Trailblazing Women in Product Management: Lizza Diaz, Senior Director of Product Management at Robert Half

In honor of International Women’s Day, 280 Group hosted a virtual panel discussion on how trailblazing women paved their way into Product Management. We heard from PM veterans, like Lizza Diaz, their success stories, lessons from past failures, candid feedback on how to tackle gender parity in PM, and actionable insights to move forward with.

A little about you…

I have two children who are both in college. So, most recently, I’ve had a bit more time to pursue things I enjoy the most, such as traveling (visiting new places and learning about new cultures). I am an avid sports fan and enjoy watching the Niners and Warriors games with my sister…we love to travel to different stadiums across the country to watch our favorite teams. At home, I enjoy gardening, playing the piano and finding new recipes that I can try to cook, especially Italian and Indian cuisines.

How did you get into product management?

Most of my career has been on the business side of things. I started my career as an Internal Auditor and progressively evolved into managing several different accounting operations. Quite a few of my roles involved establishing a new line of business and/or restructuring organizational units. In doing so, I found myself consistently partnering with IT teams to identify and prioritize business capabilities for the applications that we use and will require to grow the business. In between some of my positions, I’ve also had opportunities to perform several IT functions such as quality assurance testing and database administration and served in several project management roles.

The collective experience in business strategy and operations and some IT background has helped me to be a collaborative partner for the IT organization. Although a stretch from the technology perspective, it was a great opportunity to transition into product management. I have been in product management for eight years, and over the years, I realize that the value my team and I bring to our organization is to bridge the business and IT partnership and help our business stakeholders to build their technology roadmap in defining the business capabilities that will drive revenue growth, process efficiencies, customer/employee engagement, and partner with our IT and vendors to identify and map out the technology solutions.

What was the biggest hurdle in entering or transitioning into product management?

When I started in my role, I was placed in a leadership role managing product managers, business analysts, and product deployment managers. I did not have the product management experience and to top it off, we were about to embark on one of the biggest product launches for our company, which was to deploy Salesforce globally for our entire sales organization. One of the things that I quickly learned is to not focus on defining a solution that was too comprehensive and complex by trying to provide a host of new features and functionality that the business had been requesting. We had to change our approach several times because it became too much to tackle for the project teams. In the end, we learned that it wasn’t all about the technology and all the new bells and whistles. It was more about ensuring that both the business and technology teams were in partnership and in agreement on the business capabilities that were critical for the business to meet the enterprise strategy and perspective. Also, if you are limited in your experience and skill set, do not hesitate to partner with other product managers both within and outside your company.

What advice do you have for women that are entering product management?

Don’t give up and don’t get discouraged if you think that you are not “technical enough”. If you are inquisitive and not intimidated to learn, you can learn the technology and partner with various IT professionals to facilitate your learning. Perhaps, take a few classes, and nowadays, there is a great deal to learn from LinkedIn and other learning sites.

Consider reaching out to other department leaders and seek stretch assignments to provide you the experience and exposure in product management. Ask for more than what you want.

Attend professional events to increase opportunities to meet other women in product management and seek mentors both within and outside your organization.

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