The CEO of the product as they’re popularly called.
Product Managers bear the burden of ensuring that every customer is delighted with their company’s product from the very first interaction while keeping other stakeholders happy.
It’s no small work for sure. So for our foremost editorial interview on Verified.africa, we spoke with Chimdinma Onwukwe of ‘CAPSA TECHNOLOGY’ on how she floats between customer evangelist and business advocate.
Chimdinma, Tell me a little bit about your work.
I work in CAPSA as a Product manager. It’s challenging and also inspiring because no one is doing what we do in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is to create a marketplace for vendors to be able to exchange their invoices for cash within 48 hours.
My job is to pretty much make sure the platform is stable so vendors and financiers have a premium user experience.
We’re literally creating the blueprint from scratch so the burden falls on us to design an effective roadmap that guides our work plan and also guides how we manage projects, users and stakeholders.
Who cares about customers the most – raise your hand
[Laughs]. That’s me!
So I’m curious about how that affects the way you think and work
Yeah, my thought process at work is divided into two compartments, customer-centric (which analyses the challenges users are facing and experiencing).
The other compartment is company-focused as I have to think and manage the workflow with the engineering and commercial teams.
For example, a customer can have a major challenge that if not fixed immediately will impact revenue flow. So I often have to move certain things up the priority list even when they weren’t originally planned for.
Sounds easy 🙂 Let’s talk about your relationship with developers. How do you mix a user’s language with an engineer’s jargon?
This eh! Usually, engineers often feel everyone understands the technicality of a product while most (new) product managers struggle with engineering concepts.
As a product manager from a non-technical background, it was important for me to read and research engineering languages as it relates to my role.
I also took it upon myself to develop a decent work relationship with my engineers and communicate with them effectively. I let them know the areas I lack clarity and if possible schedule knowledge transfer and sharing sessions to keep up.
I’ve learnt that clarity of thought is key when trying to express your concerns because that clarity helps you when communicating with other members of the team.
That’s so good! Have you ever mentored other PMs or given a ted talk?
Haha, thanks. Yeah, so I initially went to a product school, which was great but honestly, nothing beats hands-on experience.
That’s why I was very excited when SkillNG – requested that I be one of their product manager tutors. I have since tutored over 20 students on product management essentials.
Love that, you know your stuff and no one can take it away from you
I think I try. Thank you!
From what you said about the struggles of a PM, how do non-technical people make that transition into good PMs? How did you transition?
It’s a deep question because I’m actually a lawyer.
Lawyers never practice
[Laughs], honestly, I had plans of becoming a Judge. I remember wanting to be a big-time oil and gas lawyer because ‘show me the money’.
But life they say is what happens while you are busy making other plans.
Yeah, so long story: After Uni, I had an opportunity to work at one of the Big Fours for a year before going to Law School.
This opened my eyes to corporate practice, finance and consulting. I wanted so badly to be retained by the consulting firm after NYSC as I had been with them for 2 years, but it didn’t go as planned.
And so after NYSC, I applied for a job in an EdTech Startup and I got it – this marked my journey into the world of Technology.
My love for literature led me there; seriously snap your fingers around books and I’d be there – Lol. I worked as a Content Acquisition Executive but started to get nitty gritty with the product team, so I began thinking of how to upskill and took a Udemy course which I enjoyed and then paid more for a product course at ‘Utiva Product School’.
That’s pretty much my background and when I finally got a job as a PM, it seemed like I already had the foundation because I was in and around the scope of work.
So yeah, your skills are transferable even without any tech experience, you just have to TELL YOUR STORY. Important skills are great communication skills, and excellent people and workflow management skills. Once you are good with these, you can excel.
Luck is a factor for sure, but your background and previous experiences can go a long way in helping you.
So everything counts
Any project you’ve done in the past is useful. Whether your work was at an NGO, volunteering or a professional role.
People are still people.
Training is also important as you mentioned – do you have resources that you lean on that other PMs can use?
Yes, here are SOME of my favourite links for anything product management.
- Product School
- Nazuk Jain’s Newsletter
- Product Lessons
- All Things Product Management Newsletter
- Product Growth | Aakash Gupta’s Newsletter
Let’s talk more about customers yeah, particularly user onboarding as that’s the first interaction they have with your product. How do you make sure it’s delightful?
Super important particularly in a space like Fintech where integrity and trust are absolutely vital.
We have integrated with some Identity Verification APIs that ensure the right data is captured and the user’s identity is verified.
This makes the process seamless. And to the nature of our product, we also call customers and engage with them once we see they have started their onboarding journey.
Great point! But how will that human touch work for large-scale verifications?
Yeah, that’s a great question. But as earlier stated, there is a need for us to have that interaction with them.
The onboarding process for a B2B might be different from the onboarding process for a B2C. Automating makes 90% of the job easier and platforms like ‘Verified.africa’ can be super useful with their ID verifications such as driver’s license, NIN, BVN and the likes.
Are you trying to bag a brand ambassador gig with us?
I mean, I can send my account details.
Of course. Back to CAPSA, what’s the one amazing thing you do for your customers that impacts their business?
What we’ve built in itself, the core product, where vendors can come on the platform and exchange their unpaid invoices for cash is mindblowing.
You have no idea how much this can keep a business going. Our financiers also benefit from investing in a new asset class – invoices.
Amazing stuff, very game-changing for SMEs
Yep, yep. Thank you.
I can imagine the investment of time and effort it takes to keep everything working seamlessly – how do you disconnect outside of work so you can always come back and be in the zone?
Books. I’m a big reader. Books and a lot of Netflix which is my new comfort zone. Amazon Prime too is pretty cool and I’m excited it’s now in Nigeria as well.
But books over movies anytime.
Love it! When it feels like no matter your best effort, something breaks, how do you rectify that and still satisfy your customers?
It’s not you. That’s the first thing to realise.
So much can happen outside your control, including occupational hazards.
It’s okay to feel bad about certain things for a bit but don’t let it consume you. Shift to the problem-solving part of your brain immediately, communicate with stakeholders and be proactive.
This has been really great stuff Chimdinma Onwukwe, I’m so glad we have you for our first feature
Yeah, you’re welcome! I’ve loved every bit of this.
Verified.africa is currently available in Ghana, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria! Learn how to delight your customers across Africa with easy customer identification.
Chimdinma Onwukwe Adimekwe is a Product Manager with a Legal background. She has 3 years of expertise in taking real customer requirements and developing products that are valuable, innovative, and successful.
Her work at Capsa Technology allows her to build products that help business owners with their working capital challenges through invoice factoring and discounting.
When she’s not working to build excellent products, you’ll find her teaching product management to students of the various cohorts in SkillNg or you’ll find her reading and promoting African Literature through her literary platform – The Afro Reader. She is a firm believer in the fact that we can change the world, one book at a time.
Connect with Chimdinma Onwukwe: