ResourcesBlogTrailblazing Women in Product Management: Shira Gershoni, Vice President of Product Management at Asurion

Trailblazing Women in Product Management: Shira Gershoni, Vice President of Product Management at Asurion

Women in Product Management - Shira Gershoni

For our next installment of our Women in Product Management Series, I interviewed 

Shira Gershoni, Vice President of Product Management at Asurion. 

Nicole: Thank you for joining me, Shira. I’m very excited to hear about your insights and experiences in the dynamic world of Product Management 

Shira: Thank you, Nicole. I’m happy to talk to you about a topic that I’m so passionate about. 

A great place to start is what led you to Product Management? 

I think that everybody discovers the world of Product Management from a different angle and a different path in their career. When I started my career in tech, there wasn’t a clear role of Product Management. I feel lucky to be part of the generation who helped shape what Product Management is. My career started as part of my military service. I served in the IDF, the Israeli Defense Force, when I was 18 years old. You don’t really get to say what you want to do, they define what you’re qualified for. And therefore, I got into the world of web and software engineering. It was a whole new world for me because I was not a techie girl. I did not take computer science or cyber in high school. I discovered this whole new world of tech from the path of software engineering. After my military service, I continued on that path because I had a career, and it was quite fulfilling. 

Soon enough I realized that I’m more of a people person than a coding person. As a software engineer, you’ll probably be hands-on on the keyboard, solving really important problems, but doing that more from an individual contributor capacity. I wanted to run around the hallways and work with all the stakeholders. I wanted to talk with people. Early on in one of my roles, I asked my CEO if it was okay if I did my job, plus added some product elements. That is how I got myself into Product Management. That was many, many years ago, and I feel like I made the right choice. 

I love how you discovered a passion you didn’t know you had. Product Management allows you to work with lots of people. Is there a team or role you really love working with in this capacity? 

A Product Manager doesn’t always have the same crew around them. It really depends on the company, the size of the company, and the type of problems they’re solving for in the industry. I work for Asurion, a large-scale company, serving hundreds of millions of people around the world. There are a lot of different perspectives and stakeholders. I partner on a daily basis—on an hourly basis—with my peers from marketing, engineering, UX design, data analytics, operational folks, and people in the field. I’m lucky to work on an omnichannel product that has a software element and a physical element, so there are a lot of operations involved. I also work with our customer support experts, who provide service as the first line for our consumers. Working with them and hearing how people experience our product is just as important as working with the engineers and designers that shape the future with us. I work with a very diverse list of stakeholders and every day looks different. 

I bet working with diverse stakeholders is interesting, but also challenging. Is there something that you’re learning today from working with your stakeholders? 

In my career, I discovered that one of the most important things as a Product Manager is to always know your audience. It doesn’t necessarily have to be your segments or your personas that you’re solving problems for. It’s also knowing the audience throughout the journey of creating a product. In the journey of creating a product, there are different levels of maturity to that product. You may find yourself explaining the exact same thing to five different stakeholders in five different ways throughout that journey. Knowing your audience is extremely important, and understanding that there is no ‘one size fits all’. The way that I would get buy-in from my legal partners is very different than the way I would get buy-in from my B2B partners. The ability to be flexible in those situations and understand how to get buy-in from different stakeholders is critical to the success of a Product Manager. 

I’ve discovered one question that is really important for me to ask every stakeholder that I meet is, ‘what keeps you up at night?’. If I know for every single stakeholder that I work with what keeps them up at night, I can do a better job as a partner and as a Product Manager. That’s a priceless question. No matter what type of problems or solutions I bring to them, if it’s not what they’re worried about, then I’m probably missing out on something. 

That’s great advice. As you work with different stakeholders, you’re almost translating how you say something to a legal stakeholder versus a marketing stakeholder. Having the answer to that question probably enables you to do that more successfully. 

Let’s move to another passion behind this series which is women in Product Management. I’ve heard from many women that a mid-career change is what brings them into Product Management. Do you have specific advice for these women? 

