Women in Product Management: Rosa Welton, Director of Product Management at ServiceNow

For our next installment of the Women in Product Management Series I interviewed Rosa Welton, Director of Product Management at ServiceNow.

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How did you get into product management?

I started as a web producer when I was new in my career, working at Hearst New Media and the Food Network. At the time, Broadcasters magazines and book publishers were trying to figure out how to get their content online. It was fun to figure out how to find business value for these companies. As a Web Producer, I created a website for the launch of CosmoGirl! magazine. CosmoGirl! was a spin-off for teenage girls from Cosmopolitan magazine.

That role sparked my ongoing interest in bridging creative and technology and coming up with different ways of consuming content and sparking interactions with customers. What I really appreciated was a blank check on how we could do that. For example, Total Request Live was very popular on MTV at that time and they filmed it in Times Square. A colleague and I went to the teenage crowds waiting to get into the studio and invited a few of them to be featured on our website. It surprised us how popular it became. We were able to tie this traffic increase to an increase in subscriptions to the print magazine.

After that I moved from New York to Los Angeles and took a role at a start-up, True Car. They had a car shopping platform and I was one of the first product managers for the company. The company was in the early stages of finding clients and attracting customers. Again, it was an opportunity to bridge across an offline and online experience and make something really fun for customers. That experience taught me the core of being a product manager. You wear all the hats, from the creative to growth management to the analytics and the day-to-day of building a product. That was a great education for me.

Any missteps along the way?

One is knowing when to trust my gut, trust the data, trust the customer, and when not to. Making decisions is one of those things that I keep improving and learning how to do. Get feedback to get to a decision quickly, learn from it, and move on.

A lesson I learned early on is to make sure that I know who my stakeholders are. As I’ve moved into bigger roles, I need to figure out who needs to know the story of what I’m doing in a way that helps garner their support and get to success for my team or my product.

What do you find most interesting about product management?

I’m always hungry for roles where I’m building something. If something starts to feel too familiar and comfortable, I start thinking: “Ok, what’s next?” Thankfully, I’m in a place where we can find a lot of those opportunities. I get a real charge out of synthesizing the data, the voice of the customer, and my expertise. I love the challenge of figuring out the next big thing to build and then championing that in the organization. I enjoy building advocates across the organization.

What do you like the least about product management?

Sometimes the speed of getting things done in an organization can be frustrating. This is where advocating for your product or feature becomes even more important. In the same vein, hiring is a challenge. It is really hard to find product managers who have the mindset needed to build something new and figure out how to get it done in an organization.

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

I look for curiosity and flexibility of thinking, and the ability to zoom out to the big picture and zoom in to get the details right. The role requires a lot of resilience with new information, changes in direction, and the continued pressure to deliver and show business impact. It’s a special set of skills and personality that I look for. In my conversation with them, I’ll look for whether the customer is the core of their thinking. At the end of the day, if the customer is not happy, we haven’t succeeded. The other thing I look for is a track record that shows the ability to influence, one of the core skills of a product manager.

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

I like to tell the story of someone on my last team who wanted to move from engineering into product management. I hear from a lot of people who want to make that move. This woman did a few things differently. She participated in all the skunkworks and hackathons offered through the company and acted as the product manager on those teams. She created a listing for herself on a freelancing site as a product manager. She was able to have these freelance projects where she could devote small segments of time dedicated to building the skill, while still working full time as an engineer. By the time that she and I had a conversation about a move to my team, she was very familiar with the product life cycle and all the challenges of building products. She knew exactly what she liked about it and why she wanted to make this move. I felt comfortable hiring her into this new role because she had done the legwork and showed the passion to devote time to it. She had also lined up support from her management team, who could speak to her work ethic and performance and facilitated the transition into my team.

Any guiding principles or motto?

One thing I tell myself and my team in the tough times is: “Take a breath. I can figure this out… and have fun.” The reminder is in line with the flexibility and resilience that I look for in my team. We’re going to get thrown curveballs, but we can figure it out.

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