Micro-Interview: Irina Stoyanova, Head of Product


Irina Stoyanova is Head of Product and Commercial Director at Mobile Wave Solutions, a boutique tech studio offering best-in-breed software development solutions.

Irina has a rich background in the professional services industry. She agreed to share her experience from the perspective of doing product management in service (outsourcing) companies.

In under 500 words, she shares: 

  • How she starts her mornings…
  • Why it’s a bad idea to build a product in secret…
  • What her sources of learning are…

And more…  


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“How did you get into product management?”

I started as a Project Manager helping to build internal products for clients, but without a PdM or BA. Loved my job, until I began a Project with a Product Manager, and he took over half of my fun responsibilities. I stayed in Professional Services for a variety of industries in one place and focused on building with a product mindset rather than reaching milestones on N years project plan in an environment that changes daily.

“How do you start your mornings at work?”

GTD has helped me tremendously to manage the feeling of being overwhelmed by tasks and responsibilities, starting with that at around 8 am.

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

In retrospect those are painfully obvious, but here are my top 3:

·       The non-uniqueness in human faultiness and how easy (in theory) it should be to avoid repeating logical fallacies that have been mapped and studied for decades. I believe the Psychology of Human Misjudgment should be obligatory in schools.

·       Something I brushed off when I was reading “Hooked”, thinking grown people should be responsible for their own decisions: relying only on regulatory legislation when building entertaining or habit-forming products is not enough. With human behavioral biology and behavioral science available for mass consumption having clearly defined moral limits and sticking to them allowed me to enjoy working in those industries.

·       It took me a while to accept that using tools like CBT, EMDR, and meditation is not a sign of weakness when the classic Bulgarian just-get-a-grip “technique” for dealing with failure is not effective.

“What did your biggest product failure teach you?”

Unfortunately, despite all the literature, worshiping Feynman and recommending Tim Brown to anyone willing to listen – the good old fail-fast lesson I had to learn from an expensive and painful experience early in my career. We built an IoT product targeted at a particular user group. After continuously loading it with new features, just focusing on building the pilot demolished us…enough said.

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

It’s a tie… My first mentor (Krum Daskalov) told me to keep a problem=product list which – no exaggerations, changed the way I think and interact with products. + The Telerik Academy. I ended up with a reading list of 100+ valuable books, and lectures from inspiring heavy hitters in the industry and was encouraged by my teammates to look for a place with the right culture where I can apply all that knowledge, which I did.

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

Stalking or as LinkedIn nicely puts it “following” a galaxy of other brilliant product people who are distilling various product sources into pure gold summaries. For example, Diddo Mihaylov, Robert Meza, Jeff Gothelf, Lenny Rachitsky, Will Lawrence, and Jan Ahrend. Then if I like the concept I would dig deeper. + product school, reforge, and clubhouse.

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