Navigating Industries - Alex Craciun
(5 min read)
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you currently working and what is your role?
Hello, my name is Alexandra Craciun but everyone calls me Alex or Ali. I’m currently a Platform Product Manager, working at the Ministry of Justice Digital & Technology and enabling our analysts and data scientists to do amazing work with data.
For any of our readers who might not know, can you tell us a bit more about the industry you work in and the part your organisation plays in it?
There are many definitions out there for a Product Manager but at a high level, this role usually sits at the intersection of business, technology, and user experience. In my view a Product Manager should focus on:
- Building products that meet user and organisational needs
- Keep the team focused on why we are building the product
- Make a positive impact, through technology
Tell us a bit about the route to your career in Product Management?
I’ve been in Product Management for almost 3 years and before this, my career spanned across Finance, Sales & Tech.
I first discovered the role back in 2015 when I was studying for my degree in Creative Industries, so I thought: ‘Hey, this sounds great! I want to do this’. But it was easier said than done because back then a lot of companies were still hiring predominantly people with Computer Science degrees.
I feel that my background in Sales is what helped me the most to get my job in Product because I gained key skills for this role, such as strong stakeholder experience, empathy for the user, communication, and resilience.
Between 2015 - 2018 I focused on how I can land my first role in Product and I approached my job hunt like I approach my role these days: I built a roadmap for it, slowly upskilling myself in disciplines like UX and User Research, as well as gaining some basic technical knowledge.
In the last 3 years, I have moved from B2C products (Mobile Apps) to B2B (Enterprise Retail Technology) to now Data Platforms and so far it has been a great experience.
I had the opportunities to solve hard problems through technology and for a variety of users.
Currently, what are the most topical and pressing industry trends that are important to you and your role?
- The use of Data analytics in our role:
As a Product Manager, it is really important to know how to measure the success of the product or experiment. This will guide your decision-making and will allow you to better understand how the product is used.
You can’t always have product analysts in your team and in general, you don’t want to rely on someone to build these Metrics for you; you should do it yourself.
I think this will become a strong skill in the future of Product Management and it’s one of the main reasons I decided to do my Data Analysis Level 4 Apprenticeship with Multiverse.
- Specialised Product Management roles:
Previously in our role, we needed to have a broad knowledge about all aspects of the organisation and the technology, which is why for a while the trend was to go and do an MBA, then land the role.
I feel like the importance of the role has increased and a lot of companies now are developing large product teams; as a result of that the specialisation of the role also appeared.
In my case, for example, I identify my role as a Platform Product Manager because I work with a Platform team enabling multiple products for different user types, but you can also see the product role now in Enterprise, Mobile, and even Operations.
- Better tools:
For a long time, I think a PM’s best friends were: the whiteboard, the sticky note, and the odd Excel spreadsheet in which you would have built your roadmap.
Now we have better virtual collaboration tools like Miro and Mural, better roadmap tools, and better ways to communicate with your users, which is great. I feel like these tools have improved how teams work together, especially in the last 18 months when the new normal has become ‘working from home.
This is a space to watch and I am keen to see what companies develop further because, what Product Manager doesn’t appreciate a round sticky note! (Thank you, Mural) :)
How has innovation played a part in the industry you’re currently part of?
The short answer to this question is, I don’t think our roles would have existed without innovation. It’s fundamental to what we do, but I believe there is a balance between building products that are used and bring value to users and the organisation, and chasing the latest tech trend.
I think as a Product Manager, one of the best experiences to have is to go and visit the Museum of Failure in Sweden which showcases what can happen when that balance between usability and chasing the latest technology doesn’t exist.
How do you keep up to date with industry trends? Do you take part in networking with others from different organisations?
I do, yes. In the previous world(gosh, can’t quite believe I am using these phrase), I used to attend a lot of industry-specific meet-ups and events, which was great for meeting new people and listening to content. Now it is more about attending virtual events/webinars/workshops but I do miss interacting with my peers so I hope one day we can go back to that.
I also read a lot and have favorite podcasts such as One Knight in Product, Product Thinking, and Mind The Product where I can hear from leaders and thinkers in the industry. Those podcasts are great and I’d recommend everyone in Product to tune in.
And finally, how do you feel the Community has allowed you to achieve your ambitious goals and supercharge your career within your industry?
It’s great to be part of the Multiverse community because I can meet people across so many different industries but with similar interests.
It’s another great way to network and learn from leaders with different backgrounds so that always gives me a diverse perspective, which I can apply to my role.