In today's fast-paced and competitive business environment, product managers need to leverage the right tools to effectively manage their products and achieve success in the market. In this interview series, called “5 Tools That Should Be in Every Product Manager’s Belt” we are talking to experienced product managers, industry professionals, and thought leaders to share insights from their experience about the most important tools a product manager needs to succeed. As part of this series, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Lisa Tubb.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before diving in, our readers would love to learn more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It was a bit unexpected, but like a lot of things in life it was a happy accident.
Previously, I was working in a corporate services role at Visa Europe looking after budgets, strategy, and general workforce management and I really loved working for such a big organization. Then, after 12 years abroad, I unexpectedly moved back home to New Zealand, which gave me an opportunity to take a step back and look at how far I had come in my career and where I wanted to go next. I knew I wanted something that merged the technical lens of a product or a service with the business side of operations.
I really like to be across the technical side of a business so I can articulate benefits to customers, but what I really love is making that communication go both ways. Taking customer problems and being able to articulate them to development teams so they understand the why of what we’re doing, and they can work out the best way to solve those problems is a really fun challenge. I wanted a role where I was talking to customers, not selling to them, and then feeding those conversations back into a business. So when I learned about my current role with Gallagher Security and saw that it ticked all the boxes of what I wanted to do, I took a leap of faith and jumped headfirst into product management. And I’m so glad I did because I love this role.
It has been said that our mistakes can sometimes be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?
I’ve made many mistakes! I think if you haven’t, you’re not trying hard enough or challenging yourself. One story that stands out was when I first started at Gallagher Security nearly three years ago. I was stepping into the cybersecurity industry for the first time, and into a new title—I had imposter syndrome. I knew I could apply my skills to the role, but I just knew nothing about the product or about how Gallagher did things, so I felt the need to justify my existence.
So, I decided to produce this slide deck and created a huge presentation that I spent all my time working on. A couple of weeks in, I went out for coffee with a Marketing Manager who had started at the same time as me, and we shared how both of us were feeling like a fish out of water. I mentioned that I was preparing this massive presentation, and she turned to me and asked the simplest question: who’s it for? And in that moment, I realized I didn’t know. No one had asked me to do it; I just felt like I should produce something. I put down hours and hours and hours of work on something that nobody needed.
Looking back, it makes me laugh because when you’re starting a new role, no one expects you to know everything. Those first few weeks—months, really—are all about absorbing all there is to learn about the company, the industry, and your products or services. But the experience really drove home that it’s as important to know why you’re doing the work just as much as it’s important to actually do the work. You should question why you’re doing something because when you drill down, you might find that the value you generate isn’t worth the time and effort you’re putting into the task.
What do you feel has been your ‘career-defining’ moment?
I think my most significant career-defining moment happened as a result of a rescinded job offer.
I had just moved to London during the Global Financial Crisis and job hunting was a long and tiring process. After some exhaustive searching, I was offered a permanent role and was asked to start in three weeks. I stopped looking for work and spent my days enjoying London before starting in my new position. Then, literally the day before I was due to start, I was told the job had been pulled. It was crushing—I was living in one of the most expensive cities in the world and had worked so hard to find a role, and just when I thought I was set, I was back on the job hunt.
I was working with a recruitment company that felt absolutely horrible about what had happened, so they put me forward for all sorts of roles. Eventually, they came to me with a 3-month contract for Visa Europe, but when I read over the job description, I thought, ‘I have no idea what any of this means.’ I didn’t know the acronyms they were using, I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the responsibilities of the role—I felt unqualified for the job. But the recruiters were happy to put me forward and I knew I could learn what I didn’t know on the job, so I gathered my courage and went for it.
And I’m so glad I did because that 3-month contract turned into 9 years with Visa Europe where I had the chance to fill a variety of roles and learn new skills that truly shaped my career. It only goes to show that opportunity lies in even the strangest of places and that you should always bet on yourself. It felt like a risky decision, but all it took was my willingness to feel a little uncomfortable at first and work hard to learn what I didn’t know. It’s a lesson I’ve taken with me, and love to share with others.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My background is in financial services, but the requirements and certifications for those types of roles can vary a lot by country. When I moved to the UK, I found myself needing to pivot and find a way to make my experience stand out so I wasn’t looked over for roles because I didn’t have a degree. Finding a happy balance of experience vs. qualifications has been a bit of a running theme throughout my career. So many people battle with that feeling of imposter syndrome, and roles you initially think you’re underqualified for can turn out to be a perfect fit with your skill set.
But deep down, I’ve always known that I have it in me to learn and grow, and once people see me do the work, I know I can impress them. It doesn’t necessarily matter what’s written down on paper because job descriptions can change. It’s more important to show people your confidence, your willingness to learn, and who you are as a person. You’ve got to believe in yourself first before you can convince others to believe in you.
How do you keep track of your team's progress and ensure everyone is working towards the same goals?
The most important thing is communication—I can’t overstate that enough. At the start of each year, our leadership team sets the direction and the greatest challenges we want to address and overcome as our targets. These are widely communicated and available to our team on our internal SharePoint page. Then, we have quarterly planning cycles called Big Room Planning, where we establish initiatives to achieve the goals we outlined at the start of the year. These also go up on our SharePoint page along with the development priorities for the quarter.
From a team perspective, we have daily stand-ups, sprint planning, and retrospectives. It might sound like a lot of meetings, but open communication and transparency are key to making sure everyone stays on task, feels supported, and enjoys recognition for their work. It also means I always know what people have on, what their challenges are, and how their contributions might impact the wider goals. I also track what the team is doing through tools like Jira and DuraBoard and we communicate through Microsoft Teams and Slack to stay organized, which is another really important consideration when tracking progress.
