Employee Spotlight: Diana (Product Manager)

Published by:
Diana Rocha
February 17, 2022
min read

What do you do at Applied?

I’m product manager at Applied. Which means that I identify opportunities that will deliver value for our users (customers, candidates admins). Right now I work on the assessment side of Applied, which means that I work with designers, developers, and of course, the rest of the business on the way that customers screen, shortlist, and assess candidates and learn about the best way to hire candidates using different assessment methods.

Day to day that means identifying business needs, talking to different people, working with designers to transmit ideas into visuals and flows, as well as working with other stakeholders to work out the problems we are trying to solve. As we are a small company, it also requires a bit of work in terms of delivery and product ownership and facilitating the agile work we’ve set up to deliver.

And what did you do before joining Applied?

I was living in Colombia, my home country, and working at a consulting firm.

Although, it was only consulting, we explored different business models but let’s just call it management consulting! we advised different types of industries with a focus on the government and public sector, covering things like org design, and other bits that they had challenges with.

We also explored the venture side which is how I found Applied and helped us look at how to solve challenges in Latin America.

Now that you've been at Applied for a while, what's been your favourite project to work on so far?

if I had to choose one - it would have to be the impact reports that we produce in the product. They are quarterly impact reports that we share with customers that highlight the benefits and impact they’ve created for themselves and others through the platform.

I liked it because it started with one specific customer and their needs and from our side we were trying to understand what value they were getting out of Applied because it could help us validate our impact in their day to day jobs as well as candidates lives. It started with a basic conversation over lunch discussing what could we highlight, what data should we focus on and whether we could use it as a case study. So, we looked at the data and started with something manual and basic to see how people interacted with it, sort of as a proof of concept.

Then that evolved into something more sophisticated with the help of the tech team and branding to make sure it was nice to look at, but still a bit manual to send out. Then it evolved into something more scalable as something that was built into the product.

So, it went from a 1:1 conversation about supporting the product with better insights to something more scalable. Seeing and being part of that journey and being involved with other teams, I learned so much on how to validate ideas, how to discuss with a team on what really matters in product and lots of other cool things. And of course we’re always learning and there’s so much more to improve on as we go but it’s been my favourite project so far.

What has delighted/surprised you the most about working at Applied?

I’ve been really lucky to jump from one role to another starting with customer support when Applied was just 5 people, then into working remotely and doing special projects while I was living in Colombia and now coming back to the UK full time and moving into product, to move around like that and be accepted.

Being a generalist and being able to try and learn and of course showing results without too much pressure I feel very lucky. Sometimes I hesitate and think what if I had grown more in certain skills, or certain dimensions with the usual expectations of how you should grow in a company.

But being able to grow like this and learn about new ways of working (which there is coming from Colombia) has been amazing. What delights me about Applied at this stage and will probably always be there is this openness to be curious and open to learning new things, and also being able to teach things as well.

What bias do you think most people are vulnerable to?

This one I think is hard because we’re so vulnerable to so many biases - we’re such complex human beings! I’ll frame it just as one, and because of recency bias, I think one of the most relevant biases for me and what I see with others and at work is confirmation bias.

So, confirmation bias occurs when people seek out or evaluate information in a way that fits with their existing thinking and preconceptions. That fits into so many things, when we interact with others, evaluate others and if they fit in with our framework of thinking, all the way to how we digest information or the news. We’re so vulnerable to confirmation bias and it has a huge impact on with whom we interact, what ideas we support, what actions we take in life and because of that I think it’s really important.

The other one I was thinking about which is a concept for how we frame our emotions is called the hot and cold empathy gap.

When you’re in a cold state, you’re in a calm “ideal” state, and it’s difficult to imagine how you’ll be when you’re angry, and you underestimate your actions or consequences of when you’re in a hot state. Vice-versa, when you’re in a hot state, it’s difficult to imagine how you’ll be in be in a cold state.

And this is so relevant in life when you’re in the heat of a conversation with your partner or loved ones and maybe you’re not considering all the consequences of this particular state or how your decisions in it will affect your future. We see this in medicine where there’s evidence of whether how people react for and about what are the best treatments when they’ve just been diagnosed with cancer.

This hot or cold state changes the course of action for these decisions. It’s so important and we’re just humans full of emotions! It’s difficult to see and understand how they affect our decisions making in different aspects of our lives.

What book, article, video, podcast, etc would you recommend to people?

So I would recommend a podcast - all those that are part of the Hidden Brain series from NPR. They cover a lot about psychology, behavioural science and how it applies to different contexts. It’s not just work related but all facets of your life and how humans work. There is always something that resonates with me and I’ve been listening to it for 3-4 years in different frequency and there is always something cool. Given the topic which is about being an employee and work life it makes me reflect on how we dedicate such a big chunk of our lives to work. One episode that resonated with me was about how you live with purpose and how that differentiates with other concepts.

One related to work is one from Harvard Business Review called Women at Work, it’s more for personal development (there’s always something!) I’ve always found that this podcast resonates with me in different parts of life.

When I was deciding on whether or not to come back to London, there was one episode on the decisions you make and how short-term focused we all are (which I should know because I study/studied it and I love it but easy to forget). There is the 10-10-10 rule: when you’re thinking about a decision, think about the consequences that will happen (the pros and cons) of what will happen in 10 days, 10 months, and 10 years. This really helped me decide to stay in Colombia or move to London - which is where I am today!

And finally, what advice do you have for people applying through the Applied platform? (or roles at Applied)?

The advice comes naturally from the way Applied works and what it enables in terms of the employer and candidates. We see it in feedback (consciously and unconsciously) use the application to learn about the company, the possible colleagues, and to learn about yourself. If you frame this application like that, it changes the way you approach it and makes it an even more enriching process and even enjoyable. The application goes from betting on the best option to the answer and shifting it to an opportunity for learning and growing.

So, it’s about learning about a big part of your life (future employer and the environment you’ll be working with) and of course independently of success, but if not you’ll still learn about yourself and the company.

The cool thing about Applied, is that that discovery doesn’t stop when you apply, when you finish the application, at the end when you get feedback, you get a better understanding of your skills and how they compare to others which is satisfying.

So, the main piece of advice I have is to make sure to frame your application as an opportunity to learn about others and yourself and it will become a lot more enjoyable.