Product Management All-Star: 6 Questions With Julie Edwards
We have the best job in the world — Aha! builds software for software builders. And we are connected with people you should know. The folks who are building what is next for customers around the world. So we are asking exceptional product managers who are shaping the future to share their knowledge with you.
Based in England, Julie Edwards has 20 years of experience in product management and is currently Head of Product Operations at Advanced. She helps the product teams operate as effectively as possible through a focus on best practices, business processes, metrics, and reporting.
When she is not leading product operations, Julie loves traveling, running, seeing friends, and cooking. She is currently learning to barbecue with coals.
When did you learn product management existed?
"The first company I worked for placed university graduates into one of three pools — technical, sales, or business — based on skills and interest. I was offered a role as junior product manager. I didn’t really know what product management was back then (especially having studied a degree in human biology) but it sounded interesting, the company sounded fun, and the people were lovely. I thought I’d give it a go — nothing ventured, nothing gained! Little did I know, this was the start of my career and passion for product management."
What was your first product job?
"I started as a junior product manager in 2001 for a company called QAS (now part of Experian) based in London. QAS developed address management software and I soon became a postcode geek! I worked with customers and colleagues to understand the market and discover the biggest problems to solve. I defined requirements, worked with the engineering team, and launched new products. My proudest moment was launching a new product for the U.S. market. QAS was a very process-orientated company, which sparked my passion for product and process."
What is the most important trait for a product manager?
"Product managers need to have curiosity complemented by strong communication skills. They need to ask probing questions to understand the root problems and a curiosity to decipher what should be solved versus what could be solved. This requires clarity of vision and a commercial eye for what 'good' looks like. Whether it’s with prospects, customers, or colleagues, product managers need to be curious, ask lots of questions, and be decisive."
What would you recommend a new product manager not do?
"Don’t be too influenced by the noisy few or the loudest voice in the room. An effective product manager knows how to analyze market, sales, and customer data to make informed decisions and logical recommendations. Be sure to explain how you reached your conclusions, ensure they align with strategy, and don't make decisions based on ad-hoc influencers."
If product management had a slogan, what would it be?
“Solve the problem in a profitable way. Ultimately, product management is a commercial role. Our products need to solve problems and deliver value so that prospects buy them. We need to proactively solve problems and deliver value so our customers continue paying for our products. It’s important to solve the right problems in the right way and adjust to the market and product lifecycle. There is no one-size-fits-all approach."
What will change most about managing products in 2030?
"By 2030, ProdOps will become the norm, not an exception. Whilst product operations is currently a relatively new kid on the block, proactive companies who have invested in ProdOps are rapidly reaping the rewards through efficiency gains and optimized performance of product teams. Product operations can perform the tactical activities once performed by specialist product managers. This allows product managers to invest their time on the specialist, strategic activities to maximize the holistic success of their product."