Trailblazing Women in Product Management: Costanza Montresor, Global Head of Consumer Digital Security Product at Vodafone
For our next installment of the Women in Product Management Series I interviewed Costanza Montresor, Global Head of Consumer Digital Security Product at Vodafone.
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How did you get into Product Management?
At the start of my career, I had roles in various departments, from online e-commerce, to media, and strategy. My role in wholesale strategy was key to understanding the main variables to leverage and set up an effective long-term growth strategy, but it was a very structured role with no room for creativity and seeing the impact on users was a distant reality.
I realized I was only seeing part of the users’ problems. It wasn’t really tangible. I wanted to see the user from additional perspectives, to really understand their needs, and the impact my choices made on them. This curiosity led me to Product Management, which allowed me to be more creative, experiment fast and own the end-to-end users’ lifecycle. I love problem solving and building simple solutions that make life easier for users.
In Product Management no two days are the same. This unpredictability resembles my life experience. I have lived in different places, traveled to over 70 countries, as I’m intrigued by new cultures and experiences.
Product Managers need to understand customers from many different perspectives. Having this open mind and flexibility in my personal life helps me better understand life as a PM.
Any lessons learned along the way?
Product Management is a team sport. Everyone needs to have the same clear goals and objectives, across the organization.
Delivering expectations is key to successfully working together. One A-ha moment was when I was working with a strict timeline with many items to prioritize. But we weren’t really progressing, as we had several issues and misunderstandings on how we prioritized our work.
I realized we weren’t aligned on one clear goal.
This made it impossible to steer the ship in the same direction. Everyone should work together with the same focus, delivering a solution that helps users resolve their needs.
Product Managers all have different skillsets and perspectives, so we all need 100% clarity—know where we’re heading, what are the next steps, and what are the priorities. Product, designers, and engineers all need to have the same goal, and put the needs of the users at the center.
What do you like the most about Product Management?
Growing up, my family worked in hospitality, which focuses on catering to the clients and delighting them.
Little details have an outsized impact on their overall enjoyment, creating the difference between a good experience versus a great experience.
I internalized this and incorporated it into my approach as a Product Manager. I’m always trying to anticipate the needs of the users to solve their problems, incorporating elements of surprise and joy. My love of collaboration and “making the customers happy” is what drove me to Product Management where I get to see, not just part of the solution, but the entire process.
What do you find the most challenging?
The biggest challenges are balancing responsibilities and clearly communicating the product strategy.
Product Managers get pulled in different directions and wear many different hats. They’re asked to solve issues and provide input to different parts of the organization. When you can’t manage your time well, this leads to confusion and frustration. You need to be super organized and understand your priorities. Know when you need to jump in, when others need to jump in, and when you need to put yourself in the driver’s seat and drive the whole team.
When it comes to communicating product strategy, especially in big organizations, it’s hard to work in the same direction. But we always need to serve the same goal, the same expectations, and the same priorities. Over communicate, all the time.
What is the strategy? What is your roadmap? What do you want to prioritize first? Don’t assume the team knows because you mentioned it before. You can never communicate enough.
What are you looking for when you’re hiring Product Managers for your team?
Product Managers must have intellectual curiosity, be willing to dive deep into problems, have an eye for detail, and understand users from many different perspectives.
I have the privilege of working with international teams. When I am building a successful team of Product Managers, the key is a combination of different cultures, perspectives, and backgrounds. This helps us to be innovative and better understand our customers and how a product could be successful in different markets, for different segments and users.
What advice would you give women going into Product Management?
Product Management can be intimidating—numerous responsibilities, technical knowledge, and ownership of a product.
Women tend to solve everything themselves without asking for help. This role requires you to delegate since you are working with experts of their domains. Your job is to build a safe space where you and your stakeholders can learn and grow.
My advice is to not say no to yourself. Give yourself a chance, build trust with the team. You might surprise yourself by how much you can adapt and develop. You learn by doing.
We need more women in Product Management. We need more empathy. Give it a try, this is one of the most beautiful jobs.
Any guiding motto?
One of my other passions is music. In jazz, musicians improvise, and make mistakes.
There are patterns there to guide them, but they embrace uncertainty and push themselves into unfamiliar spaces. They are more likely to create something meaningful and powerful.
This is the same in Product Management, with structures to support you. But having an open mind and allowing for unpredictability will push you to build innovative products, shift priority, change goals, and allow the whole team to try new things.
In Product Management, perfect products don’t always come from the perfect process. Like music, don’t be afraid to make mistakes; embrace improvisation and innovation, because everything is a learning curve.
Download the Trailblazing Women in Product Management E-Book
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View the full list of this blog interview series to learn the stories of more women product leaders.
About the Author
Nicole Tieche – Client Relations Specialist at 280 Group
Nicole was born and raised in Michigan; she received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan in French and Creative Writing.
After Nicole spent time studying and traveling through Europe, she moved out to California and discovered advertising was a great way to use her creative skills. Not as a writer, but as an Account Executive. Nicole is most creative in how she works with people: building relationships with clients and teammates, learning about them, and supporting them – even in ways they didn’t know they needed.