Dayo’s journey to Senior Product Manager at Visa
Being intentional and keeping her eyes on the prize
“I don’t follow the bandwagon in anything I do. It’s always about where I am, what the next step is, and what resource I need to get from where I am to my next step.” - Dayo Idowu
Dayo is very assertive about the fact that she’s not new to the tech industry. With a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s in information technology, you may wonder why she has to declare that fact. This is why.
Like many Nigerian graduates, Dayo started out working at a bank. Her first role was in relationship management before she transitioned to process improvement. “From my first day at the bank I always wanted to remain within the tech ecosystem. So while doing process improvement, I found a way to apply my tech skills”.
Whenever there was an issue with any of the bank’s processes, she would review the flow and find a way of redesigning the system to make it automated in order to eliminate human error. With a deliberate effort to provide solutions using technology, she was able to stay within tech while also doing process improvement.
Somewhere down the line, she realized that combining process improvement and tech is what is called business analysis. After learning that her experience matched that of a business analyst, she decided to do a business analyst certification to make things official.
“It wasn’t exactly a transition because my roles didn’t change. Yes, I took on a lot more technical projects because of my interests, but I was always doing what business analysts do.”
Looking back on her journey now, starting out at a bank in Nigeria to joining Visa, one of the largest payments technology companies in the world really seems like a full-circle moment.
Coming to America
In 2018, Dayo moved to the US. That’s where she met product managers at the Women In Product conference and was fascinated by what they do. She also realized that what they do was closely related to what she was doing, just a bit more extensive.
“I saw those other things as a new challenge for me to take on and I decided to start studying, getting to know more about product management and what product managers do.”
Without veering off her business analyst path, she started looking into the product management space, identifying what she was lacking and creating a plan to upskill herself in those areas.
Focusing on the big picture led her to Twitter where she worked as a project manager in 2019. “As business analysts, we always worked closely with project managers”, she said, and so this was very much in line with her goal to transition into product management.
Going for the prize
“I decided to do an MBA next. So between 2020 and 2022, I spent my time at the Isenberg School of Management where I hoped to get a deeper understanding of the business side of working in tech.”
As a tech person who spends a lot of time thinking about systems and everything technical, Dayo started wondering how all the technicalities translate into the bottom line for the organization. “I felt that product managers have loyalties to two people; users and the organization they’re working with because if they create a solution that users like but they’re not willing to pay for, how does the organization make money? So the business side of tech is one of the things I wanted to learn more about.”
Choosing to do an MBA was a strategic decision because her goal was to get a PM role at the end of the program. She says that “even while in school I had that in mind and kept working towards the things that would make me marketable and help me land opportunities as a product manager.”
It was during her MBA program that she found out about PMDojo. “At that point, I had studied a lot of theoretical things, I had attended workshops, conferences, and webinars. I had enough theoretical knowledge about product management and wanted to actually work on a product. So when I saw Bosky’s post on the Women In Product group on Facebook, I just noted it down, looked it up, and at some point decided to reach out to her and we had the conversation.”
Dayo had no intention of starting at entry level. She had close to 9 years of experience in Nigeria before moving to the US, had worked as a business analyst for 8 years, and then as a project manager in a contract role at Twitter for 6 months before enrolling for her MBA. She had the credentials, she just needed to work on a real-life product and PMDojo’s unique program showed her that she could accomplish that in 10 weeks.
“PMDojo helped me build my confidence. I went from simply listening to people talk about something to doing that thing myself, moving from theory to building a product, presenting a problem, doing the research, and going through all the processes from the problem to designing a solution. I was able to speak more confidently about the product development lifecycle. It shifted from something I read in a book or something I listened to in a Q&A Session hosted by Bosky to something I’d actually done and that was my goal for PMDojo.”
The major lesson, she learned during the accelerator and the influence on her approach to work
“The greatest lesson is that of dwelling within the problem space. Bosky encouraged us to not think of a solution for at least four weeks and by the end of those four weeks, we were all immersed in the problem we were trying to solve, and that we understood it in-depth.”
Consume everything you need to within the problem space, fall in love with the problem, understand it in and out, and at the point, you start thinking of a solution, it becomes a lot easier because you're crystal clear on the problem you’re trying to solve.
Another thing I learned was to stay away from my confirmation bias which could cause you to focus on what you know, ignoring the data from research and user interviews. So we made sure that those things were always the premise of whatever we were doing.
To anyone considering product management as a career path
“Be intentional and know what you want. Know where you are in your journey and what you need to get to where you want to be”, she says.
Being at Visa is a place she envisioned and is perfect considering her financial industry background. She admits that there’s still a lot of learning to do, but she’s confident in her knowledge. “I just need to understand the language of my team and the users, and also go through the learning curve of getting to know the organization.”
To everyone who asks her if she thinks PMDojo was a worthy investment, she always tells them that for what she was looking for, it was hands down an excellent investment. “There should be a lot of self-awareness, knowing where you are and what the next step should be. Do your research and if you think PMDojo is what you need for the next step in your journey, then join the community, and sign up for the program.”
Her final advice is that wherever you want to get to, don’t stop doing whatever it is you’re doing at the moment. Continue because everything you learn will be applicable at some point. “I learned a lot of stakeholder management working as a business analyst and now I have to do a lot of stakeholder management as a Product Manager.”
In essence, don’t stop learning, don’t stop upskilling, and keep your eyes on the prize.
If you’re curious about product management or want to explore it as a career path, come talk to us at PMDojo. We have mentors working with the team and you can ask them all the ‘silly’ and uncomfortable questions, you probably might not be able to ask at work. You can also read more of our alumni stories to learn more about their experiences or send in your application. Applications are closing soon for our upcoming cohort.