It was January 2018 when Matúš Burda, our Product Manager, returned from his study exchange in Sweden. At that time, he had to decide whether to return to his previous company or pursue a new challenge. However, after meeting with Stanley, our VP of Engineering, he became convinced that his next career move should lead him to Kiwi.com.
“I was already familiar with the Kiwi.com product as I had used it occasionally, and many of my friends were already working there, making the decision quite straightforward,” said Matúš Burda, our Product Manager.
Read the interview with Matúš to see how product management works at Kiwi.com, its challenges, hear about his time at Kiwi.com, our culture, and so on.
How did you get started working at Kiwi.com?
In my previous role as a project manager, I felt disconnected from the end customers and lacked in-depth knowledge about the problems we were addressing and validating the features we built. Transitioning to the position of an Associate Product Manager allowed me to get closer to the ideation, discovery, and validation of product features. Looking back, I consider this decision as a great move in my career.
What do you like the most about working as a Product Manager at Kiwi.com?
From my perspective, it is truly rewarding to work on a product that I am personally interested in as a customer. It provides an opportunity to engage with our customers, exchange travel experiences, and identify potential issues throughout their journey. It is remarkable how diverse each person’s travel experience is, from the planning stage to returning back home. This constant learning process is something I quite genuinely enjoy.
As a Product Manager at Kiwi.com, there is a huge level of autonomy in how we approach our work. With the support of our team, we have the freedom to determine how to address user needs and deliver enhanced value. Moreover, I feel that Kiwi.com is a vibrant community filled with passionate individuals who continuously strive for improvement, making each step better than the last.
Can you describe a typical day in your life at work?
I would say the role of a Product Manager at Kiwi.com is quite similar to Product Managers in other companies. Personally, I am quite a curious person by design, so my mornings typically begin by checking the performance of A/B tests and their statistical significance. Right after that, I enjoy focusing on idea grooming and discovery since the mornings are usually less busy, allowing me to concentrate on deep work.
In the afternoons, I typically have meetings with various stakeholders, including UX, analytics, research, and engineering, as part of our team ceremonies or regular catch-ups. Occasionally, I have the opportunity to conduct moderated interviews with customers, although I am actively working on making these interviews more regular. Additionally, depending on the initiatives I am involved in, I might also meet with Customer Support representatives and Senior Management. If I find myself with spare time in the late afternoon, I like to dive back into the discovery process.
What are the main challenges of being a Product Manager at Kiwi.com?
That’s a complicated question. The environment we operate in is constantly changing, so the challenges we face evolve as the company grows and develops. In the past, we encountered difficulties in uniformly estimating the value of specific features and products, making it hard to prioritize cross-company initiatives. We also lacked a dedicated, empowered team to address specific problem areas, which hindered our ability to iterate quickly, learn, and generate new ideas for tackling opportunities.
Fortunately, we have made progress in overcoming these setbacks. I now have more time to focus on addressing user problems and tackling the business challenges. I’m fortunate to manage standalone products throughout their entire lifecycle, which brings a lot of struggles, but also a lot of joy. Currently, my main focus is achieving a product-market fit for our latest product – a challenging task, but we’re learning a lot along the way, and I find that exciting.
What is the greatest lesson you learned from working in product management at Kiwi.com?
The greatest lesson? I believe it’s the realization of how little we truly know until we engage with our customers. There was a time, shortly after I joined Kiwi.com, when we assumed that every new product or feature we released would automatically bring value and support the business. As a result, we ended up building without proper user research or with unnecessarily large scopes, simply because we considered it a reasonable bet. Unfortunately, this often led to creating products or features that nobody actually wanted.
We have learned this lesson the hard way on multiple occasions. Recently, we have refined our approach to discovery and now strive to prevent such situations from occurring. Had we embraced a mindset of validating value and adopting smaller iterations in product development, we could have saved resources and delivered even more value in other areas of the product.
In your opinion, what kind of person do you have to be in order to be hired as a Product Manager here?
First and foremost, you should be naturally curious and have a strong desire to learn. It’s crucial to be open to the idea that your opinions may not always be correct. Understanding and empathizing with customers and their problems is also essential, so you need to seek constant improvement in this area.
Effective communication is key. You should be able to translate customer insights and product strategies to stakeholders in a clear and concise manner. Basic analytical skills are important to analyze data and make informed decisions. Additionally, having business acumen is valuable for assessing opportunities, creating business cases, and aligning product strategy with the company’s goals.
Openness and transparency are highly valued in our company, so we expect the same from you. Furthermore, you should embrace responsibility and be willing to lead by example. There may be instances where you need to facilitate and drive progress, even if it involves challenging efforts.
What is your opinion on the gender gap in technology?
During my university years, which was around 10 years ago, there was a significant gender gap in the technology field. I would estimate that about 95% of my classmates were men. However, I have heard that the situation is slowly changing there, and I believe it’s a positive direction. There is simply no reason why technology should be limited to a particular gender. In my personal experience, I had a female manager and numerous female colleagues, and their competence was no different from that of male colleagues.
At Kiwi.com, we believe in welcoming individuals based on their skillset and attitude, without regard to gender, nationality, or religion. For instance, since I’ve joined, we have had two female Chief Product Officers (CPOs) compared to one male CPO. Currently, we also have several women in product director positions, which highlights the inclusive environment and trust placed in women to excel in various roles. Hence, I believe that the gender gap is closing and the disparity I observed during my university years is not as prevalent in the technology sector. And comparing it to my student years, I am genuinely pleased to witness this positive change.
What are the most understated aspects of a career in Product Management?
One of the most underrated aspects of being a Product Manager is the ability to influence others without formal authority. Persuading and driving consensus among stakeholders who are not your direct reports is a significant part of the job and some people may struggle with it.
Furthermore, as a Product Manager, you will often find yourself making critical decisions in an environment of high uncertainty, with incomplete information. It is crucial to assess risks, consider trade-offs, and make informed choices while dealing with ambiguity. The skill to make sound decisions amidst uncertainty is essential but often overlooked.
Lastly, being a Product Manager is a never-ending journey of continuous learning. The field is constantly evolving, with the emergence of new technologies, methodologies, and market trends. Success in the role depends on staying up to date with industry developments and continuously expanding your knowledge base.
What is your outlook on the future of Product Management as an industry?
To be honest, predicting the future is uncertain, and I hesitate to provide specific outlooks. However, it’s clear that recent advancements in AI and Machine Learning are already impacting the day-to-day responsibilities of Product Managers worldwide. Additionally, there may be upcoming breakthrough technologies that we are not yet aware of, which could change the job as we know it now.
On the other hand, I believe that customer-centricity will continue to play an increasingly vital role across industries, with more companies adopting customer-focused business strategies. I think there’s still a gap in product management quality between American and European companies. Hence, I anticipate companies in Europe to prioritize closing the gap by upskilling Product Managers and creating favorable conditions that support effective product management work.