on LinkedIn. Try to let them write within the scope of the role you are applying for and not a general endorsement.
  6. For every different title you are applying for (in case you are applying for multiple titles), do the same process. Yes, this means you will have a resume that you use for each new title that you are applying for, e.g. one for Account Manager and another one for Customer Success Manager.

Step 2: Think like an employer / recruiter

This is a crucial step as it can save you months of rejections or no replies. You need to really study the companies you are applying for and put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself, why are they hiring for this role? What’s unique about their company? How can I stand out and present myself with a profile as equal if not better than their existing team members holding the same title? You will need to think outside the box!

Get to the point! How can I do that?

  1. Come up with a list of companies you wish to apply for, and they have current openings that match your desired title.
  2. For each company, study their industry dynamics, how they talk about their employee’s DNA and culture from their website, and look at 5+ profiles of employees within the same title on LinkedIn.
  3. Come up with a list of 3-5 points that are common between those profiles and how the company describes their work environment.
  4. Revisit your objective in the resume and/or LinkedIn profile and your cover letter (if requested) to make sure those points are highlighted in your application among the role-specific points we discussed in Step 1 even if that means having 3-5 different versions of your resume based on the industry and the company.
  5. Focus on your domain knowledge and skills within their industry and company’s focus and not just your technical and role-specific competencies. Companies do appreciate domain experience and knowledge A LOT! e.g. Are you applying to an EdTech company and you have previous experience in this industry? Talk about that!

Step 3: Search like a Pro

It takes a lot of good research skills to be able to spot the right opportunities that are currently available on the market at the right time. You need to be a quick detective that can find the right opportunities within a week of them getting posted and it takes more than just hitting the job links you receive from some newsletters or a quick search on LinkedIn. You need to have an effective search strategy and find a process that’s repeatable and efficient.

Get to the point! How can I do that?

  1. Based on your country, find a top local platform (excluding Google and LinkedIn) that is famous for having most of the job posts in this market. You can ask your 2-3 senior friends in your network to quickly pick one. This could be Hired in the US or Indeed, in the UK, for example. Create job alerts for the relevant search queries on this platform to receive daily relevant jobs on your email. If your search query is returning more than 100 results, your search is probably too broad.
  2. Familiarise yourself with Google job search by typing the title you are applying for e.g “Account Manager jobs in the UK” and then hitting the jobs widget to view all jobs using the right search operators to increase the relevance of the search results and use the filters available. Create job alerts to receive daily relevant jobs on your email.
  3. Familiarise yourself with the LinkedIn job search. Use Boolean Modifiers to get the best results and use every search filter possible to target the most relevant jobs to you (Hit “All Filters” to view all the filters available and don’t rely on the default ones only). Create job alerts to receive daily relevant jobs on your email.
  4. If you do Steps 1-3 really well and optimised your search effectively, you don’t need to do anything now but read your daily 3 newsletters and start applying.

Step 4: Apply for jobs like a Pro

Do you think that applying for jobs means that you do the previous 3 steps and hit the apply button on those jobs with the best application given the tips mentioned so far? That will get you probably a conversion from application to replies of probably 5-10%! In order to double this conversion rate and get more replies (and hopefully interviews), you need to go beyond the standard application process and apply through different means in parallel using your network.

Get to the point! How can I do that?

  1. For each application you submit, send LinkedIn request to connect with at least 5-10 people of the same company. Pick those within HR, Talent, People departments and those having the same title you are applying for. Don’t send requests to management or very senior people as your chance of getting accepted or having a conversation will be lower compared to junior or mid-level.
  2. Wait for 2-3 days till they accept your connection request.
  3. For each accepted connection, start to have a conversation on LinkedIn messaging asking them more about the company’s culture, more details about the role, what they are looking for, their selection process, their timeline, etc. Don’t talk to more than 1 person from the same department, i.e. talking to only one person within HR, one person within Talent Acquisition, etc.
  4. After you finish the conversation (whether on messaging or via a call if they accepted) and depending on how friendly this person was, ask them if they can endorse your application or get you some feedback.

