What does it take to be a Product Manager at an ed-tech scale-up like Enroly? Meet Modesta Rahman: CAS Shield ninja and driving force behind which Enroly product features get developed and when.
Modesta talks about her experience working in tech, taking a change in career path, and the process behind how Enroly develops its products. And there’s even room to serve up her ideal dinner guest line-up for dessert.
How long have you worked at Enroly? And what does a typical day look like?
I joined Enroly permanently in June 2020. I love the variety and fast-paced environment, meaning every day is different. But if I had to describe a typical day, I would interact with a lot of stakeholders. I work closely with our engineering team, checking in on their progress, working out new tasks, collaborating with other teams to see what the hot topics are for our clients. A lot of these things go through me and so the job involves plenty of problem solving! But I really enjoy that we’re tackling the kind of problems that I faced when I worked in the international education sector myself. When I see the impact we’re having on the universities we work with, in some cases for former colleagues of mine, that’s a really great feeling.
How was life before Enroly? And what motivated you to move into a tech role?
I reached a point where I wanted to make a change from my previous roles in international recruitment. I still loved the education industry, but after ten years in international recruitment, I no longer enjoyed it as much as I did when I first started. It was time for something different.
But you could say I fell into working in tech. If you’d have asked me when I was doing my job in international recruitment if I’d ever move into a tech role, I probably would have said, ‘Come on. I'm not a developer. I don't have a technical background.’ But actually, as long as you've got some technical understanding you can pick things up very quickly when working on the product side.
I also don't think you necessarily need code-level technical skills to be a Product Manager. But I have always had an interest in a lot of these skills, I just never fully appreciated it until I started working with Enroly and realised this is a perfect role for me.
How much has your subject matter knowledge helped you?
I think to be a Product Manager you need to bring either the technical side or be a subject matter expert. If I’d have started without either, it wouldn't have worked. But because I know the industry well - where the pain points are and what the students go through, that’s been a big advantage. I was an overseas student myself once: I didn't need a visa at the time, but I did walk in the students' shoes, travelling to a different country and having all these requirements to follow. This experience has been important.
How easy was it pivoting to working in tech at Enroly?
I think when you’ve changed from a completely different type of role, you don't always appreciate how far you come in a short space of time. There’s been a lot of learning on the job and it's a steep learning curve. That’s actually really fun, because working out how to make things better for yourself and the rest of the team is exciting. Everyone at Enroly is really supportive. You can always ask questions and you get the freedom to figure things out. In some organisations, it can be a slow process to make an impact. You might have a good idea that doesn't go anywhere. At Enroly we are quick to react and at the same time we're proactive.
Adapting to life at a fast-growing organisation has been an interesting challenge. When you more than double in size in a relatively short period of time, you go from doing everything yourself to learning to delegate. This has obviously been super helpful, because it allows you to do more. But at the same time, it’s a change you have to manage, and you have to learn to let go and trust other people, right? Thankfully we hire great people
Which feature of CAS Shield have you been most proud of?
It’s not so much a specific feature that I'm proud of, it’s the way that we can always respond so quickly to help our clients. A good example is when UKVI rules and regulations change, we are able to react and configure the system to offer a solution for all our clients that same morning: they don’t even need to worry about it. That speed and flexibility is really impressive.
How do you work with the engineering team on developing Enroly products?
I really like the relationship I have with my colleagues in the dev teams. They’re a talented group of people. They're all curious, offer input and opinions and want to know why we are doing things - that's been a really important reason for our success.
We do short product knowledge sessions every week on a different topic that they choose, where I explain how something works, maybe the business logic or some industry knowledge. So we interact a lot and that’s really key. We have a culture where everybody can ask as many questions as they want to. It’s a cliche, but there's no such thing as stupid questions. And that goes both ways when I don't understand something technical which is important to our work.
What’s the number one quality you need to be a successful Product Manager?
Definitely a ‘can-do’ attitude.
OK, enough about work. Which series are you bingeing at the moment?
I probably watch too much Netflix. I’m excited about the new seasons of Peaky Blinders and Killing Eve!
What’s on your bucket list?
I feel like getting out and doing ‘normal’ things again is my bucket list at the moment! But I love travelling, so one thing I was obsessed about was to visit as many countries as possible, so it’ll be nice to do more of that again.
What’s your beverage of choice?
It’s a close call between G&T and coffee. I think I’ll have to go for coffee.
Favourite place to travel to?
I've been fortunate to visit lots of places and I loved many of them for different reasons. I’m always looking for the next place, so it's hard to choose a favourite.
Name your three ideal dinner guests (and what are you making?)
Well, I would say my husband and a couple of very close friends, but they’d be at my house already which gives me some freebies! So let’s say Michelle Obama, Ada Lovelace and Frida Kahlo. My go-to for a dinner party would normally be Mexican food, but perhaps Frida wouldn’t be impressed!
You know what, if Michelle Obama’s coming to my house I’ll get catering in, and just make a Lithuanian dessert: honey cake.
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