I believe in starting a conversation with fellow leaders and learning from their experiences. Making their perspectives available to the whole community is one step forward in spreading the message about the importance of UX. That’s why I have started a project of #UXFika – lightweight conversations with inspiring UX leaders, creators, and people who make a change through design.

This week’s special UXFika guest is Estefania Gual – Digital Channel Product Manager at Strands – fintech company, building human and innovative digital banking solutions. I had the pleasure of working with Estefania and always admired her strong sense of vision, eagerness to understand design and development methodologies, strategic mindset and high interest in User Experience.

That’s why I wanted to talk about the connection of product management and UX since both play an important role in bringing products to the market.

You are currently a product manager at Strands! Tell me what you do and what does product management in fintech means for you?

Product management means a lot to me. It starts with identifying the need and then building products that address identified needs. Therefore there is a decent overlap between the role of a product manager and UX.

Typically people understand product management as management of a product – when you actually build it. But there is so much more before that – identifying the need, understanding the context and user segments and building a vision that translates into something useful and tangible later on.

That’s why product management needs to evolve around two aspects: agile process and innovation. From my perspective, being agile is how efficient we are as a team to deliver a product, and innovation is about how fast we can add value to each deliverable. That’s how I would sum up the product management in a nutshell.

UX and product management both play an important role in bringing products to the market. How do you see the synergy between these two fields?

There is synergy for sure. UX is a must step along the steps of building a product: before we build it, while we are detailing and iterating it, when we test it and launch it.

Investigating the problem is the first step in creating a product, solution or experience. This is the moment where we understand, empathize, and generate knowledge related to the problem.

And the fact is, successful projects require the two to work in sync in order to build and ship successful digital products.

A year ago you did a course in UX – what did you apply in your everyday work? What was the biggest learning?

Product manager is in the middle of UX, design and development. I was lucky to have a development background – it helped me a lot to engage with the development team.

Learning the fundamentals in UX thought me to work better with UX & Design team. It has helped me to understand the importance of design. Therefore I try to lift it up within the organization as well. For example, the design team is now part of the Scrum process – where we discuss functionality, the processes, problems and everyone has a say. Also, I try to plan product development to build features that will be implemented, not to create gaps between design and product.

In the past, a common practice was to design products and later on start developing it. By the time developers analyze the solution and the complexity of it – it is already too late. The solutions were designed based on assumptions that were not evaluated from all perspectives – tech, business and design. That’s how value is not optimized with the development effort. However, when design and development teams work together – we can optimize the process much better.

What interests you about UX the most?

I enjoy research and testing parts – the most interesting and the most difficult at the same time. I also enjoy the key idea of user experience: trying to understand the context, the users, the business and providing value based on that knowledge, not your inner ideas. If you don’t do something that makes sense, you don’t build anything.

One of the key strengths of Agile development is that it brings customer feedback into product management and development lifecycle. How do you incorporate customer feedback in a lean way?

I think it is very important to treat your product development as an iterative ongoing process. It never stops. Whenever we finish something – it would be great to define hypotheses on your product (e.g – how does it make people feel) – and then I would test those hypotheses with real users.

Also, every product should have a defined customer journey – and make it visible for developers, designers, product managers. In this way you might have a user perspective present within the project all along the way.

What should every UX designer be better at when it comes to product management?

The important thing is not to close yourself in silos. Product management is a process that deals with creating value, meeting deadlines and difficulties along the way. We need to balance perspectives and be flexible. There are design and UX profiles that are more creative, having great ideas, but there are also very business-driven designers, who understand all parties. To integrate a UX designer within a scrum team we need flexibility and understanding that there are more variables to take into account apart from the user. Not everything is always black or white, there is a lot in between.

What is your vision for building products in the future? What are the key trends you see emerging?

In my perspective, artificial intelligence and blockchain are two emerging trends. Artificial intelligence has been here for a while already- but there is still so much to develop in this field. It can help human beings produce better products. It has huge learning potential and is armed with data about how people use products, and teams can build better experiences.

Extra bits

What did you want to be when you were a child?

A football player, because I loved it and I was very good at it.

What is your favourite product at the moment?

Revolut has become part of my life and everyday life. Simple as that. I think it is very difficult to achieve that nowadays – since we change apps, products, brands so often.

Favorite Recent Book

Zero to One by Peter Thiel

About the UX Fika Series

In UX Fika series of blog posts, I talk with people that inspire me and whom I look up to as my role-models. The motivation behind doing this is, you might see some patterns and hopefully you’d be able to learn from the amazing people that I have had a chance of learning from.

For my international friends, FIKA is a Swedish concept, a state of mind, an attitude and an important part of Swedish culture. It means making time for friends and colleagues to share a cup of coffee (or tea). With no rush, full immersion and being present in the moment. That’s why I thought “UXFika” is a perfect name for meaningful conversation with UX leaders I look up to.

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Want to take part in UX Fika and share your story?

I always proactively get in touch with industry leaders and interesting people! If you would like to have a Fika with me, get in touch. Drop me a message here.

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