From Engineer to Product Owner – how to boost your Tech career

Karolina Gruszczyk

 · 06/20/2022  · 06/20/2022

At Revolut, owning a product means managing it from A to Z, which includes leading all the developers' work. And for that, it helps to understand tech language and processes.

Wiktor, our Tech Product Owner, knows it well, as he started his work at Revolut in the Engineering team.

Could you tell us more about the path for you to become the Technical Product Owner?

In previous companies I was a lead developer handling both developer and manager responsibilities. After I joined Revolut as a developer, I knew I wanted to have as much impact on the product and company as possible. To have the opportunity of managing multiple engineers and leading the team to success, the product owner role seems like an obvious choice - so I talked to my managers about that.

At the beginning I was leading small products and teams, and over time they were becoming bigger. It was a chance for me and my manager to see how I fit into this and if I want to go all the way in, or rather go back to the engineering role. A few months later, having transitioned between different teams, I became the product owner and was given the opportunity to lead one of our engineering teams officially.

How were and are your managers supporting you in this path?

They were very supportive. They allowed me to start slowly with smaller projects, gradually moving towards bigger responsibilities. I was also assured that if I don't feel comfortable with the switch I can always go back to engineering. And until this day I have meetings with my managers, who keep giving me their mentorship all the time.

Why did you decide to change your profession?

I knew how I love to do product work and that it was what I wanted to pursue. To have the most impact and to give the company the best of myself.

I also think that leadership skills are one of my strengths. That’s how I can really boost the team towards success. I want to grow in this area and it’s where I see myself in the future as well. Still being a technical person, but going more into the business aspects of managing people and projects.

How is your tech experience helping you with Product Owner (PO) work?

It helped me to manage expectations, especially with non-technical stakeholders. Usually when we’re presenting any kind of problem, being a technical person with coding experience, I can roughly assess the complexity of the problem, come up with solutions we can implement, which of them can be done fairly quickly, what are the alternatives. Since I have a background as a Revolut engineer, I know what our stack looks like. It’s very helpful when you need to come up with some solutions for ad hoc issues, limitations or any operational problems.

Another benefit I see is more efficient communication with developers. It’s easier for me to know what I can expect from them, and estimate their workload. With the technical knowledge I can understand what the developers are actually saying, and spot any possible oversights very fast. This makes the whole delivery process and redoing of stuff much, much easier.

What does your day to day work look like? Which is your favourite part of it?

I would say nothing is set in stone - every day brings something new, unexpected and exciting. Obviously we have some regular parts that are like stand ups, grooming sessions, retros, sprint plannings, department wide demos, meetings with stakeholders, design reviews within the team or with internal stakeholders.

There are also activities like quality check of the actual product - making sure that we’re ready, aligning acceptance criteria with the developers. Things are not always done in one iteration, so it often happens that we notice we’ve missed something and we need to refine a task, or we need to cover some other edge cases.

Something that definitely brings me a lot of joy is the demo at the end of the sprint which happens every two weeks. That’s when we have the opportunity to present as a team what we were able to deliver and how it helps the company to move forward. It really brings great satisfaction!

What qualifications and skills are crucial to be a good PO?

I think the crucial thing is to have the attitude of getting things done. When things don't go your way, be able to take a step back, recompose yourself and tackle the issue once again with the same attitude and the same power. Let me tell you this - things usually don't go the way you want them to go and the best you can do is to adapt to the changes quickly.

You need to be good at prioritising. To know what is the essential stuff that we need to develop in a short time with your team, and which tasks can wait. You need to be able to manage the developers time and make sure that they’re working on things which will bring value.  

Another important skill is communication. Discussing acceptance criteria with developers and external stakeholders, and making sure everyone is aligned and on the same page is a huge part of this job. Sometimes it happens that we’re developing something and after a while we realise that oops, it’s not what we were expecting. That’s when the communication and expectation management are crucial to proceed and avoid unnecessary conflicts.

What really helped me to develop this skill was scenic improvisation. It forces you to think how to communicate fast and effectively, how to lead the conversation in a structured way. Usually you've got 15 minutes to convince stakeholders of your statements.

You also need to understand the problems quickly, break them down into smaller pieces, divide and conquer. So analytical thinking, being good at maths or however you call the things which make you better structured will be super beneficial to lead a Product team to success.

Interested in joining Wiktor in Revolut's Product team? Check out our open positions and become one of our Product Owners 🚀