Women in Product Management: Liz Buderus, VP of Product Management at Epsilon

Liz Buderus, VP of Product Management at Epsilon

For our next installment of the Women in Product Management Series I interviewed Liz Buderus, Vice President of Product Management at Epsilon.

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How did you get into product management?

I became a product manager early in my career at Epsilon as it was a brand new role for the company. After a couple of years, I moved into sales for 15 years, but never gave up trying to improve our products. I typically provided input to the Product team on ideas for improvement (I’m sure they loved me for it!). Then I came back into product management five years ago to head up the team and have stayed focus there.

Any lessons or mis-steps along the way?

Making sure the product scope doesn’t get too big after inception and to test things out before we actually release it to Sales. When working with cross-functional teams, it can be a challenge to encapsulate all the great ideas that the engineers and statisticians bring to the table and make sure we don’t cause our own “scope creep”. In the end, we need to still deliver a product for marketers that will be effective for clients in any marketing channel. Without laser focus you end up creating something that’s awesome, but so large that it takes even longer to get to market and is too complicated to execute.

What do you like the most about product management?

I really enjoy the problem-solving and trying to make even existing products better. I like understanding our customers and what they are needing and then creating something out of that. The constant curiosity of what we could do to make something better is what I love the most.

What do you find to be the most challenging?

The big challenges that I already mentioned is making sure that the product doesn’t get so big. The teams that I work with love the problem-solving part too and they say, “well, let’s start off with this. But hey, what if we add this and what if we added that?” It gets too large and out of scope, especially if sales input is added, which isn’t a bad thing, but often scale is tough to illustrate to those who don’t have to code for it. Instead, making sure that we’re really answering what the immediate need is and put that in right now and release enhancements over a period of time.

When you’re hiring new people for your team, what are you looking for?

Obviously organizational skills are imperative because in our role we don’t have project managers. We end up being the project manager as well as the product manager. I look for their general curiosity around life in general. Someone who is innately curious will have more questions than answers but will seek out answers. For Product Management you have to have that desire and drive to ask a question and dig for more information. Also understanding situations where they were working with cross-functional teams who were talking in a language that they may have not been familiar with, like software engineers, and how do they dig in to understand what’s really going to be delivered to the market. It’s not necessarily having the understanding of what to code up, but understand the impact downstream to the delivery teams as well as to the client.

What advice do you have for women who want to get into product management?

We actually have a Women in Leadership program across the Epsilon organization and we’ve talked about this pretty extensively. Both genders have great skills and things to bring to the table and we need to celebrate all of those. But for women, it’s their emotional IQ that they can bring, especially when working with cross-functional teams. Understanding one engineer’s role versus the other engineer’s role, especially when they disagree. Knowing how to bring a team together to make sure that we are moving forward with the same objective and producing the best product that we can absolutely produce. The emotional IQ and how people interact is invaluable and a way that women can make those teams more cohesive.

Any guiding principle or motto that you carry out through your career?

I think the biggest thing is understanding the problem and not just the solution. I’ve had it and I’ve lost it numerous times because I’ve been distracted by other things. We often jump to the solution we can go to market with the fastest or that will solve the client’s issue. That solution may work but it’s really important to understand the problem before you create a solution. Otherwise you end up going down a path that you don’t really want to go, and six months later you’re wondering how you got there.

My personal motto is be true to the style of how you best work and have integrity about it.

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