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Merziyah is a detail-oriented, multifaceted product manager with over 8 years of experience in Product Management. Prior to working as a PM, Merziyah was a software developer who found a knack for understanding stakeholder needs and communicating effectively as a liaison to engineering, design, and upper management. As such, she brings deep technical knowledge to her clients, along with her expert ability to find the root of a problem, scope a project, and deliver feasible results. At Def Method, Merziyah has worked on 14+ products focused on driving startups to their MVP. A generalist at heart, Merziyah has extensive experience with B2C and B2B products, across various industries, such as healthcare, finance, and consumer goods.

Projects

Balancing cost and value to prioritize clients’ needs

On a government-run project working with the Campaign Finance Board (CFB), Merziyah worked within a fixed budget to maintain and enhance a platform used by campaigns to collect contributions. As a product experiencing increased user growth, there was a need to refactor and optimize the feature set to support the growing user base. To ensure that the optimizations would remain within the scope of the client’s budget, Merziyah critically evaluated the cost of addressing issues via support, versus optimizing the product in order to balance time and resources appropriately. Through the evaluations, she helped the client determine which opportunities needed allocation of engineering resources for a permanent solution and which issues were better to deprioritize.


Experimentation to improve team performance

Merziyah was asked to jump in on a project where the team was flustered, disorganized, and unable to deliver around on the set expectations. Unable to set realistic timelines, the engineers often scrambled to finish requested features, resulting in the production of non-prioritized and technically faulty code. Merziyah was able to quickly identify the root cause of the issues as lack of engineering involvement and lack of data for accurate estimation. Through continuous experimentation of agile team processes, such as weekly planning and grooming, regular retrospectives for team feedback, and collection of velocity, time tracking, and delivery date data, Merziyah increased the productivity of the team. These processes gave engineers the opportunity to be more hands on and committed to user stories, improving their motivation and ability to succeed. The data collected gave the team the ability to reflect on past work to better estimate future work. The process concluded with increased productivity due to happier engineers who were able to set the right delivery expectations with the stakeholder.


Identification of core challenges to feasibly build a product

A non-profit client was looking to build a new member center for their website that would allow their donors access to new features as well as the ability to manage their donations online. Although seemingly straightforward, the challenge was that the clients’ website operated on one CMS system, but the donation data was driven by a donor CRM system without a clear link of data between the two systems. Merziyah talked to different teams across the organization to better understand the nuance of how the systems were set up, how the data could be linked between the two, and what the technical challenges of doing so were. Applying her technical knowledge, Merziyah identified the required data exchange in order to present a solution to connect the online portal to the donor CMS system. Going above and beyond the fundamentals of developing a product roadmap, Merziyah took her role to the next level by identifying exactly where the challenges and considerations were before launching and building the product. In doing so, she mitigated the risk of losing donors by laying out the necessary product requirements in order to ensure a seamless integration between the donor’s online experience and client’s backend donor CRM.

Connect with Merziyah

Houston, TX (hometown)

South Brunswick, NJ (current city)

B.A. of Computer Science, Rice University, MBA, Rutgers

Project management: Jira, Trello, Pivotal Tracker, etc. 

Technical: SQL, Invision, Balsamiq, GitHub Backlog prioritization 

User story mapping

Roadmapping 

Meeting facilitation

Communication across teams 

Flexibility and adaptability to fill in gaps where needed

Merziyah Poonawala

Senior Product Manager