We love sharing the experience of our all-star alumni, and today we got to talk with Rafael Medeia Pinto. Co-founder and CEO of Leadsystems, he chats about the transition from consultant to Product Manager, what his experience was like as a Product School student, and what makes up the entrepreneur’s mindset.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I’ve been in business consulting for almost 6 years. I started in IT Delivery mostly focused on ERP/CRM Module Implementation (SAP, Oracle, Salesforce and others), mainly taking on operational challenges related to Sales & Order Management. From there I have been moving around the consulting industry, I was looking to broaden my knowledge in different areas of consulting, at different levels in the company and industry. My profile morphed into generating value from a strategic to an operational level of a company, I’d say that my experience became transversal for a consulting profile. Later on one of my managers would call that the “Unicorn Profile”.
From there, I wanted to move from execution to a more strategic and sales role. So, I was moved to the Business Development department. More and more I would focus more on generating solutions for clients than actually delivering value through projects. I started to develop commercial skills, in the sense that I was capable of putting together products clients needed and assessed their feasibility. The whole purpose of the area was to bring more sales by facilitating the pre & post sales process.
Right now I have moved to the start-up world in software development and eCommerce. I am getting to know myself more and more through time, and I understand that I thrive in flexible and open environments, where I can feel I can make a difference.
I’m dedicating my time between my company Leadsystems (Software Development) and its sister company called Leadsphere (E-commerce Services). My role for both companies consist of managing Software & Business Development and also bringing innovation through Digital Consulting and Delivery Practices. The start-up world is very exciting, it is a high stakes game where the risk is high, but with potential high rewards.
What was it that first sparked your interest in working in tech or product or in the digital world?
I’ve always wanted to work in tech, so I always kept tech close by. I got to discover my passion for software consulting through constant discovery and curiosity.
At first I would explore through business consulting, by integrating analytical capabilities in projects, with the help of R, SQL & Python. These tools gave me the capabilities to understand businesses faster. Later on I started to get more interested in Product Management, which I discovered thanks to Marty Cagan’s book Inspired. It is very practical, I always go back to it for specific insights.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I generally try to conquer the mornings by waking up early and doing some exercise, it’s the best way to start the day off with a productive mindset. Then usually I get around to reading emails, and aligning with marketing and development teams. Anything that I have to communicate and validate with my teams.
In the afternoon I usually take on the more hands-on and sales activities. Which usually represents following up on product backlogs, business proposals and following up with clients.
The evenings I usually try to dedicate it for educational purposes. Sometimes I have to work or talk to my business partners or teams, but from 5:00pm onwards I’m trying to train my brain more. So I don’t get stagnated in my workload and dedicate some time to strategy.
What do you think are the main skills that you took with you from your consultancy role that you were able to bring to Product Management straight away?
Agility, both in execution and learning on the go. Product Managers have to learn constantly as customers constantly demand more features, and the competition moves very fast. So you need to be on the edge, If you decide to resist innovation in your products your products could become obsolete very fast. In consulting it was necessary to diagnose the business to start delivering value as soon as possible, given that most work plans are generally very demanding in terms of timing.
Customer obsession, I brought with me a customer centric approach to constantly align with clients when conceptualizing and implementing business solutions. That’s the best. Sometimes the client doesn’t have the capacity to understand what they need, so both consultants and Product Managers need to be ready to make recommendations. You have to think about what’s going to happen.
Frugality and prioritization, building on the go with whatever resource you have is a consulting skill, because you will never have the complete information to make the perfect decisions at the right time. In product is the same, so we always gotta work with what we have and constantly prioritize what should be executed. Time is money, and focusing on the wrong things can be very costly.
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And what were other skills that you add to pick up or learn as a Product Manager?
Marketing, that’s one of the skills that I’m learning on the go right now. Which would include marketing, content creation and communication with clients as well. The product itself can be great, but it is not going to sell itself! So we need to align with marketing teams. That’s not something I was fully involved in as a consultant, but one thing I find very true is that founders need to think like marketers. In the end what we all want with our products is to create a system where it almost sells for themselves, and that requires a marketer mentality.
What would your advice be to other consultants who are maybe curious about getting into Product Management?
