Since it’s not a course you can readily study in most African universities, there are many paths to starting a product management career.
It’s almost easy to think that every product leader at the top working with some of the best companies had it all figured out from the onset. But this is mostly not the case. Instead, they all had to navigate some barriers, make some tough decisions, and sometimes got lucky to work under a manager who paid extra attention to helping them find their feet.
We have taken some time to meet with some African product leaders who were kind enough to share their stories on how they got into product management:
Ayodeji Fasore (CPO, Africa Prudential)
‘You must clearly define your path from the beginning’…” I respectfully disagree. Instead, I think it’s okay to find direction while in motion and this is a perfect summary of my journey into Product Management.
I started as a core Technology Support guy with an Investment Bank— managed the Server Infrastructure, Database, and General Office Technology Support and ensured the interconnected banking systems were up and running optimally. I did this for about two years before joining KPMG as a graduate intern to manage their distributed data system and convert their complex data into digital formats built on Sharepoint Sites. That was a gamble; I had left a full-time role for a graduate intern role; however, the experience gained working with KPMG opened up the opportunity for my next job role.
After a year, I joined GidiMobile as a Content Manager. It was another risk as I left the illustrious KPMG, offering me a full-time role to join a start-up. However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise and marked the beginning of my foray into Product Management.
At the organization’s inception, the CEO doubled up as the product manager; regardless, he went about his work with so much enthusiasm and excitement. That was notable! I gradually became interested and decided to take up a Product Officer Role simultaneously with the Content Manager role [More Work].
I continued for about a year, after which the CEO decided to hand over all product management responsibilities to me. It was a massive responsibility as I was still learning on the job, although it eventually paid off. Being thrown into the deep end got me on my toes, out of my comfort zone, and forced me to upskill myself to be able to deliver the much-needed value. I’m continually grateful to my former CEO for trusting me.
I saw an opportunity and I took it despite the enormous sacrifice of time and workload. Today, I have been part of or led teams that have built value-driven products across EdTech, Ecommerce, Digital Lending, Fintech, Mobile Banking, and Digital Technology spaces. In addition, I have managed product portfolios of over N4,000,000,000 and combined usage/subscription of over 4,000,000 users for a single product. All these started with just an opportunity that I took many years ago.
Today, I work as the Chief Product Officer for a publicly listed organization in Nigeria.
To summarise, my ultimate advice is that while trying to find direction, please ensure you’re in motion, do something today: take a Treford training, volunteer, request for additional responsibilities, research, and request mentorship.
Opportunity always comes, but would you be prepared when it does?”