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About autonomy and success — in an interview with Alexandru Bleau
  • by Andreea Oproiu

At Prow, we aim to get in touch with product professionals and discover their journeys behind their great careers, the resources they are most fond of in developing new skills or perspectives and bits of knowledge they would like to pass to other curious minds.

The first edition, Prow 2020, features product troopers from all around the world, who will share a preview of their outlooks in dedicated interviews. The next episode features Alexandru Bleau, Product Manager Alternative Monetization at Trivago.

How would you describe your product mindset?

I think I've come to the point where I'm a curious learner who is not afraid about taking on big and risky hypotheses if validating/invalidating them is relevant and valuable for our users and business. 

Second, I tend to be action biased especially when it comes to validating whether or not we are on the right track or whether we are approaching the problem in the right way. 

And last but not least, when working with my team, I focus a lot on empowering them with everything they need so that their autonomy, speed and confidence of deciding what to do next are as high as possible. 

What’s your biggest win so far, as a product manager?

I think that, although counterintuitive, the sign of a successful PM or product lead eventually is how empowered and autonomous the team/teams they have in their care are. Are they able to carry on at the same pace and quality and with the same conviction when you are not always around? Have you set up the team in such a way that if you need to focus on new priorities only little knowledge/momentum is lost? I've managed to do this 1-2 times so far. 

What’s an A-HA moment you had in your current role?

I think for me it's how I perceive value creation within an organisation and in general a system. You go from individual contributor to "how can I help my team deliver more value" to "what should the team work on to deliver more value within their scope" and finally "what should I and the team work on so that the entire company delivers more value to users". 

Getting to that last stage took some time but having that approach and holistic view allowed me and my team to consistently deliver more value and also changed how we talk about making an impact and meaning of our work. 

If your best friend would want to start a career in product, what would you advise them?

I think there are 3 things I would tell him to focus on:

  1. Learn by doing: you can do this already from high school or college. Get involved in side projects, hackathons, trying to build small products or services, boring or not. The practical experience you get at that level of agency is invaluable. 
  2. On the first jobs go for great learning potential and great team leadAlways judge the first pm jobs you accept (and arguably every pm role afterwards) on how much the challenge and scope and role will help you grow. This, however, is always hindered or amplified based on whether it comes paired with a great team lead that helps you grow, provides feedback and gets out of the way.
  3. Never limit yourself to how the role is defined and lived within an organisation. Reach out and see globally what the best product managers are doing: how are they building products? How are they leading teams? How are they thinking about the future? That is your development ladder. And climbing that global development ladder will be infinitely more valuable for the company you are with as well. 

Give us an example of a cool product. What’s so cool about it?

I judge a product as being cool when they profoundly changed how humans do things at a global scale and give people (in a relative way) a boost in their abilities (almost superpowers) when used compared to when they don't. They are also products that people come to take for granted but could never go back to living/life without them. Considering my previous statement, I find writing (via pen and paper) and the bicycle to still be really cool and transformative products.  

Can you recommend a few go-to product resources?

In terms of people, I generally follow and get insights and inspiration from John Cutler, Brandon Chu, Marty Cagan. In terms of blogs/reading resources/newsletters, I can recommend MindTheProduct, Paul Graham's essays and Lenny Rachitscky's newsletter

What’s your message to product people in Timisoara?

Don't wait for the title to start acting. In case of this role, in particular, the opposite is more often true: take on the role, take on the challenge, prove that you have the skills. They will have no choice in the end: either they give you the title or another company will. Sa aveti o zi nebuna!

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Meet Alexandru Bleau at Prow 2020, on November 6, in Timisoara!

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