Profession: Product Manager

Anita Stoyanova, product manager “Internal and Strategic Markets” in the business area “Electric water heaters” at Tesy

Anita Stoyanova is a product manager in business line “Electric Water heaters” and is responsible for the product development on the domestic and strategic markets of the Bulgarian water heater manufacturer Tesy. She has more than 10 years of experience in the field of marketing, advertising and communications. She has worked in major Bulgarian and international companies in the finance, international forwarding, security, telecommunications and construction sectors, including VIP Security, Maersk and Teletek Electronics. She has a Master’s degree in Industrial Management with a Marketing Management specialization from the Technical University of Sofia.

Read his interview with My Career March 2018

You are a person of ideas, you love innovation and keep close track of trends. This means that you have the qualities needed to develop professionally as a product manager. Experts in this field determine the needs of consumers (i.e. people like us, who go to the store and buy something) and the business goals of the manufacturer. Why? To turn them into working, innovative products. This means that they plan and go all the way from the creation of the original idea to the marketing of the final product. Thus, for example, more sophisticated household items, such as TVs, air conditioners, water heaters, smartphones, washing machines, etc., are being developed.

Typically, you may find product managers in technology companies. Their role is analogous to that of brandmanagers in FMCG companies. Translated into simple Bulgarian language, the Product Manager’s function is to be responsible for a certain product. Nothing more, nothing less. But it isn’t a piece of cake, because the success or failure of a particular product on all local and / or international markets, where it is present, depends on its product manager.

This specialist is often regarded as a CEO of a product or even an entire product line. This is the person who takes care of its strategy, development, distribution, renewal or transformation. Therefore, the profession often requires knowledge in a variety of areas complementing each other – engineering, marketing, finance, forecasting and analysis, leadership, distribution, and so on. Product managers must also have excellent communication skills, since they work in continuous contact with engineers, marketers and distributors. They define the “why”, “what” and “when” of the product, which the engineer will design, the marketing team will put in an attractive “package” and distributors will spread along the most appropriate channels to the end user. Yes, it sounds interesting and challenging. That’s why many experienced product managers will tell you that they have the world’s coolest work.

My job
I am a product manager in business area “Electric Water heaters” at Tesy. This means that I am responsible for the development, improvement and even better positioning of all our products, as well as for the development of new models – from the initial idea, through development, to marketing. My job is very interesting because it combines knowledge and skills from different fields – marketing, business analysis, product research and development, IT, advertising, B2B (Business-to- business) and B2C (business-to-customer, or business, aimed at the end user), communication.

The profession is promising for several reasons. First, the ability to coordinate so many different business lines and to unite them in achieving a common goal makes the product manager a great professional. Yes, we need to know a lot about marketing, engineering, industrial design, etc., but more importantly, we need to be very good managers of the projects we manage, which means that we need to be great psychologists. And since these combinations are rare, if one develops as a good product manager, they will have no problems building a great career.

Secondly, people and markets are becoming more and more informed and demanding. This means that we must be able to meet their specific requirements, since a model that is good for Spain, for example, is far from being the bestseller in Russia or Chile. And if we can respond adequately to the needs of the markets, we become much better professionals, who have no problems communicating in an international environment.

My education
I graduated the Technical University – Sofia, with a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Management. Then I did a master’s degree in the same specialty with a Marketing Management specialization. I may say I’m lucky to have a specialty that really helps my work. On one hand, I have the necessary engineering basis and on the other hand I gained knowledge in the field of marketing, project management, trade relations, etc.

My carrier so far
Almost all my career has been focused in the field of marketing, business development and customer service. I have worked in large international and Bulgarian companies. At the same time, actual production has always attracted me and when I learned about the product manager position at Tesy, I did not hesitate to apply. Moreover, this position is a natural upgrade of my marketing skills and a great opportunity to learn something new and interesting.

My Tasks and Responsibilities
The job of a product manager is very dynamic and the daily tasks depend on the stage of development of the projects we are currently working on. In order to present a clearer picture of what I’m working on, I will tell you about the stages of successful project implementation.

It all begins with market research and analysis. This is a continuous process because, on one hand, we are researching the needs for new products, and on the other – how existing models are being accepted. Of course, we are closely monitoring the activity of our competition – including Bulgarian companies, but mainly international companies, because the major part of our products are sold on foreign markets, and being the fourth largest producer of water heaters in Europe, our main competition includes the biggest foreign brands.

