Micro-Interview: Martin Venelinov, Director of Product

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Martin Venelinov is a Director of Product at Smule, Inc., a social singing app. 

The company hails from Silicon Valley, California but also has a 50+ product team in Sofia. They’re also great supporters of the product ecosystem in Bulgaria – helping the ProductTank Sofia Community, reading this newsletter, and organizing their own events. 

Plus, Martin is full of knowledge, and experience, and is one of the few product directors based in Bulgaria. So I asked him to share some of it with us in a Micro-Interview. 

In under 500 words, Martin shares: 

  • What he wished he knew before going into product management…
  • Lessons learned from his biggest product fail…
  • Tips on staying updated with the latest in product management…

And more…  

Enjoy!


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“How did you get into product management?”

I’ve started my professional career as a Project Manager in the Marketing industry, moved to B2B sales, then Business Development. Moving along these roles I’ve got inspired. Based on one of my ideas I co-founded a full-service market research company. Handling most of the activities, my primary role was a product manager of the main platform, that’s why I decided I want to focus on specializing in the product management discipline and become a PM in the long term.

“How do you start your mornings at work?”

Arrive at the office early around 9 AM (if I am remote, I usually start working at the same time). Do a cross-check on any important emails that came overnight and run quickly through key KPIs and dashboards. The time between 9-10 AM is the best part of the day where you can actually focus on prioritizing the day. Usually, this is a meeting-free slot. Then start with the regular routine – meetings with various team members and stakeholders etc.

“What do you know about product management now that you wish you’d known when you first started?”

How to align with the engineering team and get used to thinking about the actual problem instead of the solution. Being a product manager requires lots of delegating and building relationships with different stakeholders, which usually is a big unknown for most of us jumping into the role.

“What did your biggest product failure teach you?”

I took the decision to completely revamp one of the core features in our app. This required a lot of engineering and design efforts and at the same time, I was focused on improving multiple KPIs related to creation, engagement, and user retention. After doing an A/B test we’ve got quite promising results when it comes to KPIs, but the user community went crazy. The feature we created did not have the desired UX and we had not aligned it to the actual user base. I strongly recommend an iterative approach vs complete overhaul and having a user mindset first, before planning how to lift KPIs. Make sure you are focused on your existing users first; it is not all about acquiring new customers.

“What’s the #1 thing that has helped you shorten your product management learning curve?”

Trying to break down every project into multiple executable pieces – functional and testable. This helps me focus on quality and learn about the product and the team while delivering results.

“How do you stay updated on the best practices in product management?”

I try to socialize with PMs, Engineering Members, and Executives from other product companies. At the same time, participate and organize different meetup events to exchange information and talk more about best practices. I strongly recommend the Interaction Design Academy which is an awesome place for PMs jumping into a product role in a B2C environment and at the same time good for seniors that want to grow their UX knowledge and expertise.