One of the best insights that I have as a Product Manager is that it’s not about what you learned in university and it’s not about the academic background that you might have. Being a Product Manager is a personality thing. You are born a Product Manager, like it or not. The qualities that a successful Product Manager brings to the table are passion, curiosity, the ability to rally up a team, and the ability to influence without necessarily that reporting structure that all corporations love. A Product Manager needs to find resourceful ways to make things happen. That is a personality thing. My advice to a lot of people, especially women who want to get into Product Management and don’t necessarily know how, is to ask yourself in your personal life, in your current role, do you apply passion, resourcefulness, and curiosity? Do you have creative ways of solving problems? Are you a good listener? All these traits are part of what you would need to put on a Product Management suit. And a Product Manager suit is not the same suit in every organization. Understanding and asking yourself what industry you’re passionate about and what products you love is a good entryway to beginning a Product Management career. 

It makes a lot of sense to examine your existing passions. I love your list of innate skills that we have and perhaps never thought about how we could apply them to Product Management. I think that really opens the door to so many more people who may not have studied technology-focused topics in school. 

Often with women, they might not even know that there are so many products in their personal life that they manage, that they built up from the ground. They just don’t call it a product and they don’t realize it’s Product Management. But in the day-to-day, a lot of being a mom is being a Product Manager. 

Parenting is definitely managing stakeholders, translating your needs like we talked about, and meeting the needs of other people. Do you have personal experience using the Product Management skills that you have developed in other areas of life? 

I feel like the Product Manager in me comes out in almost every single thing that I do. I’m analyzing social situations, restaurant experiences, vacations, and services that I experience. I always look at it from a Product Management perspective and analyze, how do I feel as a consumer? How is the brand? What is the brand benefiting from this? It’s in my head all the time, which is good because it keeps my wheels spinning, even if I’m not solving the problems that I’m working on. It expands my horizons into other ways of doing things in different industries. For example -travel. Part of my role requires a lot of travel, and you’ll find me analyzing my experiences in airports, hotels, and with ‘on the go’ services. I experience a lot of products on the road, and it keeps my Product Manager brain thinking all the time. 

Interesting. Likewise, can you share an example of how you are able to take your day-to-day life and bring that back to your Product Management role at Asurion? 

One thing I’m responsible for at Asurion is the end-to-end customer experience. Traditionally, when you hear the words “customer experience” or “user experience”, you think immediately about the UX, the things you see on a screen. But a customer experience really starts and ends from the moment the consumer has a problem all the way to the moment we solve it. The way that I bring my life into my role is to give examples from different industries, different products that are not related at all to our product. My team makes fun of me because I always use food analogies—how you cook the food, how you present the food, it’s always about food. I use these examples to show what processes look like in other industries. One good takeaway is, when I’m creating a new product with my teams, or we’re defining a new feature or a new functionality, there are three questions that I always ask myself, and I expect my team to ask themselves as well. Those three questions are my ‘Understand-Feel-Do’ model. What does the user understand? What do they feel? And what do you want them to do? That applies to every single moment in your life. If you walk into a restaurant, if you hop on a flight, if you order something on Amazon, there’s always those three things you understand, feel, and do. Once you crack that in other moments in life, it is much easier to crack it in your professional problems. 

That could be a real learning point. Is there anything else that you would love to share with us, Shira? 

The reality is that the tech industry is mostly male dominant. Diversity is a big thing in most companies, but you still don’t see enough strong, talented women around the table. For most teams, especially in Product Management, it’s a balance that will take many more years to resolve. Nonetheless, I’m extremely passionate about giving women the stage to explore what Product Management could be. I love to encourage women to think beyond their current role and to ask themselves where they want to be in five years. What is that dream? And dream big. With that dream in mind, what is that first step you need to take to get there? Allow yourself to think it’s possible and find people who will help you get there. I love hiring within the organization. I’ve hired somebody from the Operations team who was in the field and now she’s solving problems for the exact same field. She’s a subject matter expert and a Product Manager now. I co-lead the ‘Women In Product’ group at Asurion together with Ivette Johnson, VP of Product Development, and Kelly Keim, VP of Product Engineering. We encourage women in our community to find a mentor—somebody who helps ask those questions and challenges you until you get there. 

And to your point, especially at a big company like Asurion, that mentor could be in the next cubicle or in another department. I love hearing the advocacy that your executives have for women in the company. Thank you for sharing that passion with us.  

Want to hear more from Shira? Listen to the full podcast.
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Nicole Tieche
March 28, 2024