We recently sat down with fmr Calendly VP of Product, Oji Udezue, to discuss customer discovery as well as what it means to be a BIPOC in product. It’s a great episode for anyone looking to improve the way in which they listen to their customers. There’s also great wisdom for BIPOC in product and anyone who’s looking to learn as an ally.

Fmr Calendly VP of Product, Oji Udezue, and Product Talk host, Nikki Ahmadi, both discussed the customer discovery process at length. They both also shared their experiences as BIPOC in product and Oji offered some great insights on the subject. You can listen to the full episode of Product Talk. Otherwise, the highlights are detailed below.

On why product leaders must do customer discovery

There’s talking about listening to your customers and then doing it. Customer discovery can make or break the success of your product.

“Customer discovery is sort of the linchpin. It feels really obvious, but a lot of product people or technologists build the ideas, and they don’t build things that solve customer problems or it takes them a long time to circle around to that.”

On what is required for great customer discovery

Oji gives a pretty simple recipe for how to successfully accomplish customer discovery.

“You don’t need anything sold to customers except your curiosity, the list of people to hunt down, really good synthesis, an ear, and a way to summarize the things that are really impactful.”

On what not to do

As important as knowing what you should do is what to avoid.

“The sin of customer discovery is to flood the conversation with your presumptions. Because you’re full of good ideas. Most people are full of good ideas. They’re observant. You can’t do that. You know, don’t flood the zone. When you listen, you’re processing.”

On how to get more BIPOC in product

Moving beyond customer discovery, Oji identified part of the problem that BIPOC in product face and a solution for improving it.

“The added layer of being a person of color or someone who’s not necessarily represented in the spaces of startups today, surely venture-funded startups is, you have to be excellent. I think people of color hear this all the time. You have to be twice as good. In the venture space, in the startup space, I would say that that’s also true. So, set very high standards for yourself. Be really good at what you do. I think it’s important to make fewer mistakes because sometimes you’re not given as many chances.

We just desperately need so many more VCs and partners and VC firms who really understand how to bet on and how to identify talent in people and populations that don’t look like the talent that has come in the last 20 years in software. [My advice is] don’t allow your disadvantages to count. Overcome them.”

About the speaker
Oji Udezue Calendly, VP of Product & User Experience Member

Oji Udezue leads product management, design and content strategy at Calendly, where they build products that are the best and most valuable way for individuals and businesses to manage time with others, on the planet. He is an innovation focused and multi-disciplined product executive with a proven track record for building customer-centric products and bringing them to market, while managing and mentoring high performance teams. As a pragmatic, hands-on operator, he is really good at using solving complex problems and developing strategic insight. Prior to Calendly, Oji was the Head of Product for Atlassian's Communication division where he led product strategy for Hipchat and Stride, launching Atlassian’s first product post-IPO. He has also held product leadership positions at Spiceworks and also at Bridgewater Associates, which he joined after over a decade in product at Microsoft. Oji has an entrepreneurial spirit and founded Intermingl a mobile cloud-based networking app in 2013. In his free time he's the Managing Partner of the Kernel Fund which invests in startups in Africa and a member of the Board of Directors at Quitch.

About the host
Nikki Ahmadi Universal Electronics, Director of Product - Cloud & Software

Nikki is a cloud and software product Director who works with a global team of talented engineers and architects in designing and implementing innovative solutions from product inception to production. After spending over a decade working in product engineering and management for multimillion dollar technology and start-up companies, Nikki believes what truly drives innovation is not only a commitment to technological breakthroughs but also people’s passion in improving everyday lives by building products that leave a lasting impact, disrupt the industry, and are vehicles of change, while providing the best user experience. When Nikki isn’t working on her next big product release or entrepreneurial endeavors she is spending much needed time with friends and family discussing the latest politics, or simply the meaning of life. She’s an adventurous traveler who also enjoys capturing moments through photography. Nikki also holds a B.S. in Computer Engineering , M.S. in Electrical Engineering and has a corporate innovation certificate as part of the LEAD program.

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