We spoke to Product Management Consultant, Mirela Mus, about her experiences in Product Management, with a strong focus on the benefits of working in a freelance capacity. Mirela was CPO and Director of Product at a few Berlin startups. She also held Senior Product Management roles at companies like Axel Springer’s Bonial, and others. Selected clients Mirela consulted include Omio, Moia, and HeyCar. Mirela spoke to Consortia’s German Product Management Team Lead, Tom Shingler.
Tom asked Mirela about her introduction to Product Management.
Mirela explained that it was 8 years ago now, coming from a tech team lead role at Avira, a German anti-virus company. Mirela was not enjoying the role as much as she had thought she would and had naturally begun to take on an internal product within the company. She made the move officially (title change) and migrated into a ‘Product Manager’ when a startup (that was later bought by Pandora) approached her.
Tom asked about the move from a permanent Product role to becoming a freelancer.
This happened at the beginning of 2018. One of the main reasons, Mirela explains, is that “it’s all about working with a good team” and she “valued the diversity, the ‘opportunity-to-learn’ factor”. Additionally, she mentioned that this style of working was closely related to her skillset. The last permanent Product Management role also encompassed several alternative roles like business management, people management, etc., and the fact that the company was less product-centric meant that Mirela was ready to explore other, more ‘pure-Product’ opportunities elsewhere. “I found the freelance opportunities to be more interesting and offer me more freedom.”
Tom asked: “As a Product Director, what would you say is the benefit of working with a freelancer, opposed to a permanent member of staff?”
We discussed that there are constraints for each option. Mirela says that “a freelancer can be employed for a couple of months to ensure that they are the right person for the job before signing up with them for a longer period. There may be a project or initiative that you are not sure will work, so don’t want to invest in a permanent position until you’re sure.”
She explains too, that contractors usually come along with more expertise and motivation than a regular employee. This may be due to the variety of experiences as well as delivering on the high expectations of the client.
Additionally, there is the question of timeliness over money. Contractors may cost more but can begin right away and ramp up fast. The downside is limited if things don’t work out, unlike with permanent employees and it doesn’t affect morale.
Tom went on to ask about Mirela’s ‘stand out’ projects or roles.
Mirela talks of her time at Omio being one of the most exciting because of the fast pace and strong focus on numbers and product discovery done right. It’s always great when you can run an experiment and validate results fast. Mirela also enjoyed working with the engineering team there which included very senior, smart and helpful members.
Tom asked about Mirela’s advice to those thinking about going freelance.
Mirela begins with one question: “Can you handle the pressure?”
She asserts that “It’s not easy having to source your own clients, work out contracts, invoicing, etc., alongside your projects at hand. Permanent employees have a monthly salary that just comes in and there’s nothing to worry about.
As a contractor or freelance professional, there are sometimes delays with payment, and you must be prepared to juggle this alongside the work you are doing.”
Tom asks whether Mirela would ever return to a permanent role.
“Yes, if it’s was interesting, offers the same compensation in cash + equity, and has a great culture.”
Finally: “What do you love most about product management?”
“The ability to positively impact the user’s life and be able to figure out what’s next. Sizing up problems and then figuring out the best approach forward.”
We’d like to thank Mirela for her time speaking to us and for giving us an insight into her experiences in Product Management.
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