Step 5: Invest in quantity with acceptable quality

Have you closed enterprise-level B2B sales before? You start with an average lead list of 20-30 accounts (aka companies) that you want to target, research them really (I mean “really”) well, build a lead list of 3-5 for each company (think of people who work for those 20-30 companies) and start messaging/calling those people within a considerably high personalised approach. This is what you want to be doing when you are applying if you want to land a job interview! You are a B2B sales manager trying to close a deal worth £50K+ and investing heavily in your application quality while at the same time having a target of applying to anywhere between 60-100 applications in your journey to landing a job.

Get to the point! How can I do that?

  1. Come up with a list of 20 companies you wish to apply for jobs at based on your interest and the currently available openings (check Step 3).
  2. Build a simple excel sheet to track your applications adding these columns: company name, the title you applied for, job application link, the date of applying, and application status (rejected or accepted for screening)
  3. For each job application, follow steps 3 and 4 but make sure you don’t apply to more than 10 per day. Your quality will deteriorate after that, and you will start “mass-applying” which is easy to spot by recruiters.
  4. Every 3-5 days, study the excel sheet and measure:
    • Your application rate: How many applications you submit per day. If you are making less than 5 applications per day, you should know that your process will probably take more than a month to secure a job.
    • Your conversion rate: The percentage of your applications that received a rejection or acceptance. Try to segment this by Job Title in case you are applying for multiple titles at the same time. If your conversion rate is below 15%, you should revisit Steps 1 and 2

Landing a job interview in today’s market and especially during a pandemic is understandably hard. Still, those tips are meant to help you stand against the crowd and optimise for a higher probability of moving into an interviewing or screening stage. Finally, I have to say that to succeed; you need to “enjoy” the process and not just do it. Believe me, employers and recruiters can easily spot the mass-application-style job seekers in a few seconds, and you should not be among those.

Do you have any other tips to share or want to share with me your experience after applying those tips? Would love to hear from you so that everyone can benefit! Please leave a comment and I will be updating this post every week based on your comments and feedback.


Do you want to increase your chances to get hired? Start learning today with Knowledge Officer and talk to our career advisors who will help you land your dream job interview. Explore the Knowledge Officer plans here.

About the author:

Ahmed El-Sharkasy is currently a Co-Founder of Knowledge Officer with more than 10 years of experience working in world-class startups in the Middle East and Europe. He was also the first engineer at Onfido, the leading identity verification service in the UK and Europe. After going through one of the top accelerator programs in Europe (Entrepreneur First), Ahmed is currently the CEO and Co-founder of Knowledge Officer, a London-based EdTech startup with a mission to build the shortest and most efficient path to employment and career progression. He has also been included in the list of top 100 influencers in Edtech by the EdTech Digest. 

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Knowledge Officer partners with GIZ to launch Fintech Academy

The fellowship program will equip professionals in Egypt with key skills in financial technologies and entrepreneurship.

Knowledge Officer is thrilled to announce a landmark collaboration with the Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) to launch the Fintech Academy, first of this kind initiative in Egypt. The Academy will cover most important topics in the intersection of finance, technology and entrepreneurship. The mission is to prepare future founders for the changing landscape of finance and equip them with key skills in order to lead the Fintech transformation in the region. 

The participants will learn through the mix of self-paced learning, online sessions and hands-on projects. They will eventually launch their own Fintech startup by the end of the program and get connected with investment opportunities. The whole process will be overseen by 35 expert mentors from the UK and Egypt. 

The initiative aligns with the Knowledge Officer’s mission to empower the Fintech ecosystem with education. The program partners who support that vision include Mint, Fintech Galaxy or Global Ventures.

Ahmed El-Sharkasy, the co-founder of Knowledge Officer, says: “We are very proud to be working alongside GIZ to deliver this project. Financial technologies are growing rapidly in Egypt supported by a powerful infrastructure that consists of Fintech startups, banks, financial institutes, Investors and regulators. Despite the obvious growth that Egypt has witnessed in the past couple of years, the industry is still facing big challenges and we need more and more capable entrepreneurs who are equipped with the right knowledge, skills, tools and network to be able to elevate the state of Fintech in Egypt. We are hoping that this initiative will fuel the growth of the Fintech industry in Egypt with more entrepreneurs building innovative solutions for the mass“.

This 4-month program will commence on November 15th with applications closing on 19 October 2020. The seats are fully subsidised by GIZ and will be offered to the best candidates who fulfil the entry criteria. Visit the Fintech Academy website to find out more and apply.


