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About Us: Product Managers
a month ago – February 16, 2021

Want to know more about the brains behind SMUMods? Join our new “About Us” series where we shine the spotlight on our team. For this week, we have our Product Team share their stories on how they uncovered the field of Product Management and apply its principles to improve our platform!

Hey everyone, Grace and Djulian here, Product Manager and Junior Product Manager respectively. We’re the newest additions to SMUMods and are proud to be part of this outstanding team! Some of you might be wondering about what we do as product managers (PMs) - well, we’re here to answer that question. But before that, just a quick little intro as to who we are:

GRACE TAN, PRODUCT MANAGER

Hey there, I’m Grace! I joined SMUMods as part of the Winter 2020 Product and UX team. I love working with spirited and like-minded people, and my experience in the SMUMods team in the past few months has allowed me to do just that. 

Since joining the team, I’ve enjoyed introducing more structured product management processes into our problem-solving approach, and designing and conducting user research studies. Being able to apply these skills to build a platform with a meaningful purpose has been the icing on the cake, and I look forward to learning and contributing more as SMUMods continues to grow from strength to strength!

DJULIAN NAVAL, JUNIOR PRODUCT MANAGER

Hello, Djulian (pronounced “Julian”) here, the Junior Project Manager for SMUMods. It’s been 3 months into my journey with SMUMods and I have to say that I’ve been learning a lot from my awesome mentor Grace (;-)) and of course my other teammates. I decided to join this team precisely to learn from very talented and hardworking individuals while contributing back to the community. I have to admit that I’m still trying to develop a good rhythm and working style as a Junior PM in the team, so there’s still quite a bit for me to go. Regardless, I look forward to continuing my journey with SMUMods and to providing the student community with awesome user experiences!

DEFINING OUR ROLE

With introductions out of the way, let’s move on to defining what PMs do. Just as the name suggests, we take charge of products - we define, decide and ship them according to certain standards and regulations we’ve set. We do this for the entire product development cycle. While not necessary (unlike developers whose code is needed to create the product), good PMs can accelerate a team’s growth and rally them around shared goals by asking the right questions which ensures the team builds the right things.

PM PRINCIPLES AND SMUMODS

One of the most important discussions that need to happen with the team surrounds product strategy - essentially what our products (or features in the case of SMUMods) should achieve and how we’re going to go about executing that vision. Now, this is when the Product Requirements Document (PRD) comes in. It’s the single source of truth (Wow!) which outlines the rationale behind introducing each feature and details the assumptions behind each one as well. This is what helps the team remain focused on what we want to achieve with each feature, it prevents us from going awry and launching product features that don’t fulfill user needs. 

For example, Blogs - which is intended to showcase the SMUMods team’s efforts in improving and developing the platform to the public. We want to give you guys a clearer idea of the processes and team work going on behind the scenes.

ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

However, before we can even get anywhere close to documenting the product strategy, we have to be asking the right ‘why’s. It’s about challenging the team to think about what we want to achieve (in terms of short- and long-term goals) - Why are we adopting a particular focus (e.g. on the SMU community first)? What are our intentions? How do we know when we’ve succeeded? 

HOW WE WANT TO IMPROVE

With the massive growth of our website, we want to take a closer look into Google Analytics (e.g. advanced analytics like event-based tracking) to glean interesting insights from usage data. This is to deliver better features and ensure that our products stay true to your needs. It would be interesting to explore both leading and lagging indicators and figure out which metrics we can track to gain insight into certain user behaviors or levels of user engagement. We want to make this a reality ASAP to deliver better user experiences!

And that’s about it from us. We’re looking forward to bringing you guys more intuitive and helpful features to make your college experience better!

(P.S. - If you like what we’re doing here, and want to support us - do donate the price of a cup of coffee so we can keep doing what we’re doing (and more). We pay for our servers out of our pockets at the moment. Every dollar counts! https://ko-fi.com/smumods. Thank you!)