2023-09-20
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Life at Cleo

What Do You Do? Product Manager (ML+Chat)

Kate joined Cleo earlier this year as a Senior Product Manager. We caught up with her to run through her time and experience at Cleo 💙

Kate Janssen explaining what it's like to be a product manager at Cleo
IN THIS ARTICLE:

How Did You Get into Product Management?

I want to start by saying, I’ve definitely had a more squiggly career than most in Product Management, so strap in.


My education background was in math and stats–I have a Masters degree in Mathematical Finance.


I started my career working for a hedge fund in South Africa and completed my CFA qualification. My time in trading was great for learning about behavioral economics, but I had an urge to be part of something more impactful.


I spent some of my free time looking into machine learning, and ended up joining a fintech company in Cape Town. I started in the capital markets team, working on asset liability matching. I paired with the Data Science team to automate this process and effectively worked myself out of a job. The CTO at that company asked me think about joining the data science team, so I did. I then took that opportunity into my next role as a data scientist in London.


During my time in data science roles, I found myself missing the strategic high-level thinking. I realised I enjoy thinking about problems with customer needs at the center.


It became clear that my skill set and interests aligned well with Product Management, so I pivoted into PM’ing. I joined an applied AI startup with an ex-DeepMind founder. I learned a lot in this role, and absolutely loved it. Due to funding issues I found myself needing to find a new role, which is how I ended up joining Cleo. 


I’ve found that my background has helped me transition quickly into the fintech sphere. My CFA qualification helps with understanding personal finance, and trying to build products that will bring revenue. 


My technical background definitely comes with benefits too. I can empathize with the problems that engineers and data scientists encounter. I have a solid understanding of what the difficulties are when building products as well as the enabling technologies and how we can use them to solve customer problems.


Throughout my varied career, I’ve developed two career ‘mandates’ that I now live by:

  1. I want to be close to technology, specifically AI and ML.
  2. I always want to have an impact. I want to actively improve society and our planet.


What is Your Squad Focused On?


My squad is focused on building Cleo as a personal financial assistant. Our immediate aim is to surface the most relevant and personalized insights to users, to help them spend less than they earn. This is the first step to creating a life beyond a paycheck.


Six years ago, Cleo took a bet on chat interface being the way that humans would interact with technology, particularly in regard to their finances. With the latest developments in generative AI eg. LLMs, Cleo is ahead of competitors and in a great position to take advantage, to create incredible user experience in our chat. 

How Do You Put Users at the Core of Cleo Chat?

We use various pieces of research to help us build products that our users will love. 


Typically, the Product Analyst in our squad pulls the data to tell us what is happening in the app, in terms of customer interactions and touchpoints.


As a squad, we use this data to build out some hypotheses to validate. User Researchers then speak with users to understand why those trends are happening, as they try to prove or disprove our hypotheses. 


User research really helps us to dig into the problems that our users are facing. We don’t typically ask ‘do you like this feature?’ - we’d rather ask them what financial problems they are facing and how it’s affecting them. Getting to the core of their problems means we can find solutions to help put them in a better financial position

What Do You Like Most about Working at Cleo?

I’ve actually never worked in a squad that’s so well resourced in terms of experts in different areas. It’s great being able to utilise the knowledge and skillsets of user researchers, analysts and data scientists. 

I’m also enjoying working on an existing product. My PM background is building 0-1 products, starting from scratch with an idea. Sometimes this can feel like trying to push a boulder without momentum. At Cleo it feels like we already have some momentum–we’re in a growth environment with a huge existing user base, but I get to work on developing new products and features to diversify our offering.

Where Can We Find You When You're Not at Work?

I’d say probably walking in nature somewhere. I love exploring different areas of the UK in my free time. 

If I’m not exploring, you’ll find me hanging out with friends or cooking (or both!).

Thanks Kate. Any Advice for Potential Applicants?

Cracking the PM interview is a handy book that can help you prepare for upcoming interviews, especially for case studies. It outlines frameworks and structures that you may find useful. I’d definitely recommend to anyone looking for a new PM role, or even those interested in switching into a Product Management career. 


In the interview, be careful not to jump right into solution mode. Be problem led, and ask questions like you would in your PM role. We always start with understanding our users and the problems that they have, so we’d like you to demonstrate how you’d do this.


If you need to, ask your interviewers clarifying questions. If you find yourself delivering a monologue in the interview, feel free to take a break to pause for breath, and let your interviewer know that you need a minute to gather your thoughts. That’s totally ok–we’re all human, and interviews can feel stressful. 


If you’re interested in Product Management roles at Cleo, check out our open roles 💙


Our Salary Bandings for PM’s range from £38,000 to £143,000, dependent on your experience. You can find our salary bands and career progression frameworks here. 


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