About Knowledge Officer
Knowledge Officer is a training partner for individuals and organisations. By using Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing, it offers a personalised learning journey to hundreds of thousands of individuals worldwide on their path to the dream career goal. Knowledge Officer helps companies to retain and grow a competitive workforce through free, Plus and Pro learning plans in careers such as Product Management, Marketing or Entrepreneurship. The startup was awarded Innovate UK grant twice and was part of Facebook Incubator.

About GIZ

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is Germany’s leading provider of international cooperation services. As a federal enterprise, GIZ supports the German Government in achieving its objectives in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development. GIZ is engaged in international education work around the globe.

GIZ is fully owned by the Federal Republic of Germany, represented as the shareholder by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF).

Knowledge Series · product management

Know the difference: Product Manager vs Product Owner

Source: Unsplash.com

Understanding the difference between a Product Manager and a Product Owner is quite important and it is also something that takes time for people to understand. To be precise, there is some overlap in the job responsibilities (which is the reason why it gets confusing) but overall the job roles are quite different.

There are many factors that influence how these roles, Product Manager and Product Owner, operate in a company. It operates differently in a different company setting. Some of the factors that influence how the roles are carried out are the size of the company, maturity of the product, and how the agile practices are operated in that particular company.

Let’s first understand the meaning of the product.

A product is anything that solves a problem or satisfies a consumer’s wants or needs. A product can be anything from a physical product (book) to a software (book inventory management application) or a service (on-demand ebook subscription service).

Products go through a lifecycle that consists of multiple stages. First, the product is conceived and then developed. Then the product is introduced to the market where it grows in acceptance until it matures. When a product reaches maturity, its sales tend to slow down or level off after reaching a peak. Although companies generally attempt to keep the product alive in the maturity stage as long as possible, the decline for every product is inevitable. Finally, the product is retired when the need for it diminishes.

Product Manager

A Product Manager is responsible for the development of product strategy, and for setting the product direction throughout all the stages of the product lifecycle. It is his/her responsibility to gather requirements by talking to the end-users, to translate them into a design or MVP (Minimum Viable Product), and to lead a development team to build the product and meet those needs.

A product manager’s job is more business-oriented and requires a keen lookout for growth opportunities. Since a product manager is responsible for strategy development and product vision, he/she tends to communicate with other departments, such as marketing, sales, or product team, a lot in order to align the organization around a cohesive plan.

The product manager discovers what users need, prioritizes what to build next, and rallies the team around a product roadmap. Product managers are strategic. They focus on the product’s vision, company objectives, and the market. Product Managers need to be the expert of the product and customer.

Product Owner

The product owner’s job is more tactical than it is strategic. Product owners are responsible for translating the Product Manager’s strategy into actionable tasks and make sure the tasks are executed according to the requirements. Product Owner is a role that is usually present in an organization that follows agile development methodology. Product Owners work with cross-functional agile teams and coordinate with them to build products.

The product owners create and manage the product backlog. They create user stories for the development team and communicate the voice of the customer in the Scrum process.
Product owners order the backlog items and optimize the value of the development teams’ work.

If you are all set and ready to transition into Product Management and land that dream job of yours, you can apply to the upcoming cohort of Knowledge Officer PRO Product Management Program Here.

Uncategorized

Types of Product Manager Interview Questions you must know

Product Management interviewing can be quite daunting. If you are preparing for your first-ever Product Management interview, we completely understand what you are going through. This article will help you understand the PM interview process and the specific kinds of questions you will face during your interview. 

Product management is one of the few organizational roles that is extremely important and that has been around for quite some time without a formal educational training available for it. Hence, it is really important for applicants to learn how to position themselves, prepare for interviews, and ace them.

“Every interview is a different interview. But you can prepare for the best outcome by understanding what is required of you and by proving how you can overcome all the challenges in order to succeed.”

Product Managers are responsible for a lot of things, from doing thorough market research for the product to conducting user interviews to understand their requirements better. Product managers are also responsible for creating product strategy and roadmaps and communicating them effectively across the teams responsible for building the product.

In short, Product Managers require quite a lot of skills to be great at their job. This should make it pretty obvious that the interview for the product manager job role will encompass questions that can gauge all the skills required for the job role.

