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Merziyah Poonawala

Senior Product Manager
A Closer Look

Key Strengths

Understands the user to balance user empathy and business strategy.

Effectively communicates between across design, engineering, and stakeholders.

Takes technical descriptions and breaks them down into layman’s terms.

Takes the time to ensure all teams are on the same page and understand priorities.

Fields of Experience

Healthcare
Finance
Nonprofits
Government agency
B2C, B2B
Startups vs legacy enterprise systems

Highlighted Skills

Creation
Asks critical questions to make stakeholders gain clarity and focus on what product they are really building and why.

Designs focused user interviews for usability testing and target customer evaluation to validate fundamentals of the product.

Understands core challenges of building a product, creating a clearer vision for the creation of the product.

Has an evaluative eye for the success of a design

Iteration
Conducts experiments within the team to improve efficiency and productivity by understanding challenges that may be holding the team back and build processes that can optimize the workflow.

Efficiently prioritizes and organizes backlog for successful iteration and development.

Strategizes roadmap to quickly deliver core value features for early validation through user feedback.

Maintenance
Strategically evaluates the cost and value of bug fixes to balance time and resources.

Leverages analytics and business metrics to evaluate the need to return to iteration.

Identifies the root cause of a problem to avoid wasting future costs on irrelevant or peripheral issues.

Projects & Roles

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.

About

Home Town

Houston, TX (hometown)

Current Town

South Brunswick, NJ (current city)

Education

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

Connect with Merziyah

LinkedIn

Skills

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