Femme Palette mentee and coachee Susana Perez on her journey towards becoming a Product Manager

Written by
Rose Smith
Published on
February 22, 2024

Susana Perez was a Femme Palette mentee and coachee, who has finished our Coaching and Mentoring program. She is a Producut Manager at Randstad. In this spotlight interview, we asked Susana about her journey towards becoming a corporate trainer, the biggest challenges she faced and lessons she learned along the way, and so much more!

Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.

Hello, my name is Susana. I work as a Product Manager developing digital products. I work with the business, designers, developers, and various stakeholders to build products that have global reach and are used by hundreds of thousands of users monthly. 

Before working in product, I held leadership positions in Customer Service and IT Recruitment. These previous careers taught me the importance of providing an excellent customer experience and building a thriving culture in organizations. I'm applying this knowledge in product management to bridge business and tech, create an innovation environment, and build valuable products our users love.

Could you share with us your career journey towards becoming a product owner?

I've always loved technology. I took every opportunity to improve our processes and tools throughout my Customer Service and HR career. This allowed me to lead the implementation of CRMs and Applicant Tracking Systems. Better tools meant better insights to drive performance and satisfaction with data.

Over four years ago, my boss, the CHRO, appointed me as the Product Owner for a new B2B SaaS platform to manage the employee experience with People Analytics. This was the first time I found myself in the role, and I was the first PO in the organization. I enjoyed product discovery and working closely with developers and designers from the start. I knew then that I found my calling. 

I moved to another organization 2 years ago. It has been a fantastic journey, and I love every aspect of working in product management. I recently got promoted to Product Manager for a new global product. Exciting times!

As a product owner/manager, could you share one important strategy for creating exceptional user experiences?

Products need to be valuable, usable, feasible, and viable. It’s important to consider all these aspects to build truly successful products with high adoption and ROI for an organization. 

Customers determine how valuable a product is. We need to understand users, their needs, and their pain points. This means talking to them, learning about them, talking to people who know about them (this can be user researchers, customer success teams, customer service, etc.), reading about them (research reports, trends, online reviews, etc.) A good mix of qualitative and quantitative data can help us identify their needs and pain points. 

Once we understand our users, we can develop a vision for a product or feature. It is essential to be humble enough to validate these ideas and ensure they resonate with users. It’s very easy to get carried away and skip this crucial step, but in the end, it can be a waste of effort and money. Then, we need to ensure the product is technically feasible and the organization can support it, thereby ensuring its viability. 

If any of these ingredients is missing, we won’t achieve a truly exceptional user experience, no matter how beautiful the design, how incredible the technology, or how ambitious the vision is. 

What's the biggest challenge you have faced in your career so far?

The main challenge has been impostor syndrome. In my late teens and early twenties, I had a personal setback, and I didn’t attend university right away. Even though I later got a Bachelor’s and then a Master’s, that scar stayed with me for a long time. There was a feeling of not having done things ‘the right way.’ Combining this with changing careers took a toll on my self-confidence.

In my latest career move into product management, not having a technical background made me question whether I had what it takes to build products. Even though I got very positive feedback from the start, I still didn’t believe I was good at what I did. 

I usually try to overcome this feeling by learning a lot and quickly, which I love. However, as a psychologist, I remind myself that also therapy, coaching, or mentoring are needed to truly overcome our fears and doubts. 

What’s the biggest lesson you have learned in your career so far?

The biggest lesson has been to honor the career in all its facets. Having a growth mindset and continuously developing all the skills to be great at what I do has taken me far. This can be uncomfortable, of course, since we stretch ourselves beyond our current capabilities.

I always think: what do I need to do or learn to reach the next level? What’s needed is usually a combination of soft and technical skills, from data analysis to public speaking, software development to finance, design to leadership. The skill set to be great at any career is wide, and embracing the challenge pays off.

Let's discuss your experience as a mentee and coachee in our program. What made you decide to join?

I moved from a leadership role in my previous organization to an individual contributor role in the new one. I also had high levels of influence in the former and lower in the latter. I wanted to change this quickly, but it took longer than anticipated. This started taking a toll on my self-confidence. I had many questions about what I could do differently to grow to my fullest potential. 

A friend of mine is a mentor at Femme Palette, and she was my unofficial mentor when I moved to Prague. She helped me navigate the transition into an international leadership role. Her advice was invaluable. It helped me achieve the high level of influence I enjoyed in HR. 

I decided to join Femme Palette to find a mentor in the technology space to bounce ideas and understand what was holding me back.

You outlined your goals for the mentoring and coaching program during your application. How has your mentor and coach helped you achieve them?

I stated that my goal is to become a Chief Product Officer. I had coaching sessions, which helped me immensely to confront my self-doubt. My coach was pivotal in my getting that promotion I mentioned before. I’m really thankful to her. With my mentor, I’m working towards further developing my executive presence and entrepreneurial interests.

Testimonial: Could you share your overall mentoring and coaching experience with us?

I opted for the Coaching and Mentoring program, which is totally worth it. The experience has been very positive from the start. The program is well organized, and the quality is top. If anybody’s considering it, I would say go for it. Be prepared to proactively challenge yourself, and the rewards will be huge.

Our Coaching and Mentoring program combines techniques of coaching (a coach is asking you questions to maximize your self-awareness and potential) and mentoring (you are asking questions to your mentor to expand your knowledge). It’s perfect for anyone who wants to spend some time on themselves before they begin to work on their career goals. You can work on personal development with a coach, then achieve your career goals with a mentor with us.

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