Here are some of the important question categories every aspirant should be aware of and prepare for before their PM job interview

Estimation Questions

Estimation questions are quite common in product manager interviews. These questions might seem incredibly ridiculous when you first hear it. It is important to understand that it is not the right answer that the interviewer is looking for but how you approach it. 

Some of the examples of Estimations Questions are:

  • How many designs get created in Canva on any given day?
  • How many cars would Uber need to satisfy all of the demand in London?
  • How much is Google’s annual revenue? 

There are a lot of different strategies available to answer such questions. We recommend you start by breaking down the problem into a digestible chunk. If you need some clarifications, feel free to ask some clarifying questions. This shows the interviewer where you are trying to reach. You should use the basic facts around the problem situation and use it to your advantage in estimating the answer. Remember that the interviewer isn’t really looking for the right answer but how you approach it. After you have given your answer, you can also provide some details on how and what you have considered if you had more time to answer.

Analytical Questions

As a Product Manager, you will be responsible for making some important decisions every day. Some of those decisions would be very critical, the results of which can’t be reversed, and would require serious consideration and analysis. That’s why analytical questions are one of the most important and common kinds of questions in a Product Manager interview

Some of the examples of Analytical Questions are:

  • What metrics would you look at to measure the success of the product Y?
  • How would you experiment with Netflix’s homepage to drive sign-up rates?
  • What’s the most important metric for Uber?

Analytical questions mostly test your ability to work with metrics and data. These questions help the interviewers understand your problem-solving capabilities and critical thinking skills to uncover hidden yet important data that could affect the final outcome of the product.

Product Questions

Product Managers are responsible for building products that customers need and creating a strategy to build them efficiently. Product Managers drive the product vision and keep all the teams linked to it throughout the product lifecycle. Hence, it is important for a Product Manager to have a deep understanding of the concepts that relate to product design and development. That’s where Product questions come into play. They can be further divided into Product design and product strategy questions.

Some of the examples of Product Questions are:

  • What is your favorite product by Google? How would you make it better?
  • How would you design a new money management app, and how would you differentiate it from other products in the market?
  • How would you redesign a high-tech refrigerator? 

Product questions usually test the product related abilities of the interviewee such as product vision, product strategy, and passion for solving real user problems through the product. It also tests how familiar the individual is with the user-centric design and how it can be used effectively in achieving business goals through the product.

These are some of the most common question categories in a product manager interview. It is really important to understand that there are no right or wrong answers for most of the questions. It all boils down to how you approach the questions, simplify it, dig deeper into the real problem, and come up with a solution. 

We hope you find this article helpful and you are better prepared to face such questions. On that note, I do want to stress the importance of practicing these question categories many times. It is really important to get familiar with all these question categories and create a strategy for answering these. We hope you nail your job interview, future product managers.

At Knowledge Officer, we offer a Structured Product Management Boot Camp that helps candidates pursuing product management to hone their skills to the utmost perfection and excel in their field.

Knowledge Series · product management

What is Product Management?

Product management has carved a niche for itself by becoming the force that not only drives innovation but also exponentially improves the growth of any business. It is one of the most important organizational roles across both startups and enterprise companies that is gaining a lot of attention.

Product Management is a little difficult to define because it doesn’t completely fit into any one of the traditional roles that we are all familiar with: business strategy,  marketing, engineering, support, or design. In fact, Product management is a discipline that draws on all these fields and requires cross-functional leadership to succeed.

History

Neil H. McElroy, who had spent most of his years working at Procter & Gamble, is credited with the conception of the term “brand man“. In his words, the brand man was responsible for a specific brand right from its inception to its entire life span. McElroy created this concept of product ownership within the context of marketing.

Modern product management was created around this idea of product ownership. Product management requires taking full responsibility for the product through its lifecycle. In recent times technology firms and other businesses followed suit and started using the power of product management. The impact that the deep understanding of product management has on the growth of the company is unparalleled. 

Definition of Product Management

“Product Management is an organizational function that drives and manages the strategy, development, marketing, launch, and support of a product throughout its lifecycle.”

Product management is a very crucial link in organizational machinery. It is multifaceted and interdisciplinary reaching across various teams involved in planning, designing, and modifying the product on a continuous basis.

