In this week’s #howtheydidit series, Cynthia Obioha, Lead, Product Growth at META shares her journey into the tech space, her motivation for pursuing a career in technology and lessons she has learned so far. This interview will inspire, challenge and remind you that anything is possible.
What were your motivations for pursuing a career in Tech?
First, it was curiosity, having heard about computers and later on trying out one in the school lab. Although I mostly played games on it, I wanted to know what would transform an object on the screen at the click of a button.
Then, I wanted to be a part of the future. I wanted to learn what the big names in IT (as we called it) flying around then knew; wanted to be involved wherever they were headed. As a young girl who did not hear a lot of female names in this field, I really dared myself to go into complex and unchartered territories, especially where women were hardly seen nor heard.
One final motivation was problem-solving and this I could say stays with me to date. I believed that there’s always a more efficient way to solve problems at scale and the prospects of technology facilitating this got me excited.
Can you detail your journey into technology?
I have a background in Computer Science; my Bachelor’s degree was from Covenant University, Ota, Nigeria. After I had turned down some other amazing job offers in leading industries in Nigeria (think Oil and Gas, Banking and FMCG), I was headhunted into a role at Google Lagos, Nigeria which I took on as it felt more like what I wanted. At Google, as a Technical Account Manager, Sub-Saharan Africa, I managed multiple partner integrations across various consumer and enterprise products e.g. YouTube, AdSense, Google Transit etc. in the region.
A few years later, I relocated to London, UK with Google as a Solutions Consultant in charge of top-tier European accounts. There, I worked till I was hired as a Product Growth Manager, Sub-Saharan Africa at Facebook (Now Meta). Built the SSA team, launched localised solutions and experiences for the people in the market and emerging markets at large. I currently lead Africa and Middle East team on the International Product Growth and Insights team.
What are a few challenges you encounter in your daily work as Product Growth lead at Meta?
As we tend to touch on multiple products and ideas flow in, ruthless prioritization is always at the back of my mind in ensuring that we build quality products for our people.
Speak to us about what excites you about your role?
I like that my team and I are able to identify hyperlocal opportunities for emerging market users to make their lives easier and enable them to build community. There’s that thrill that comes from building a case for them. Feels like we’re startup folks who have to assume multiple roles per time to be able to drive influence, execution and impact. These multiple roles give us the opportunity to explore the various tech skills we have acquired over time to build important solutions for the people we care about.
What skill set is required to undertake a career in International Product Growth Management?
- Innovative and creative thinking to be able to identify and dissect problem spaces and also ideate on the best solutions. I like to call this ‘the eye’ and this requires constant training.
- Storytelling with good data analytical skills is needed to help quantify the opportunity, communicate to stakeholders and aid in prioritization.
- Market and industry knowledge, knowing the people you are building for, their needs and understanding the trends.
Can you share a few life lessons you have learned in your journey through technology?
- Grow with others: Who is in your corner? Earlier in my career, I was privileged to build a solid network of growth minded friends who remain accountable to one another and supportive in our various ventures.
- But stay in your lane: To yourself be true. Be inspired by what others are doing and how they are doing great, learn from them but make sure that you are running your own God orchestrated journey. It does get easier.
- Keep at it: Persistence is important to build an expert level skill. Ask for constructive feedback and be proactive in implementing them. Ask questions. Do not let setbacks pull you down, they are learning opportunities.
- Keep growing: Be deliberate about your growth. This industry is so fast paced. Do not be left behind. Once upon a time, the people who used typewriters thought that they had made it. Some who did not bother to take computer classes could not thrive. Keep upskilling to remain relevant.
- Help others grow: One of the fastest ways I learn is by helping others, be it through teaching or coaching. Pay it forward; invest in others.
What opportunities are available for young Techies who want to undertake a career in products?
What opportunities are not?! I’ve not seen an industry growing as fast as the technology industry. I knew it was going to be THE thing but daily I’m amazed at the opportunities there are. Not everyone needs to be a software engineer. I did not continue on that path so if it is not your interest, you can be a Designer who helps shape the User Interface, a Researcher who understands the product user needs, a Product Manager who coordinates the team, a Quality Analyst who ensures that the product works as intended, a Product Marketer who announces the product in a strategic way to people, a Data Analyst who stays on top of the performance metrics to guide on prioritization areas, a Content Strategist who sets the tone of the communication on the product. Don’t forget that these products would need policies, legal coverage, partnerships and public relations. The people assuming these roles are also people in tech.
Any advice for female product managers in African startups?
This is your time. Ladies, the gender gap in the field is still highly tilted unfavourably to you, we need to close this gap by leveraging our strengths to build meaningful products. Always think outside the box when building and leading your teams towards execution. Don’t be afraid to respectfully challenge ideas and existing procedures even if they come from leadership. Be confident with your unique perspective. Finally, please make it a duty to bring other ladies along.