Because we communicate widely and constantly, it also means we’re able to pivot when we need to and adapt to changes quickly. Everyone on our team knows what our ultimate goals are, so if we have to change directions and everyone knows why, we can pull it off quickly.
Can you share an example of a time when you used data analytics to inform a major product decision, and what tools did you use to gather and analyze that data?
We use data analytics for every new feature or functionality that we add to our system, especially within our customer app. It’s one of the tasks that happens before every release or very soon after release. These analytics allow us to track how people use our features and functionality. We also have a user experience lead within the team who predicts the journeys that we expect customers to take and maps that information back to the team to ensure that our planning aligns with how users are experiencing our product.
For example, not too long ago, they discovered that our customers were spending a long time filling out some details on a setup page, which should have been a pretty quick task because it only required them to input some basic information. We took that information and tried to work out how we could make the process faster, which resulted in the introduction of a step-by-step process to guide them through the task and speed it up. It’s these kinds of insights that help us improve our products and make them simpler, easier, and more intuitive to use.
How do you stay current with industry trends and new technologies that may impact your product?
I think every business needs to strike a balance between keeping up with industry trends and following what your own data tells you. It’s good to know what competitors are up to, and I read all the trade publications out there, but I think it’s more important to listen to the wider teams within your company and follow what your analytic tools are telling you about what your customer base really needs.
For example, our sales teams are an incredible resource because they tell us what’s happening on the ground in the market, and if we’re losing tenders to competitors, they can tell us why. They know what customers are looking for when they’re ready to make a purchase and the questions they’re asking about our products. It might seem like an obvious suggestion, but talking to your sales teams is a far more valuable resource than relying on external sources to tell you what’s important.
What are some of the key collaboration tactics that you use with your team, stakeholders, and other departments, and how do you ensure that everyone is on the same page?
Our team has found design sprints to be very useful and effective. When we’re ready to develop a new feature, we’ll block out a design sprint, which is a three to five-day workshop where we intensely focus just on this one goal. We get the whole team together—our developers, testers, marketing, user experience, internal sales, end users, etc. - and work together to plot out what this feature should look like. We’ll perform a competitor analysis, talk to customers and partners, talk to our sales teams, study the market, and then by the end of the workshop, we have a prototype that we can show customers. It’s a great way to make progress and build your team’s sense of collaboration.
How do you track and prioritize customer feedback and feature requests, and what tools or processes do you use to incorporate that feedback into your product roadmap?
Again, we talk to our sales team. We collaborate on a spreadsheet that our sales team feeds into with feedback they’ve heard from the market, and then we have regularly scheduled meetings with them and our development, user experience, and tech leads that we call Feedback Friday. We review that spreadsheet and evaluate what we need to action, what we’re going to pass on, and how we’re going to communicate these decisions with our customers. Every quarter, we ask the sales team to use the top comments or requests they’ve heard from our customers, and we incorporate that feedback based on our priorities and opportunities
We only build things when they're needed, and most of what we’ve produced comes directly from a customer opportunity. We can probably filter 90% of our upcoming feature developments off opportunities or target markets that we've decided as a wider team during these sessions.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 Tools That Should Be in Every Product Manager’s Belt”?
- Prioritise making decisions
Paralysis by analysis is a real threat in product management, so having the confidence to make decisions to keep forward momentum is critical. It’s progress over perfection, and often, the lack of a decision can be detrimental. You make decisions based on the information you have at hand and move forward, and by doing that, you learn how to make better, more informed decisions in the future.
- Have the confidence to say "no"
I’m often referred to as the “No Lady.” There are so many things that we could develop, but we have limited time and resources, so it’s my job to ensure that those resources are allocated to the most important priorities. It’s important that the sales teams and customers aren’t waiting on something that isn’t going to be worked on—it’s always better to say no than keep people waiting.
And a no can always become a yes with more information or if priorities change later down the track.
- Take everyone on the journey with you
If you want your team, wider organization, partners, and customers to buy into your decisions and be advocates for your product, you need to take them on the journey with you. This means clearly communicating why you've chosen to go forward with a product or feature or, more importantly, why you’ve chosen not to. When people understand why you’ve made decisions and where you’re planning on going next, it’s easier for them to have confidence in your roadmap.
- Don’t try to be everything to everyone.
This means slicing development into pieces of value. When an enhancement or new feature is developed to a level where value can be realized by some of your customers, get it released. Don’t wait until you have a feature that is everything to everyone—otherwise, you’ll never get anything out the door. This also gives you the ability to test, learn, and tweak before releasing the next lot of value.
- Be customer-centric, not customer-focused.
It’s really important to have the customer at the center of your decisions and goals, but their wants can't be the sole focus. If you’re only focused on what the customer is saying, you can miss how the product fits into their business processes or wider opportunities to solve their problems. Often, what a customer says they want can be different from what they really need, and your job as a product manager is to deliver solutions that meet their needs.
Is there a person in the world with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why?
Sara Blakely and Jesse Itzler. They’re married, so I figured if I’m having lunch with one of them, I can probably get both! Sara is so humble in her achievements with Spanx and she's always willing to give back—she seems like she’s got an incredible personality. And then Jesse has done some remarkable things as an entrepreneur, and I love his concept of Kevin’s Rule, where every two months, he makes time to do something new or out of the ordinary to challenge himself. I find both of their stories inspiring and would love to sit down and chat with them both.
For more content like this, subscribe to the Product Manager newsletter.