People In Product feat. Rosalyn Hewitt

Rosalyn Hewitt is a partner at TPXimpact, a digital transformation consultancy, where she leads multidisciplinary, cross-functional product & project teams. We aim to showcase Product professionals, share their experiences and help you gain a deeper understanding of the industry through a series of interviews. This is our chat with Rosalyn.

Fran @ ADLIB: In a nutshell, what has been your career journey so far, leading you to where you are right now?

Rosalyn: My career journey started in local government, focusing on improving health and social care access and information. During a project on creating a single point of contact for adult social care, I had the opportunity to work on designing a self-assessment tool and collaborating with development agencies, as we didn’t have it in house. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, this experience served as my introduction to product management – I was looking at product requirements using user research, understanding business strategy, and testing the product. I really enjoyed it.

That experience pushed to me apply for a role at NHS Digital as a Product Lead Manager for the NHS website. I worked there for three years, and it was an exciting time as the website was undergoing a major transformation to align with government digital standards. I led various teams and worked on projects related to mental health, making significant improvements in self-referral for mental health support. Millions of people visit NHS website, the projects were big, the responsibilities were growing, so was the team. It was an exciting time.

Afterwards, I joined a drug, alcohol, and mental health charity. Despite it being an established charity, I became their first dedicated product person. Initially, it was just me, a lead engineer, and a lead designer, operating as if we were a mini startup within the organization. We worked on digital products to enhance access to drug and alcohol support services. Over time, the team expanded from 3 to 15 members, and together we developed impactful products, including self-help tools, a drink diary, and a case management system. As my role evolved, I transitioned into a strategic management position, overseeing other product managers.

Fran @ ADLIB: How do you compare project vs product? You started off as a project manager, so what made you move into product?

Rosalyn: I think that the key difference between project and product lies in the approach and mindset. In product management, there is a strong emphasis on understanding the problem you’re trying to solve and taking a user-centred, agile approach. This involves being adaptable, continuously learning, and applying common sense to gain deep insights into the product. By being clear on the goals and outcomes you want to achieve, you can prioritize efforts and focus on delivering value.

In my early career as a project manager, the focus was often on delivering specific tasks and milestones. However, as I moved into product management, I realized the importance of prioritizing and avoiding unnecessary efforts. The product mindset encourages a more holistic and strategic approach, where the focus is on solving the problem and delivering outcomes rather than just completing deliverables. If I were to work on a project now, I would implement the product mindset to achieve better results and outcomes.

Fran @ ADLIB: What are the top 4 skills you think are required to be successful in Product?

Rosalyn: First is relationship building and communication: As a product manager, you need to build strong relationships with your team, gaining their trust and getting them to buy into your vision. You’ll also be working closely with engineers and other stakeholders, so it’s important to have effective communication skills and be able to have technical conversations. You’ll be interacting with senior stakeholders and other departments across the business, so being able to understand their needs and effectively communicate with them is crucial. You also need to know when to say ‘no’, and how to prioritize different tasks.

Secondly, analytical skills. Product management requires a combination of quantitative analysis and the ability to see the bigger picture. You’ll be working with various data sources, both quantitative and qualitative, to make informed decisions and drive the product forward. Being able to analyse and interpret data, identify trends, and make data-driven decisions to move things forward.

Next skill would be storytelling. Product managers need to be able to tell a compelling story that aligns with the data and vision of the product. You need to keep reminding people understand why it is important, painting a clear picture of the product’s value and purpose, and getting stakeholders and team members to believe in the vision. There’s a real art and craft to it.

Final skill for me is strategic thinking. Product managers must think strategically and make sure to help the business understand those strategies. You could build an amazing product, but if it does not benefit your company, it does no good. Therefore, being continuously strategic and anticipating future trends is essential. By looking 10 steps ahead, product managers can anticipate possible outcomes and make informed decisions, especially those more senior ones.

To me these are softer skills. You see all these buzzwords that you need to be technical in product management, but personally I don’t think that you need to be. It’s more about being able to put everything together, know what to prioritize, and how to look forward.

Fran @ ADLIB: What challenges have you faced in your Product career?

Rosalyn: When I first joined NHS Digital, I lacked confidence in talking to technical people. I felt intimidated and pressured to understand everything, thinking: ‘oh god, I should know these things!’. However, as I started managing other product managers, including junior ones, I realized that many of them face the same challenge. I learned the importance of asking questions, even if they seem naïve. You need to see things from the perspective of stakeholders or customers.

Other challenges were quite broad, but I think product is very much misunderstood. It’s still a fairly new role, it can be undervalued or overlooked in some organizations. Therefore, it is about selling the value of the role; to convince teams that having dedicated product professionals can significantly enhance product development and customer satisfaction.

Fran @ ADLIB: How have your past experiences, skills, and interests shaped your approach to Product Management and influenced the way you work with teams and stakeholders?

Rosalyn: I know I work best when I do something I really care about. I am passionate about health. I also love being close to user base and customers and understanding their problems. It brings the curiosity in me! When I work on products related to these areas, I am deeply engaged and motivated.

Throughout my career, I have learned a lot on the job, which has helped me use my natural skills. Relationship building, storytelling, having a vision, and genuinely caring about the products I work on have emerged as my strengths. When it comes to health and social care, I am confident in the decisions I make, as I have a deep understanding of the domain.

There are numerous resources available on what makes a great product manager, books, articles, and so on. But I think it’s one of these roles where you have a lot of different flavours. It’s important to find one’s own approach and have confidence in it. Different product managers have different strengths and preferences. Personally, I am not strong in technical aspects but thrive in strategy development and bringing people together. Of course, different product roles have different requirements. You must know which product role will give you joy.

Fran @ ADLIB: What would you like to see more of in the Product space?

Rosalyn: I think the general tech product space is now centred around AI and the discussions surrounding it, including how product managers can learn from it. I just hope that in the future, understanding AI won’t be a mandatory technical requirement to secure a product management job. It’s a field where everyone is still learning, and no one fully understands it. Let’s find a way to integrate product management into the AI conversation because it can certainly bring some benefits.

From a career point of view, I believe there should be more focus on developing transferable skills. I was lucky to come from a background in local government and project management when I entered product management, particularly during its early stages. Nowadays, when you look at job ads and the extensive lists of requirements, it’s great, but there are numerous transferable skills that can be learned. We need to create opportunities not only for young graduates but also for individuals with exceptional strategic skills, team leadership experience, and proficiency in agile methodologies. How can we bring these individuals into product management? Product management is all about shaping things, so the broader your mindset, the better product you can create. It’s about making the field more accessible to people with diverse backgrounds.

Also, the tech world is predominantly male-dominated, and I believe it’s important to see more women in the industry. We should explore ways to bring in women, including older women, and empower them to feel confident in speaking about technology. We need to ensure that the industry is not solely dominated by males or just young people.

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Head of Product

Product & Agile Delivery

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Francesca Macmillan