Product management closely focuses on two very important things. One is creating products that provide value to customers. The other is aligning product strategy to business strategy to meet measurable business goals like revenue, and profit margins, etc.

Roles & Responsibilities

Product Management requires a wide array of skills in order to be successful. Traits such as insatiable curiosity, being thoughtful, and being excellent in an organization sets a product manager apart from others. Also, being customer-centric especially aligning the needs and wants of the customer with the various teams and the product’s vision is a crucial skill.

Product manager’s duties combine both internal and external product management responsibilities. Internal product management requires performing research, gathering competitive intelligence, and studying industry trends. It also includes strategizing and managing the product development roadmap.

External product management incorporates product marketing, branding, customer communication, new product launches, advertising, PR, and events. 

Future of Product Management

Product management has quickly risen as one of the most sought after careers. It is a well-paid and rewarding career. As the experience of a product manager rises, so does the roles and responsibilities. Product management titles can range from the entry-level role of an associate product manager to a senior chief product officer who leads the entire product team.

Product management is witnessing a continuous expansion. The demand for product management is only growing and well-qualified product managers are being welcomed in every organization. Product managers usually face quite a challenging interview wherein their technical knowledge, decision-making skills, business acumen, and product sense are tested. 

At Knowledge Officer, we offer a structured Product Management boot camp that helps candidates pursuing product management to hone their skills to the utmost perfection and excel in their field.

Knowledge Series · product management

Know the difference: Product Manager vs Project Manager

Product manager and Project manager are two of the most important roles in every technology company. That is why understanding the difference between them is so crucial. Although both the job roles involve quite different tasks and responsibilities, they are often mistaken for each other. 

If you have to explain the difference between a Product Manager and a Project Manager to someone in just a sentence or two, I think this common saying making the rounds in the industry does the job of explaining it pretty well.

“A Product Manager is responsible for the What and the Why.
A Project Manager is responsible for the Who, When, and How.”

I am sure if you are still reading this, you are interested in knowing more than that. To make things clearer, let’s simplify the process by first understanding what a product and a project are.

Product vs Project

Product

A product is anything that solves a problem or satisfies a consumer’s wants or needs. A product can be anything from a physical product (book) to a software (book inventory management application) or a service (on-demand ebook subscription service).

Products go through a lifecycle that consists of multiple stages.  First, the product is conceived and then developed. Then the product is introduced to the market where it grows in acceptance until it matures. When a product reaches maturity, its sales tend to slow down or level off after reaching a peak.

Although companies generally attempt to keep the product alive in the maturity stage as long as possible, the decline for every product is inevitable. Finally, the product is retired when the need for it diminishes.

Project

A project is a set of activities that are necessary to create a product or a service or to bring some aspect of the product to a specific outcome.

A project is usually a temporary endeavor with a start and end date and a well-defined outcome. It usually goes through five stages – project initiation, project planning, project execution, project monitoring, and project closure.

It’s important to understand that product development requires a set of activities, i.e. a project, to reach the desired outcome, and that multiple projects can occur within a product’s life cycle.

Product Manager

A Product Manager is responsible for the development of product strategy, and for setting the product direction throughout all the stages of the product lifecycle. It is his/her responsibility to gather requirements by talking to the end-users, to translate them into a design or MVP (Minimum Viable Product), and to lead a development team to build the product and meet those needs.

A product manager’s job is more business-oriented and requires a keen lookout for growth opportunities. 

Since a product manager is responsible for strategy development and product vision, he/she tends to communicate with other departments, such as marketing, sales, or product team,  a lot in order to align the organization around a cohesive plan.

Some of the common tasks Product Managers are responsible for:

  • Talking to users/customers to gather requirements
  • Identifying problems and opportunities
  • Prioritizing product and customer requirements
  • Defining the product vision
  • Communicating vision to the stakeholders and different teams involved
  • Creating and maintaining the product roadmap
  • Working with different teams to keep everyone aligned to the product vision and business goals

Project Manager

A Project Manager is responsible for the execution and the successful delivery of the project within a specific deadline and budget. They take the product vision from the product manager and create a project timeline by breaking down initiatives into tasks and allocate resources. A project manager is also responsible for the completion of the tasks and communicating progress to the stakeholders.

