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This article was previously published on medium.com.

My journey in the digital world started when I was only 14 years old. I never forget that wonderful moment when I wrote my first HTML code and I could see the text “Hello world” in my browser.

I knew, right then, this is where I would like to work because I was amazed by the magic of the digital world.

Years later and I have been working on different projects, but what am I actually doing?

I’m not a UX designer, but I understand UX. I have the same understanding regarding digital marketing, branding, SEO, SEA, CRO, digital business, concept development, but I’m not a specialist. What am I then?

I’m the person who makes things possible and maximize value by enabling/supporting others to build the right product/service.

It all fell into the right place when I started working as a Product Owner on my first project. That’s when I realized what I’m good at: I’m not building the product, but enable/support the team to build the right product/service.

After working as a Product Owner for a while, I realized that the following concepts could help any new Product Owner:

It’s OK if you are not building anything

You don’t need to design, write code or set up integrations and marketing campaigns.
It’s helpful though if you have ever done it because you’ll understand the team much better and can have deeper conversations.

However, you don’t need to be any of these to be a great product owner. What you need is a combination of soft and hard skills, and a lot of energy to guide and lead others when needed.

You might already be a product owner

It took me a while to figure it out. For years, I was delivering products for my clients, but I was never satisfied with my titles. The title does not really matter, but it is great to be able to explain what I do when somebody asks me.

If you are someone with general knowledge of the digital world and love to build things or deliver any solution, then you could become a product owner.

Looking at your current job or previous experiences, do you feel the need to deliver and make things happen even if you are not officially responsible? Then you can become a product owner if you take the right steps.

Don’t worry if you are not following Scrum 100% of the time

Having done most of my projects according to the waterfall and agile methodology, I was a bit nervous when I started working with Scrum.

I started studying and got my Professional Scrum Product Owner™ I (PSPO I) certificate just to find out, that we are not always using the scrum framework in any projects.

There is no need to be anxious if you have not worked with Scrum, just be open and read more about Scrum to get familiar. What I learned is that scrum should be seen as a tool to get you closer to reaching your goals. So don’t aim for perfection or overcomplicate meetings and concepts because you want to do Scrum the right way.

Level up with stakeholders

Stakeholders are just like you who would like to achieve what they think is right

Being open to stakeholders is key to your success. It’s not about who is right or wrong, it’s about understanding each other and creating a vision together.

There is no need to see them as your seniors or as your enemy. It’s best to involve them early and understand what they want to achieve

They might come up to you and ask you to deliver a solution. It’s your job to dig deeper to understand why they want this solution and what is behind it.

Defining the challenge/goal, rather than implementing their solution, will allow you and the team to come up with the best solution.

If you don’t understand what you’re trying to achieve, you also can’t validate if you have a good solution.

The solution becomes the goal, rather than solving the problem.

Scrum might not transform your company

Some companies might think that Scrum will transform their company and allow them to maximize value. It could do that, only if the people are truly changing their mindset and see challenges and solutions differently.

If the company culture was built on waterfall methodology, switching to Scrum may or may not change the mindset and the way people are working.

Depending on the complexity of the project, you might have different teams and stakeholders working with you to achieve the mutual goal. This setup can complicate your product, but see this as a challenge.

Educating the team about scrum is vital to transforming the mindset. You are not officially responsible to do so, but you as a product owner need to own the product and enable others to get things done.

As a product owner, you have to lead, coach, mentor, and help the team and stakeholders to make new discoveries. It’s in your interest to take the time and use any opportunity to transform someone’s mindset by coaching them or asking the right questions.

I used to think I should come and tell everyone how we should do it, people generally dislike being told what to do.

Whenever you are facing a difficult situation, ask questions and try to understand the team members and if you see any chance to create a new possibility. Do that.

Be the change that you wish to see and show them rather than telling them how to be.

Be Courageous

As a product owner, you are the one who has to connect all the puzzle pieces together, so don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Stakeholders or team members could be specialized in one area of the puzzle, but you have to understand how all pieces fit together.

Be courageous and step up when needed. Your job is to bring all puzzle pieces together to optimize the delivery of value.

If any stakeholders and team members are not adding to that value, handle it, and fix it. It might be needed that you coach someone, have an open conversation, take responsibility, or apologize. Do what it takes to get back on track. It’s your responsibility, so own it.

See the advantages in case you don’t have a background in product management

Focus on your strength if you are someone who is new to product management.

Not knowing everything about product management, allows you to be creative and deliver wonderful results. Embrace your differences.

Sometimes you might think, that you need a piece of paper to tell the world that you are great at what you are doing.

In reality, what matters is how you are as a person, do you show up, preserve when things get hard, guide others and try different options to get things done? Do the right things and maximize value?

Then you don’t need any piece of paper telling you what you can or can’t do. It’s of course critical to keep yourself updated, read, join industry experts and be coachable.

Don’t get blinded by the concept of being data-driven

Data is key to making the right choices, but sometimes you might end up in a rabbit hole if you don’t watch out.

You might already know that some concepts and design patterns already work based on your experiences. This, of course, does not mean that it will work again this time. Have a good balance of using your skills, gut feelings, and data.

Don’t overcomplicate it. I know that my UX designer friends won’t like it, but what I say is: let’s ship the first acceptable version and improve as we go. Acceptable means it’s solving the user’s problem and is attractive. It’s better done than perfect.

Don’t lose your vision for harmony and balance

You might think that you need to settle down for something less than you envisioned to keep the harmony in the project.

Well, this harmony will always have a price. Your goal is not to make sure everyone can put some of their vision into the product.

Your goal is to maximize value and deliver something that is working for what is meant. Make the hard decisions and say no to anyone if you believe that they are not adding value to the product.

You could feel like superman but without the right team, you won’t make it

As a leader, you have energy, and a vision, some people might even admire your attitude, but this alone won’t get you what you want.

I don’t say “your team” because you are just part of the team. The team is your most valuable asset and taking care of them is key to producing what you desire.

Maximizing value means delivering solutions/products that amaze your customers, which in return will accomplish company goals. For that, you need different expertise and skills. The team has that.

Gather only “A players” in your team and trust them, allowing them to generate and test ideas. You’ll be amazed by their knowledge and creativity.

Respect the areas of expertise of each member. If you don’t agree, ask questions, and come up with an argument, but at last, let them take responsibility for their choices.

Each team member has a talent. Listen carefully to find out what that is, allow this talent to grow, nurture it, and let these members embrace their powers and reach their potential. The greater they are, the better we work together.

We work together as a team, but you as the product owner should see and feel this talent to create a wonderful relationship so you as a team can grow and achieve your desired goals.

You have so many roles as a product owner

You are more than the product owner. You are:

  • A leader
  • A business owner
  • A coach
  • A mentor
  • A guide
  • A facilitator
  • An industry expert
  • A great listener

Allow yourself to be in the above roles and try to find out in which areas you need improvement. You also need to be situationally aware and adapt based on what the circumstances require.

Final thoughts

Being a Product owner is a wonderful opportunity to expand yourself and reach new heights. If you like to create, expand and transform, Product ownership allows that, so embrace it.

Remember, you play a critical role within the team. Others look to you for the vision, they come to you with their questions, and they see you as their guide to build the right things, so take that responsibility and be open.

Did you like my first article about product ownership? Please let me know by liking the article or connect with me on Linkedin