Forum Features: Product Management
A conversation with leaders of our Product Management team. From left: Julie Nespoulous (Scrum Master), Shahnaz Kada (Principal Product Manager), and Richard Borashan (Senior Product Designer).
Forum’s Product Management team builds the product roadmap for the technology that powers our brands, implements strategy, understands customer feedback and needs, defines product features, and leads the evolution of the product journey.
Shahnaz, you’ve had a truly international career. Tell us about your path to Forum and what brought you here.
I have had an exciting career journey from project to product management, and from multinational corporations to a high-growth startup. My professional goals have always been the same - create, build, and make an impact.
I grew up in Morocco, but my career in tech really started right after university in France, where I received my master’s degree in management and new technologies from Université Panthéon Assas in Paris.
After graduating, I worked for several consulting agencies across a variety of sectors. When I was presented with an opportunity in New York at House of CHANEL I knew I couldn’t pass it up. For three years, I led the technology team developing the digital experience for CHANEL’s first-long term beauty retail innovation lab. What an experience! I combined my passion for beauty, wellness, and lifestyle and also saw firsthand how a legacy brand constantly innovates and to succeed.
In hindsight, it’s no surprise that I ended up at Forum Brands doing what I love most - bringing product visions to life.
What was your vision for the product management function?
It’s all about bringing people together with empathy, focusing on customer needs. I was looking to build a product practice with a distinct culture centered around making our technology more usable and powerful. Our team is never content with the status quo - we’re constantly pushing each other to improve individually and collectively. We aim to deliver an exceptional experience for our users, one that opens their eyes to exciting new possibilities for how they can do their job better.
Richard, how do you balance functionality with design in your role?
I tend to think of product design in the context of building a house. The blueprints come first (functionality) and wallpaper comes second (visual aesthetic). They go completely hand in hand. A perfectly functional product that has no visual or aesthetic appeal may not be given the time of day from users. Along those lines, a product that’s all aesthetics without functional consideration will quickly be abandoned. In the end, it’s about marrying the two as harmoniously as possible to create something special.
What principles do you consider when designing a product?
Human-centered design thinking is at the core of everything. I fully believe that designers must not only consider technical pain points, but also empathize with users. Who are they? What are they looking for? How will they feel using the product? Why would they use it? The magic happens once those lines of communication are open between users, stakeholders, and designers.
Julie, for non-techies the term “Agile” and may be completely new. How does the product management team use Agile in your day-to-day work?
Agile is essentially a movement away from traditional, bureaucratic ways of working. Our Agile mindset really centers around core values like respect, accountability, collaboration, and an openness to change and improvement. We recognize that innovation is often a journey. It requires fluidity and flexibility based on learnings along the way.
Can you explain your role as a Scrum Master?
Honesty, integrity, and hard work drive everything I do in my role. I help the team reach consensus on all tasks and projects, removing any obstacles and barriers that we may face to reaching our goal. I also lead our daily check-ins, keeping the team on track to ensure we’re delivering for our users.
How has mentorship benefited your experience at Forum?
Shahnaz constantly encourages and empowers our team. She challenges me to take on new skills and tasks, supporting my professional growth. Her advice and guidance has been so valuable to me in navigating a high-growth, fast-paced environment. I know I can always turn to her when I need candid feedback to help me reach my goals.
Last question for each of you. Who are some of your heroes?
Shahnaz: I admire several people from different fields for their groundbreaking ideas and creativity (Steve Jobs), courage and self-sacrifice (Mother Teresa), authenticity and empathy (M.L. King), and resilience (Muhammad Ali) and so on.
Julie: Two French female business leaders - Clara Daymard and Eva Sadoun. They’re powerful female entrepreneurs, brilliant visionaries, and fight constantly to break down barriers for future female leaders and others of all backgrounds. Their lives and careers remind me that who you are and where you come from do not determine the impact you can have on the world.
Richard: If I had to pick somebody in the context of design thinking, I would say Larry David. Ironically, his uncanny ability to complain about minor daily inconveniences is central to UX as a concept. We’re constantly looking for things to improve in order to make users’ lives easier, so there’s value in picking apart even the smallest nuances without being afraid to speak up. User advocacy at its finest.