Some of the common tasks Project Managers are responsible for:

  • Breaking down the plan into doable tasks and planning the project timeline
  • Allocating project resources efficiently to save time and money
  • Managing team workload and monitoring accurate project time-log
  • Identifying potential problems and managing risk
  • Monitoring task completion and communicating progress to stakeholder

Conclusion

In short, a product manager and a project manager require a different set of skills to excel in their particular role. At some small companies, and sometimes even at larger corporations, one can find some overlap between the roles of product managers and project managers. But rest assured, the roles and responsibilities of one are completely different from that of the other. Having said that, there are certain skills that both a product manager and a project manager must have/develop in order to be successful: strategic thinking, delegation, listening skills, problem-solving, and effective communication. Keeping the confusion and their overlapping skills aside, it is clear that the product manager and project manager are two of the most crucial roles in a tech company and that their differences should complement each other well in order to be successful.

If you are all set and ready to transition into Product Management and land that dream job of yours, you can apply to the upcoming cohort of Knowledge Officer PRO Product Management Program Here.

product management

6 Soft Skills Every Product Manager Must Have

Soft skills Product Managers must have

Organizations have known the importance of product management when it was not even an official term yet. Today in every field ‘the product’ determines the success and failure of those who have launched it. No matter which industry you look at, product management is the soul, and those who know it and nurture it to be the strongest pillar of their organization experience unparalleled success. Product management encompasses a variety of responsibilities and skillsets, which makes defining it challenging. The hard skills required for a product manager may be different for different industries, individuals, and products. However, there are certain soft skills and core competencies that form the foundation of a fantastic product manager.

Who is a product manager?

One of the most asked questions in the web world has no simple answer. A product manager is not only the go-to person for product related queries but is also the voice of the different teams building the product. The product manager is the one who streamlines what the customer wants with the technical teams and sets the right bar between the expectations and the reality. You may easily call a product manager – a superhero! 

Now, let’s jump right in and talk about some of the important superpowers, soft skills, a product manager should possess.

Communication Skills

One of the most salient and crucial qualities of a product manager is excellent communication skills. As all the information about the product reaches the product manager, it is the product manager’s responsibility to properly and efficiently deliver the right message to the right team in the right way. Yes! It is that important. So if you have, in all your working experience, learned the art of communication you are already armored with the most effective tool for the job.

 In the words of Nick Hynes, the principal product manager at LetGo,

“Product Managers are directly responsible for synthesizing the voices and needs of senior stakeholders, the product team, and customers. As such, they are the communication hub within their business.”

Good Listening Skills

The next soft skill required is good listening skills. This may not sound like a big deal but it is much more than that. Good listening skills give a product manager the extra edge in understanding the client’s needs and this results in better planning and execution. Time and time again it has been proven that just by listening and understanding the needs of the clients a product manager has been able to deliver above and beyond what was expected. Such results make everlasting bonds between people and organizations. According to Deloitte, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than their peers.

Listening as a skill was highly underrated but now it is pretty clear that active listening is a must if one really wants to succeed. This includes listening to the team and listening to the users. Keeping an ear out for important information and nitty-gritty details help product managers understand the pain points and the challenges of the users.

The same level of active listening is required when dealing with the team because when a product manager knows its team and understands it well, half the battle is already won. Managing crisis or conflict situations comes down to listening to each party, identifying and acknowledging their concerns, and identifying the root causes of the issues. Thus, finding the right solution. In an article by Product Talk, It is said that we should focus on what the speaker is saying and not on what we want to hear. 

Customer-Centric Approach

It is imperative for a product manager to always keep the customer in mind. Once the customer’s needs and aspirations are clear to the Product manager then it becomes easy to reach the end goal and come up with a successful product. Although let us be clear about one thing: having a customer-centric approach does not mean overlooking any over-ambitious approach of the customer or being blind to the faults. Always be the mirror and show the right image to the customer and to the teams working on the product. This will help in clearing any grey areas that exist.

Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking may look like something that businesses always work on. However, in order to be absolutely efficient strategic planning must include forecasting, being in line with the company’s vision, goal-setting, keeping all teams on board with the product life cycle, and launching the product in the market. 