Consultants need to be very honest with themselves about what business context they would want to participate in when acting like a Product Manager. In consulting you can move from one project to another and always deal with something new and exciting (although it isn´t always the case). When you move to Product you won´t have the same flexibility, so it’s important to pick a place where you can feel comfortable and ideally fall in love with.
The second piece of advice would be to leverage your strengths. Focus on the strengths that already come from the consulting school and the types of customers you have generated value for (B2B, B2C, B2B2C, etc.).
So if you focus on these two points, you certainly won’t have a problem on landing a Product Management role that you can be excited for.
What was it that inspired you to get certified as a product manager?
I wanted to learn more about how to approach software products. I have knowledge on how to approach more traditional industries, but I lacked methodology and experience for software related products.
So I was very curious on how software companies were built and what would be the best practices.
Eventually I chose Product School because of their hands-on approach, and flexibility. I don’t have a lot of spare time, so I need to be able to apply everything that I’ve learned. If I can’t do that, it’s a waste of time! The PMC certification offered me many tools and methodologies to deal with software products as a product manager, also almost everything that I learned I have applied to the company, so it definitely lived to its expectations.
What was your experience with your PMC instructor like?
I was with Esin Over, and she was great. You could see her experience come through in the way she was able to come up with solutions to product problems, and she always managed to make the work more collaborative.
In your role as Senior Technical Product Manager, could you break down what that means in terms of responsibilities? What’s your interpretation of that job title?
There are different types of product managers, but as ‘Technical’ PM I get to meddle more into design and development specifications, given I have a strong technical background concerning Digital Consulting, Data Analytics, Data management, Systems Integration and more.
Although most of my actual duties are very similar to a non-technical Product Manager, given my experience I get to share more skills to the engineering and business teams, and also take more of a hands-on role.
The ‘Senior’ title relates to managing more than on product and also carrying a lot of internal/external clients. A regular Product Manager will be more focused with a specific team, but a Senior one has to be able to delegate tasks and act more like a director.
What kind of mindset is needed to be a great founder?
Endurance is key. Every week there’s a reason to drop the ball if you let it take over. It is mostly endurance in the face of failure, hard labour, uncertainty and rejection. As an entrepreneur there will be a lot of ups and downs in the business, however it is mostly your choice if you let desperation takeover or decide to face it in a stoic manner. The recommendation would be to deal with hardships as objectively as possible, asking yourself questions like How is this going to affect the business? Is there something I can do about it? How much should I prioritize this problem?
Self-awareness is key, it is tied to emotional intelligence and it is something worth taking care of. Your ego, your insecurities, your fear, your perceptions are unconsciously externalized to other people, and being consciously aware of it will give you tools to manage the organization. I recommend exercising introspection/meditation and also letting yourself be vulnerable, that will ease a lot of the pressure.
Vulnerability is the ability to accept your limitations, which will allow you to generate internal awareness on the skills you need to work on.
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Trust yourself and fuel it with a positive mindset. As a founder you need to make a lot of decisions very fast and most of the time you are not going to be sure what will be the right one. Take into account that not making a decision is also a decision, and generally not a very good one. Knowing this, make sure you keep moving and trust your criteria, the worst thing that could happen is that you were wrong and you will have to adjust your actions.
Programme yourself to understand that hardships will always come, but if you keep moving you will eventually end-up hitting pots of gold.
What’s your main mission at Leadsystems?
My main mission is to help clients tap into the unknown value that they have in their organization through technology. We help other companies digitize their operations through custom made software development and off-the-shelf products.
There’s a significant knowledge gap between operations and digitalization for the Latin American market. Very common business functionalities, like Payments and Financial & Operations Planning are not easy to tackle and require experience to capitalize it in a fast paced manner.
What we try to focus on is automating functional everyday activities, and give time back to founders to focus on planning and strategic matters.
Finally, what would you say is the most exciting thing about working in product?
The impact that you can have on others is overwhelming, in a sense you have in your power to choose how the client is gonna deal with your product, which puts you in a position of great responsibility. It is very rewarding.
You will not be bored. Absolutely not. It’s my dream job.
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