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Maria’s Journey: From UX to Product Management

4 min read
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Today we've spoken to Maria Muhandes, our Product Manager in Copenhagen, to learn about her journey and contribution to Forecast. As Product Manager, Maria leads a cross-functional team of developers and designers to deliver the very best experience to our customers.

What was your journey to becoming a Product Manager at Forecast?

I joined Forecast in 2018 – not so long ago. Back in the days, Forecast was a totally different company from where we are now. There were about 10 of us in a backyard building in Copenhagen, just about 18 months after Forecast was born. Initially, my role was a UX Researcher. What I loved about Forecast when I started talking to the team was how seriously everyone took UX and the importance of various Product disciplines. I knew I wanted to be at a place that really respected the design process and wanted to deliver an amazing, well-researched product that would be a dream for customers. On top of that, it was just a great laid-back atmosphere. Even though we’re always delivering at speed, I felt everyone was upfront and honest, without messing around with snarky office politics. 

We doubled in size that year, very quickly moved out of that backyard room, and really started to grow. We began to form product teams that would include a Product Manager, Developers, and Designers. With each team focusing on a different area of the product, it made sense for us as we started to scale. One day, our CPO Jacob de Lichtenberg asked me – had I ever thought of being a Product Manager? It was a big yes from me, and in classic Forecast style, I just got stuck in and never looked back. What I really loved was how quickly I could see my impact even very early on into the role. There’s a very short distance of coming on board in the team and making an impact. The most recent Developer in my team was deploying code on Day 3!

 

What tips do you have for aspiring Product Managers?

Definitely people skills. When I moved into the role, suddenly I was leading a team of experienced people as their Product Manager. That was a big learning curve but a really cool one. I feel super lucky to have the team that I’m in (shoutout to team Last Call!), where we’re all comfortable enough with each other and care enough about the platform to be upfront and direct in our collaboration. We can have those big conversations where sometimes we totally disagree, but we can talk it through to resolution because we all ultimately want the same thing - to deliver an amazing experience for our customers. 

You also need to be the voice of your team to the rest of the business, as well as relaying from outside in, and that requires a full understanding of the business and the different priorities of departments. Across management meetings, OKR setting, and more, it’s my job to know exactly the what’s and the why’s of what our team is doing and to be able to vocalize that to other departments. I need to be able to stand my ground on what we should be doing to provide value, and what’s realistic. There aren’t enough hours in a day to do absolutely everything I want! 

 

How have you & the team found suddenly going remote?

I’m actually really proud of how we adapted with all the changes last year. With the adjustment to being fully remote, we took the opportunity to really centralize simplicity in some of the product changes we were building. Forecast does really complex stuff, but we want the user experience to be seamless and intuitive, and I think it gave us a chance to sit back and really think about the product direction and our upcoming work. I remember that as we started to roll out a newly simplified change, I literally sat down going from customer to customer on settings to make the change so we could be sure it was smooth. The whole team was right there, ready to pull back any changes at a moment’s notice and it was just an amazing team effort. And nothing went wrong, I’m happy to say!

We’ve all missed hanging out in person, but we’ve made a point to leave space for fun which can be a little hard to organically create on a Zoom. We kick our day off with stand-up, and the last one to join goes first. It’s turned into a little competition of who’s the quickest. I couldn’t be more grateful to the team and what we managed to deliver in such weird circumstances.

 

How do you use Forecast daily?

In everything! I use Forecast all day, every day. I’m always looking at the progress of our sprints, keeping tabs on what we’re developing and changing so I can make sure we’re always communicating to our commercial teams the latest and greatest. I really use Forecast as my central hub of information that I then flow through to the rest of the organization. Can we add more into our roadmap and sprints based on customer and prospect feedback? Do we have the bandwidth too? It’s my constant source of truth. 

 

How has the culture developed since 2018?

Honestly – only positively. I think we’ve done a great job of keeping and protecting what makes us special and what originally attracted me the first time. There’s such a family feel. Everyone is always ready to jump in to help at a moment’s notice across all teams and departments. We all want to get things done and we can only do it together. There’s never a feeling of not being able to ask for help or a second pair of hands. Passionate & Proud is actually one of the core three values we have here at Forecast, and everyone really lives it out day to day.

 

What’s your favorite of the three core values at Forecast? 

I think if you asked anyone at Forecast about which one I represent the most, they’d agree with my choice of Direct & Honest! What I love about my team is that we can have heated debates about our ideas and direction, but two minutes later we’re joking around and having fun. Being direct and being friendly aren’t mutually exclusive things. What makes us able to come to work and voice our opinions without fear of being shut down, is that we all care about the same end goal – so we all listen. 

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