Trailblazing Women in Product Management: Pinar Alpay, Chief Product & Marketing Officer at Signicat
For our next installment of our Women in Product Management Series, I interviewed Pinar Alpay, Chief Product & Marketing Officer at Signicat.
Product Managers are the CEO of their products, so they have to be strategic and operational, as well. They have to put themselves in the customer’s shoes, which is what I really love.
Nicole: Pinar, I really appreciate your time. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences on Product Management.
Pinar: Absolutely, thank you for inviting me.
It’s always interesting to hear the story that led you to Product Management.
For me, it was an accident.
I find that is always the best answer! Everyone’s accident is different, tell us about yours.
I studied business for my undergraduate degree in Istanbul, then got my MBA at Carnegie Mellon in the US. My first job was as a strategy consultant at Bain & Company. I worked for Bain in Munich, Geneva, Istanbul and London offices for a total of about 9 years. After a while, as many consultants do, I wanted to get my hands dirty “on the other side”, so I joined Barclaycard International as Head of Strategy and Planning. Later, I started my own company producing children’s animation films for speech and language development. That was my first foray into Product Management, and it was born out of a personal need.
I worked with a speech therapist to launch my first animated film aimed at encouraging language development in children. The film won two awards. I produced more films, a nursery rhymes album, and flashcard packs. This was one of the most rewarding and enjoyable times of my life. And I noticed that I really like creating products! When I felt I fulfilled my mission there, I went back to the corporate world and joined Worldpay, leading card payments products and a major transformation project. Over time, my transformation role grew smaller and Product leadership role grew larger. Worldpay was owned by private equity at that time. I learned so much during my time at Worldpay which itself went through a lot of transformations. After a while, I realized that I was yearning for a scaleup experience. That’s when Signicat came along with just the right ethos and culture. It’s a fantastic company with the mission of creating trust in a digital world. I’m now the Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Signicat where we offer products that cover the entire digital identity lifecycle and I love it. I’m so glad I stumbled upon Product Management.
I love that your very personal experience led you to start your own company, which provided a lot of exposure to different areas. How great that it brought you into Product Management. What is it that you love so much about Product Management?
I love to build things that solve customer problems. I also love that Product Management sits at the heart of the organization between customers, sales, technology, and marketing. Product Managers are the CEO of their products, so they have to be strategic and operational, as well. They have to put themselves in the customer’s shoes, which is what I really love. I also love that Product Management requires being very data-driven. I love knowing everything about the product.
I think Product Management is one of the hardest jobs in a company because it requires so much communication and stakeholder management. It requires you to set a vision and bring people with you.
Yes, the data is so essential. So, what are some lessons that you’ve learned in your career with Product Management?
One key learning for me was how crucial it is setting a product vision that is very closely aligned to overall company vision and strategy. This paves the way for making your company strategy a reality. It makes your product team focused; they are clear about how they are contributing to the overall company and product strategy. And it creates alignment with other teams so that they know what to expect from the product team.
Another learning is that Product Management needs to focus on the entire value chain. It starts with strategy, but then continues with ideation, design, creating a business case, prioritizing your backlogs. Once the product is in production, it doesn’t stop there. You need to ensure your product is being sold, which requires collaborating with marketing on product collateral and sales training and collaborating with finance on pricing. Then we come to my favorite part which is the data—measuring the performance, having your KPIs around it, and having the product life cycle mindset for sunsetting the products that are no longer contributing to the company strategy. Keep in mind this whole product value chain was also a key learning for me.
I love how you detailed the whole product process. Is there something that you find particularly challenging within the Product Management process?
I think Product Management is one of the hardest jobs in a company because it requires so much communication and stakeholder management. It requires you to set a vision and bring people with you. It requires prioritization all the time that is based on data. But also, it requires flexibility and constant learning. I think bringing all this together in a skillset is really hard, but it’s very rewarding.
So not everybody needs to be an innovator.
Right. We need different skillsets to bring the team together.
That’s very encouraging to hear. When it’s not all about work experience and education, but the willingness to learn, that opens doors for others into Product Management.
Our goal with this series is to attract more women to the discipline of Product Management. Is there any specific advice you have for women considering a career in Product Management?
I honestly think that women are perfectly suited to be Product Managers as they can be excellent at communication, stakeholder management and having many balls in the air. My advice is that they have confidence that they have the right skills and expertise to do the job. And for women in senior Product Management, I encourage them to coach and mentor other women so we have more women in Product Management. I think that’s super important.
I love that idea of utilizing your experience and extending a hand in coaching and guiding other women. That’s always exciting to see. For yourself, do you have a personal motto or guiding principle that you live by?
Yes, the first one is to always be learning, which is one thing I really love about Product Management. I’m always learning. One thing you can be sure of in Product Management is that you can learn something new every day. My other guiding principle is to start with the customer and focus on delivering value for the customer. That is always my goal.
My other guiding principle is to start with the customer and focus on delivering value for the customer.
Thank you, Pinar. It has been exciting to hear your global perspective and get to know your story that spans several continents, while bringing your truly personal need into the world which has benefited others and brought you to Product Management. I’m sure your story will inspire our readers.
You’re welcome. It was my pleasure. I really love this series.
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About the Author
Nicole Tieche is a Solutions 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. 280 Group is the world’s leading Product Management training and consulting firm. We empower Product Professionals with the knowledge and tools to create products that matter.