Product All-Star: 6 Questions With Ahmed El Mehalawy
Building products is an adventure. That is what makes it the best job in the world. But it is not for the faint of heart — true product success requires decisive action, continuous effort, and a relentless pursuit of value.
At Aha! we have the honor of being connected to product experts and companies who go boldly and bravely. We are asking folks to share their knowledge with you — in hopes it will inspire you in your own product career.
Ahmed El Mehalawy is a senior product manager at Baker Hughes, an energy technology company. Based in Dubai, he manages software products used in complex manufacturing sites — helping customers run their factories more efficiently and securely. Ahmed also works with internal teams to standardize how products are produced, tracked, and delivered.
Outside of work, Ahmed spends time with his wife and two children. He is passionate about virtual reality and gaming. He also hosts a weekly podcast about the adventure survival game, "No Man's Sky".
What was your first product role?
"Early in my career I developed a website that helped gamers coordinate their groups before playing together online. I had the best time building this, but it was too time-consuming as a hobby so I sold it. I never forgot how it felt to take this product from ideation all the way to launch — it was an incredible sense of achievement.
Professionally, I began as a computer engineer, then transitioned to working as a project manager on a team tasked with building an e-commerce platform. Our product manager shifted to another company mid-build and I was asked to step in as both project and product manager.
When I started working on the product strategy, I felt that same excitement I experienced during my website days — I was solving real customer needs. After the e-commerce platform was delivered, I got an offer to move permanently to the product team and have worked within product management ever since. I absolutely love it."
What are the most important traits for a product manager?
"A product manager needs to have a vision for why the product exists, be able to prioritize essential product features, and truly value communication. But most importantly, you need to draw connections across teams and create cohesion. I do this through 'backseat leadership.'
"As a product manager, you need to be able to influence others. Not through authority, but by helping every person contributing to the product's success believe in the value of what they are doing."
To me, backseat leadership is about influencing different teams — communicating your product vision clearly, and uniting everyone together. This is necessary as a product manager because often the people you are collaborating with are not your direct reports — they work across engineering, customer success, and finance. That means you have to communicate very well and convince your cross-functional team members to work alongside you towards a common goal."
What would you recommend not to do when starting out in a product career?
"Don't control things. If you try to control everyone and everything, your best-laid plans will break down quickly. Use your skills as a communicator to align people and influence them in the right direction. Help them see the 'why' behind what you're trying to build.
In my career, I don't have anyone reporting directly to me, but I am still responsible for building the product. I don't influence team members through force, but instead, work to build transparency and trust between us.
"If I do my job right, anyone I'm working with believes in the product's value as much as I do and they are doing their best work because of it."
Micromanaging their work — and trying to double down on control — is only going to undermine that trust I worked so hard to build. So I avoid it."
How do you stay motivated when complex challenges arise in your work?
"Challenges arise all the time and in any role or job. But when you are part of product development and things get difficult, it is important to remember the impact your work has on your team, company, and customers.
You are helping to develop something completely new. Maybe even something the world has never seen before. I stay motivated by remembering the value the team and I are creating. I think about how this new product, feature, or functionality is going to help our customers."
"Stay motivated by continuously connecting your work back to the product vision. Remember the reason you are building the product in the first place and you won't falter."
What is the most exciting aspect of your current role?
"Launching new products into the market is especially exciting to me. I really enjoy analyzing market needs and building product strategies that align with the company's business priorities. When I'm doing this work, I feel a deep connection to the viability of the business and can see how my contributions are directly helping the company grow."
What will change most about product development in the next decade?
"AI has already started to make an impact and will play an ever greater role in the future. It will speed up the collection and analysis of data, helping product managers make better decisions faster. AI will help provide more intelligent assumptions about market need and make better estimations around unknown data. This increased accuracy will hopefully lead to better products and better lives — for customers and companies."
Read more about the Product All-Star series.
Know an inspiring product builder? Nominate them to be featured in an upcoming post. They simply need to be doing quality work and using Aha! software.