How can you lead product development with an entrepreneurial mindset? In this episode, Product Talk Host & Willow Innovations, Inc VP of Product, Melissa Pickering, meets with ABN CTO & Co-founder Valdemar Ostergaard to discuss his journey as a product leader. He speaks on the importance of leading with inherent curiosity, including how new product leaders can navigate PM tools, overcome potential setbacks, and embody an entrepreneurial mindset. 

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On navigating the vast amount of PM tools

“There are so many different tools and so many different resources. Most commonly, the ones doing the resources and creating the resources, and producing the resources are also the most experienced ones. Then, new product owners and new product leaders can learn from the most experienced ones. It can also be hard because they might be a bit biased. For a new product leader, it’s very hard to navigate, because you don’t always know what you don’t know. For me, it has been very hard not necessarily having much experience, but having this entrepreneurialmindset. I have a background in innovation management and product development with innovation. That has helped me a lot. 

“For all new product leaders, look into the resources, but don’t forget that it’s your process and you design it. So whatever you see out there, you have to refine it, you have to change it. That’s easier said than done. I really had a hard time looking into breaching the value creation with some of the key steps that you needed to do or some of the key requirements that a product needed to fulfill. As a product leader you shouldn’t just know it, you should also let the development team know it because otherwise, they have no idea where they’re going. 

“Take a user story to where you put up some user requirements, and then you actually bridge that. You put the requirements on the value proposition map, to just do a mind map of, how we can map these core needs that the user has with some key requirements for a minimum viable product. The point is, design your process and don’t be afraid to change the model. They are not locked and you should not be locked with those tools.”

On overcoming potential setbacks

“Being a new product leader, it’s not necessarily hard to build trust, but it can be hard to think you’ve built trust because you don’t trust the process or are afraid that you might make mistakes on the way. One of the best tips that I have is to document the process. The development team needs to know why they are building this and why they are solving this issue. So documenting the process is important, but also being transparent. Especially as a new product leader, being transparent and saying, I don’t necessarily know the answer. So let’s go through it together. 

“Building this shared common playground, that’s really important. When I say document the process, it’s just setting up the tools that you need. Once you’ve built this, and you maybe started getting the first hypothesis, there’s a long way to getting a finished product. It’s very important to keep the momentum. The first month in an early-stage startup can be really exciting. We can see the value that we provide all the users and not everybody is happy. But at some point, we get into the same cycle. And how do you keep the momentum? I think it’s a very tough task. It’s your responsibility as a product leader. 

“It’s about keeping the documentation and keeping the same tasks, and maybe using the tools even more. Don’t be too happy about it in the beginning, just remember the process. Keep designing your process as we talked about. Be transparent and acknowledge frustrations in your process. When you have that, keep the momentum, because you might lose some trust if you lose the momentum. Also with your investors and other stakeholders in your company, or in your organization, if you don’t keep that momentum.” 

On managing functionalities with an entrepreneurial mindset

“Go the entrepreneurial way. Because in that journey, it’s unbelievable what you learn. It’s also way easier said than done. It helps you in getting a sense of thinking as a startup and thinking, not just doing it. You can read everything with resources, but you need to think like a startup, you need to think like an entrepreneur. You can start by doing something, create your own portfolio where you actually develop some products, and you get a sense of what it needs to do it. 

“Especially across functionalities, I think as an entrepreneur, you get through all the different phases, and you get through all the different requirements that you need to as a product leader, because you have to do the ideation. You have to do the actual product development, you have to do some marketing and some sales. You need to acknowledge the frustrations, as we talked about previously. But I think you also need to acknowledge that you don’t know the answer.

“This is for both the development team but mainly for yourself, say that you don’t necessarily know the best way of marketing this product. But the marketing team is good at making a profit. So I think it’s acknowledging that you don’t know everything, you don’t even know the vision, and you might not even know the actual answer. But then asking people, so if you don’t know everything, get to know some people that do in an organization. Maybe you have to use the marketing team in the ideation phases. Maybe you have to use them in the product development phases, and not just when the product is launched.”

About the speaker
About the host
Melissa Pickering Willow Innovations, VP of Product Management

I'm a purpose-driven change agent with a track record of building & leading cross-functional teams to develop & launch products for kids. From Disney Imagineering, to EdTech startup founder, to product innovation at The LEGO Group, I have spent over a decade building and leading product teams to innovate kids' play and learning experiences. Most recently, I have joined another purpose-driven mission at Willow Innovations to bring more joy to motherhood, building products to make moms' lives easier.

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