A day in the life of a Product Manager: Mariya Ivanova on the foundations of developing successful tech products
What is it like to work in the IT industry in Bulgaria? This is a question many people interested in a career in the sector ask themselves. So, we, at Bica, gathered some of the people that we helped find the right job to share their stories. With this series of interviews, we are aiming to show people how the everyday life of a person working in the IT sector goes. We hope to break some cliches about the professionals employed in the industry and inspire more individuals to consider a career in IT.
Today, we share with you the story of Mariya Ivanova, a true coffee aficionado who currently is the Product Manager at SessionStack. After spending seven years in the role of QA, Mariya embarked on a journey into the world of product development. In this intriguing interview, we’ll delve a bit deeper into Mariya’s story to learn what qualities are necessary to become a successful product manager.
Mariya, can you share a bit more about yourself?
My name is Mariya and I’m a Product Manager at SessionStack. I like to describe myself as a coffee lover. As a product manager, I aim to see things through and to have a clear target to aim for. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family.
Do you have a usual routine? How does a day in your life go?
I always begin my mornings with a cup of coffee. Then while I’m traveling to work, I’m listening to some podcasts, audiobooks, and interviews that I really enjoy. Once I arrive at the office, I dive right into meetings and then adjust my daily plan accordingly, although I usually have a pre-planned agenda. My rule is always to start with the most urgent, complex tasks for the day, or the ones that depend on more people. And of course, there’s always time for another cup of coffee.
Could you tell us more about your transition from QA to Product Manager?
I spent about seven years as a QA before transitioning to product management. While working with internal stakeholders across various departments of the organization, I realized that I was somewhat detached from the end users. For me, it’s crucial to maintain a strong connection with the customers to ensure that the products we create meet their needs and exceed their expectations.
At present, my role at SessionStack meets this goal – everything we do is driven by our customers, which allows me to stay much more in tune with their needs.
As for how I made the transition, it actually started with a request from my previous employer. They were urgently in need of a new product manager and asked if I would be interested in taking on the role. I saw it as a chance to challenge myself and thought, “Why not?” It turned out to be a great fit, thanks to my good communication with developers and other teams. That experience helped me realize that I was eager to continue developing in this new role.
What is the secret behind developing a good product?
I actually have two answers to this question. The short one is that a good product effectively serves the needs of its clients and helps to solve their problems in a timely and efficient manner. However, the longer answer is that a great product is one that is always in a state of continuous development and improvement.
In my opinion, SessionStack is a great example of this philosophy in action. The original idea for the product was to assist developers and support teams in reducing the time spent on issue resolution. Since then we have expanded our focus to new target audiences, such as product managers and customer success departments. This has necessitated the development of new functionalities and adjustments to existing ones in order to meet the evolving needs of our clients.
Overall, the key to developing a good product is to stay agile and responsive to the changing needs of your clients. By continuously improving and adapting, you can ensure that your product remains relevant and valuable over the long term.
What’s the biggest challenge previously faced when looking for a job? Is there something that stands out in your mind?
The biggest challenge for me in the past has been finding a synergy between the product developed by the company and the culture of the team. It’s important for me to not only like and enjoy the product, but also see the value it delivers to customers. Finding that balance has proven to be a difficult challenge for me.
What was the biggest help in the process of starting your job at SessionStack?
Bica’s input proved to be incredibly valuable in finding the right balance between the product and company culture. In 2022, I had a conversation with Bica, and they were confident that I would fit well with the company culture and enjoy the product since it’s designed to assist product managers in improving their work. This piqued my curiosity, and I started researching the company and its competitors. After I had the opportunity to meet Alexander Zlatkov, the CEO of the company, I was convinced the product was excellent, and that he has created the right company culture.
As a former QA team lead and now a product manager, how do you approach collaborating with your colleagues and managing teams of varying sizes and processes? What is your philosophy for achieving success in these endeavors?
А fundamental principle I follow while collaborating with colleagues is to avoid micromanagement. People generally want to feel a sense of ownership and contribution to the product development process, and micromanaging can hinder this. I prefer to focus on fostering a collaborative work environment and empowering my colleagues to take ownership of their responsibilities.
What qualities and capabilities are crucial for success in the role of a product manager?
Be curious, definitely. This allows you to explore new ideas for features and improvements. Creativity is also important, but I believe it comes as a result of a lot of reading and hard work, rather than being an innate ability. Additionally, being well-organized and hardworking are essential qualities. And lastly, good communication skills are crucial for success as a product manager.
What would you advise people that are just stepping into the product management world? Where do they start?
I think starting with reading books can be helpful, but it’s not enough on its own. Simply reading without any practical experience won’t necessarily lead to success. In my experience, I’ve seen some people who take a course and then come for an interview without any real-world experience. So, if someone wants to be a successful product manager and develop in this field, I think it’s important to have a team or mentor who can provide guidance and advice on how to improve and which direction to go in.
Product management is not a role that you will begin your career with. All of the product managers I know or think of have previously held positions that provided them with a thorough understanding of products, work-flows, and technologies before making the career change.
What are your goals for the future?
At SessionStack, we have a real ambition to make our platform one of the top three most recognized DXI platforms. And that is the goal I’m working towards.
If you want to find the right position for you to thrive and grow, check out our career page and take the next step in your career.