Be able to Influence

This may seem very poetic but I cannot stress enough how important it is. A product manager is not just invested in the success of the product from its inception till it is launched and even after that but a product manager is a guide who lights the way for all involved parties towards the destination. Having the ability to influence helps in talking and molding your customer through tough discussion. It also helps in managing the many teams and individuals involved in the process. A good product manager becomes a great leader when they learn how to bring this positive factor into play.

Delegation

Sometimes the easiest of all skills becomes a mammoth task and delegation is such an underrated skill. A product manager should always know what and how to delegate. Taking on all the responsibilities and micromanaging only burns the energy of a leader and keeps them from looking at the other more crucial aspects of the product development and product-related features. To be able to delegate work and responsibilities not only eases some responsibilities off the product manager’s shoulders, but it also sends out the message to the team that they are trusted. This little skill usually works like a charm and helps in bringing out the best in everyone.

Learn on the Job

Learn on the job! Although this holds true for almost all the jobs out there however, it is quite literally the thing in product management. You may know your field of expertise very well, you may even be technically sound and have knowledge about the product, the teams involved and even about the client and their requirements, however, nothing beats the experience that you would gain when working hands-on with a product. This experience that we are talking about is now being shared by many product managers in various blogs, articles, and in our course at Knowledge Officer. Product management, though essential to every organization, still lacks an official course or degree and that’s where we step in to help you boost your career a decade further. Our course is made with the help and guidance of some excellent product managers with a wealth of skills and experience.

Bonus: Important Activities of a Product Manager

Just to shed some more light on Product managers and their responsibilities, let us take a sneak peek into some of their important activities. The most important activity In a nutshell the Product manager should conduct research on the product and the market. This research should encompass addressable market and market expectations. If there is an already existing product in the market, then its drawbacks and plus points should also be taken into consideration.  

Once the research is done then comes the strategy-making which helps the team and the clients to know the various stages of the product and also keeps everyone on the same page. It also helps in minimizing confusion and misunderstandings. A product manager needs to be a good storyteller in order to communicate the plans to the various teams and the stakeholders. One of the best storytellers in this field is Steve Jobs, well, no one can weave a future plan and enthrall the whole world about Apple and its products the way he did. And look where the company is today.

Next comes seamless coordination, this may sound like a part of communication but there is a reason why we have listed it as an individual factor to be remembered. All meticulous planning and research can be in vain if there is a lack of coordination while developing the product. By now, you know who shoulders this crucial responsibility. Yes! It is the product manager.

The final thing which we consider to be quite essential and without which the entire framework may crumble is collecting and working on the feedback. This can be quite an exhausting task as the feedback may not always be glowing and bright, sometimes it may be harsh and yet be constructive. It depends completely on the product manager how they utilize the feedback received. As Elon Musk said,

“Pay close attention to negative feedback and solicit it, particularly from friends. Hardly anyone does that, and it’s incredibly helpful.”

So, by now you may have realized that being a Product manager means developing yourself as an all-rounder with sound technical knowledge, hunger to learn new things, being open to communication, constructively working on feedback, etc. Before I wrap up, here’s a mantra I hope all you future product managers always remember: to treat all your projects as if they are special and to remember that no two products are the same. So keep your mind open to new possibilities & uncharted heights and keep on learning!

Knowledge Officer Career Accelerator Pro Product Management program

We at Knowledge Officer organize a 6-month remote Bootcamp program that will prepare you to excel in your first Product Manager job or to make a smooth transition to a leading Product role in your current/new organization.

Throughout the program, you will become familiar with a broad range of topics such as Product Discovery, Product Roadmap, Market Research, Agile, Scrum, Product development, and planning: which will provide you with a strong foundation to become a skilled Product Manager. 

You will get a chance to develop and work on a lot of skills that are required of a Product Manager. What better way to learn it than from the experiences of the seasoned Product Managers from top companies.

Program Highlights:

  • 160+ hours of online learning
  • 10 live learning sessions
  • Bi-monthly Mock interviews to better prepare you for your future job interviews
  • Hands-on projects & case studies that will give you a real-life experience of working in the Product role
  • Bi-weekly 1:1 mentorship session with leading professionals at top tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Booking.com, Amazon and more
  • Job placement or money-back guarantee


If you are all set and ready to transition into Product Management and land that dream job of yours, you can apply to the upcoming cohort of Knowledge Officer PRO Product Management program here.