Behind the Roadmap with Oji and Ezinne Udezue
Product Management Power Couple: A Conversation with Oji and Ezinne Udezue
Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing video series to understand what goes on behind the roadmap – it’s an inside look at the life of product managers. Find the full playlist here, and keep an eye out for upcoming installments!
The road to product management as a career isn’t always a straightforward one, and that’s why we’re taking you Behind the Roadmap for a deeper look at the life of product managers and product leaders.
We dive into their journeys into product management, their biggest challenges, greatest strengths, and so much more. It’s one part lifestyle, two parts nerding out on product.
(Want more on product professionals’ biggest challenges? See what 1400+ product managers and leaders had to say in the 2022 Product Excellence Report.)
Meet Oji and Ezinne
Ezinne Udezue is the Chief Product Officer for WP Engine and her husband Oji has led product at Twitter, Calendly and Atlassian. How did they become a product power couple?
Ezinne put it this way:
“We found ourselves in it. We both love technology. We have a good understanding of business, having gone to business school, etc. And there’s just a passion and curiosity about customers…[and] how to solve problems.”
On leading from the heart
There’s the vision, the mission, and the goals of the company, but it’s so important to remember that people are the driving force bringing all of that to life. As you progress in your career, you’ll be doing less tactical work and more large-scale, strategic initiatives — efforts that only blossom when you work well with others. It’s important not to lose that perspective of “seeing the human and working through the human” as Ezinne says.
Look at everyone you work with as a person first and foremost, with challenges and ideas of who they want to be vs. who they are now. You can leverage that to help your team relate to your product vision and achieve your company mission and goals.
On balancing product goals with broader business goals
Product goals and business goals are the same as customer goals; you want to work for organizations that understand that solving customer problems and helping customers win is good business. You can often avoid conflict by operating through that customer-centric lens.
One additional piece of advice from Ezinne?
“If you’ve made a promise to a customer, keep your promise. And I think that sometimes it will cost you as a business, but if you don’t keep your promise, that leaves a reputation that will cost you for years to come.”
On building products at startups vs. big companies
There are a lot of trade-offs when companies move from being fast-paced, high-growth startups to larger, more established organizations. Oji says the first difference he’d note, especially with smaller startups, is the pace of the work.
“The pace is much higher usually, because they’re searching for growth. And also, I think that there’s a lot more customer listening in smaller companies because, frankly, they’re trying to find out the right customer and they’re trying to learn product market fit. And they’re trying to figure out how to build even more features that make sense.
Small companies don’t have time for features that are not blockbuster all the time. In big companies, usually what you find…is that the playbooks for innovation are much more solid and much more tested. Not always, but most of the time. It sort of slows the pace down…but trading up pace for accuracy is always worth it.”
This particular episode ended with a round of rapid-fire questions, including how Ezinne and Oji separate their work and personal lives (spoiler alert: they don’t). Oji reframed this idea slightly, saying, “I think what we strive for is harmony, not separation.” Solid advice for anyone navigating a career that they’re looking to integrate into their life as seamlessly as possible.
Thanks for coming with us Behind the Roadmap!
The conversation continues in the rest of the series, so keep an eye on our social feeds or right here on the blog for the next installment. And if you haven’t yet, check out the full episode featuring Oji and Ezinne here.