Once we learn what people want, we have to meet their expectations and develop a product that will not only sell well on a certain market but will also have the potential to conquer it. Here the work with engineers, industrial design specialists, traders and many other teams begins. Each of them is responsible for certain components of the water heater and the coordination of their work is carried out by the product manager.

Once we have a tested and approved product, we start working with the marketing team. My task is to “translate” the technical characteristics into an understandable language so that they can properly communicate the benefits of our models to the customers.

My responsibilities include the introduction of our new products to key accounts, partners, distributors and installers of Tesy products. This is an extremely interesting part of the work because these presentations allow us to meet many different people, from whom we always receive good feedback about our products and solutions.

The good product manager must be a good analyst and shall have no secrets it reading large databases or detailed marketing research, Stoyanova explains.

The Skill Set and Experience Needed
A good product manager must be a good analyst and shall have no secrets in reading large databases or detailed marketing researches. He must also be a great communicator and be able to pass on synthesized professional information to various teams. These are followed by management skills, because when the project implementation wheel is rotated, one has to keep track of all the elements of the machine moving in sync and has to intervene if he notices even the slightest deviation. This means that the product manager must be a team player.

Last, but not least, we must be very good presenters and be able to present our new products to different audiences – colleagues, current and potential clients, partners and installers.

My Challenges
I have already mentioned some of the main challenges, such as gathering the necessary information and coordinating many teams. But there are others, as well. For example, to make the model as user-friendly as possible. This requires a lot of research and development work. We have to decide whether to have one or two buttons, how to design the control panel, what colors to use for the light indicators, what coating would be most appropriate, how thick the insulation should be and a million other details.

And while we are looking for the best solution to these issues, we must also take into account the capabilities of our production. Because even if we have devised a solution that would change the market, if we cannot produce it with the high quality people expect, it is better to leave it for the future.

Ultimately, the goal is to develop and offer the market a better product. And it’s not just about great technical features but also its overall feel. At Tesy, we want to change the image of water heaters as the “big white thing in the corner of the bathroom” and show that it is a high-tech product that makes our lives better. That’s why we strive to keep up with the latest technology and deliver it to our customers. Some of the latest innovations in our appliances are the internet control and the “smart” mode of operation, which means our water heaters are self-learning appliances, that work only when you need hot water, saving us both time and money.

Another challenge is the continuous need for training and knowledge. The world is dynamic, attitudes and needs keep changing and one has to continually develop.

My Satisfaction
I am among the lucky ones who have the chance to work what they enjoy most and what they have always wanted. At the Technical University for 5 years I studied in theory how real production is happening, and now I have the opportunity not only to see it, but also to participate in every stage and process. In this regard, seeing my ideas brought to life brings me a great satisfaction.

It’s great having the opportunity to be part of a high-tech production, that few people are able to see during their career. What is even better is that Tesy continues to invest and modernize and expand its production.
Generally, each company has a different wage policy. In Tesy, the start-pay depends on factors such as past experience, professional experience, education, additional knowledge, and so on. Of course, in the course of time and when showing good results, the salary is increased.

My Information Sources
Unfortunately, we do not have a textbook and a handbook with specific steps. Therefore, my main source of information are my personal observations and information from colleagues responsible for different markets. Part of our work is to visit various fairs, forums and conferences in order to keep track of the latest innovation and development trends.

My Development Plans
My plan for the foreseeable future is to continue developing in Tesy. We have super interesting projects that I really want to be part of. Furthermore, developing new products is an exciting experience.

And if you ask me what is the product the development of which I am dreaming of managing, the answer is – I want Tesy water heaters to be installed on the international space station or the first Mars settlement. We would need some help from Mr. Elon Musk, but I believe that can be arranged, for our and his company are super-innovative.

My Advice to Future Specialists
When a person is starting their career, they may not be 100% sure what they want to do and what would bring them satisfaction. It is important for young people to know that even if at a certain moment they do not feel quite at home, wherever they are, whatever they do, it can only bring them positives in the future. Every new thing they learn, every challenge they face, is part of the so-called experience-gaining process. That is why they should not despair or reconcile, but seek, improve, and risk because only that way they will have the chance to find the best career for them.

Required Skills
– analytical thinking
– innovation
– excellent knowledge of the features of the product, for which the manager is responsible
– excellent knowledge of local and international markets
– excellent knowledge of the activity of the competition
– working with large databases and understanding of marketing research
– excellent communication skills
– teamwork and leadership skills
– good presentation skills