Unexpected allies: 3 Surprising Product Owner skills that supercharged me

Recently, I tuned into an episode of the “Diary of a CEO” podcast featuring Harley Finkelstein. Finkelstein emphasized the importance of uncovering unexpected skills that complement one’s business endeavors. He shared how his time in law school, not to become a lawyer but to extract valuable insights applicable to entrepreneurship, transformed his approach. By gathering […]

by Thuan Do

March 1, 2024

4 min read

product owner working on computer Image by freepik

Recently, I tuned into an episode of the “Diary of a CEO” podcast featuring Harley Finkelstein. Finkelstein emphasized the importance of uncovering unexpected skills that complement one’s business endeavors. He shared how his time in law school, not to become a lawyer but to extract valuable insights applicable to entrepreneurship, transformed his approach. By gathering knowledge from classes, such as memo writing, he was able to refine his communication style and sound more sophisticated.

The essence of Finkelstein’s message resonated deeply: identifying and cultivating unconventional skills can elevate one’s entrepreneurial journey. Steve Jobs was mentioned as an exemplar, who leveraged design and typography classes to shape Apple’s iconic aesthetic. Furthermore, Finkelstein’s own DJing background provided invaluable insights, teaching him to gauge the room’s atmosphere, a skill that proved invaluable in business meetings.

After listening to the entrepreneurship-focused podcast, I couldn’t help but reflect on the pivotal role of entrepreneurial skills, a product owner key skill. Just like an entrepreneur, a product owner needs to think strategically, identify opportunities, and navigate challenges to ensure the success of their product. The ability to innovate, take calculated risks, and adapt to changing market dynamics are essential traits that can differentiate a product owner in today’s competitive landscape. By embodying an entrepreneurial mindset, product owners can drive innovation, create value for their customers, and ultimately, drive their products to greater heights of success.

All this got me thinking: what are the unexpected skills that have helped me as a product owner?

Storytelling 

During my university years, I worked as a waitress, where I often found myself sharing snippets of my background with curious guests. Over time, I learned to summarize my story into a few engaging minutes, leaving them delighted. This taught me the ability to convey an idea or a story behind a project which is a crucial Product owner skill. This skill becomes especially important for larger projects because clear communication of the business idea ensures everyone, including business owners and development teams, is on the same page. In a collaborative environment where challenges are common and stakeholders question the necessity or complexity of features, consider yourself lucky. It’s in these moments that you grow as a professional and you learn how to meet your audience at eye level by tailoring your storytelling approach accordingly. Having a well-articulated story not only facilitates understanding but also encourages constructive dialogue which is the key to a successful project. 

Sales 

Growing up, I was immersed in the world of sales through my parents’ wholesale retailing business. While other kids enjoyed their summer vacations with television, I found myself assisting my parents in running the business. At the time, I resented the idea, but looking back, I’m grateful for the precious lessons it conveyed. Through those experiences, I learned the art of upselling, persuading clients to consider products they weren’t initially sold on. Taking calculated risks, I’d offer assurances like “just try it, and if it doesn’t work out, you can return it.” . Interestingly,  this same  approach is still applicable and is being used under the term “trial period” for digital products. Everyday price negotiations taught me how to set boundaries while preserving client relationships. Fast forward several years into my career selling ideas to both business and technical stakeholders became natural to me. I recall a pivotal moment when pitching a complex feature still in the design phase to a client. Although expensive, I negotiated to ensure the feature’s universality while meeting the client’s needs. In the end, compromise prevailed, and we found common ground. 

Cultural competency and diversity

Participating in charity activities has always been a passion of mine, as I firmly believe in giving back to society. Through my involvement in numerous charity events, I’ve come to recognize the utmost significance of understanding and respecting diverse perspectives, cultures, and communities. Growing up in a European capital with an Asian background provided me with firsthand experience in handling cultural differences. I spent my childhood immersed in active listening, eagerly absorbing language and cultural nuances to better understand and adapt to my environment. This early exposure taught me of the importance of active listening and empathy.

Now, you might wonder how these experiences relate to the topic of today’s blog post. The answer lies in understanding cultural differences. It involves recognizing and respecting unique backgrounds, values, and beliefs. By empathizing with others and putting ourselves in their shoes, we can encourage more efficient communication and create an environment where diverse perspectives are valued and heard.

In the context of navigating business stakeholders and teams across different countries and cultures, cultural competency becomes even more critical. By understanding the challenges and needs of individuals from diverse backgrounds, we can establish stronger, more meaningful relationships. These relationships are not only crucial for promoting collective work but also for managing the complexities of the business world with empathy and cultural sensitivity.

Conclusion

While these skills may appear obvious, they’re often hidden as product owner key skills in job descriptions. Job postings tend to highlight requirements like “demonstrated team collaboration” or “exceptional communication and leadership abilities.” However, what truly distinguishes you is the wealth of experience you offer, beyond just your role as a product owner. While employers typically seek domain expertise, technical proficiency, and effective communication from product owners, having a solid foundation in fundamental skills means acquiring domain knowledge becomes a natural progression. To be honest, these aren’t just Product Owner skills – other technical professionals can also use them to advance in their careers. If you take time to self-reflect, you’ll be able to grasp the experiences you’ve had and use them to improve yourself professionally, making you a valuable asset in any role.

So, have you thought about the skills that supercharged you on your career path?

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