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What does it mean to be a Product Operations professional?

A quarter Product Manager, a quarter Business Analyst, a quarter Management Advisor and a quarter… something else? Five BizArchs share a bit of their life at Nubank.

Picture taken from above shows an office, with green and gray carpet, open desks and people woking on computers

At Nubank, many things are done from scratch. From our early days, we understood that in order to offer the most transparent, fair, and intuitive financial products and services we had to completely recreate them.

For this endeavor, we needed professionals who could navigate from business strategy to project management, from risk assessment to cross-team alignment. That's how and why our Product Operations chapter was born.

In May 2020, seven years and 25 million customers later, there are around 50 Product Operations professionals across all of Nubank's offices. As we grow to have more complex operations in an international setting, the company is searching for senior staff to scale and level up the current gold standards in this chapter. 

Product Ops at a first glance

In that founding year of 2013, one of the first chapters (how we name people with similar technical skills)  created at Nubank was the Business Architects – later changed to the name Product Operations. As far as we know, that role did not exist in other companies. It was created when we realized that a business function was necessary to be a bridge between macro and micro scenarios, different teams and stakeholders as well as the engineers who built the app and the customers. In short, "the binding glue behind it all".

There are some official definitions at Nubank that say a Product Operations “is a generalist with strong business acumen, who is able to navigate through various areas within and across teams.

What a Product Ops does is very broad and dynamic, for it largely depends on the team’s needs at a particular moment. The ambiguity of the role and lack of a clear scope are things that Product Operations professionals have learned to embrace over the years, and this is highly valued by leaders at Nubank.”

However, as we grew - Nubank has talent hubs in Berlin and Buenos Aires, and operations in Mexico and Colombia - we realized that it was necessary to advance towards a more precise definition of the role in order to build better decision-making and define a better process when hiring talent from across the globe.

So, for those who have been wondering, here's all there is to know about Product Ops: who they are, what they do, and their role at Nubank. 

Below, five Product Operators from different nationalities, different areas of interest, and different business units at Nubank share a bit of their routine. 

The planner

Thaís Starling was the first Product Ops and the second woman to work at Nubank - the first was co-founder Cristina Junqueira. She worked under that role for roughly three years in three different areas: Operations, Bills & Payments, and Ombudsman. 

“Product Ops are people who learn fast, like to see different topics, and have entrepreneurial blood and soul. A Product Operations professional loves to take a problem from a white sheet and figure out how to solve it. They are defined by freedom and autonomy, she explains.

Born in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, Thaís is a volleyball player who studied Business Administration in São Paulo. She has lived in Germany, the Republic of Malta, and in the US. After working for three years at Nubank as a Product Ops, her career continued as a Business Developer (BizDev) until 2019, when she became the Head of Operations for Nu México.

“Product Ops and BizDev are both generalists, but they differ in daily work and execution. For instance, BizDevs in Mexico were in charge of running broad competitor and landscape analysis that guided us into deciding which type of solution it made more sense for us to launch first.”

Another Product Ops interviewed for this piece is Frenchman Eric Scaramozzino, who in June 2019 left almost a decade of living in London, working in the financial industry and in management consulting to join Nubank.

“The chapter mission is to build a world-class operation that enables our BUs, different geographies, and several squads to achieve their vision, to scale efficiently and have the flexibility to capture new opportunities, says Eric, who was born in the French Alps and holds an MBA from INSEAD

“Our pillar" - he continues - "is deploying the right tools to create and monitor action plans that improve our business' metrics. When it comes to BUs, Product Ops professionals make things happen. When it comes to operations, we could act as the right hand of the Management Team.”

Bringing clarity to the role

"In terms of general skills, we're looking for creative people who are skilled in connecting business needs, consumer insights, and engineering", starts to explain Lucas Lee, Head of Fraud Ops at Nubank.

Born in São Paulo and a descendant of a Korean family, Lucas has studied at Seoul National University and holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University (US). He has been working as a Product Ops at Nubank since June 2019. 

“Here at Nubank, our Product Ops crunch data, develop business metrics, connect teams and manage projects. In terms of analytical skills, Product Ops are closer to Business Analysts, but the difference is that Product Ops invest less hours in analysis and more in managing projects and engaging stakeholders. Effective communication is key. Product Ops need to tailor their speech to the audience in order to influence others or reach an agreement.”

The holistic constructor

Argentinian Agustín Danza arrived at Nubank knowing how to tell stories to heterodox parties. He previously worked as the CEO of the Brazilian Rugby Confederation, having joined them in 2014, when that sport - in the land of football par excellence - didn’t mean as much as when he left the position and decided to come to Nubank as a Product Operations in 2019. By that time, after his management, the international federation, World Rugby, had declared Brazil as one of the new “strategic countries”.

“Anyway, before entering Nubank I had no idea of the Product Ops terminology”, says the former Customer Excellence chapter lead in Brazil. “Then I’ve learned that Product Operations professionals have a holistic approach to things: they have an important capacity to develop complex projects and divide them into multiple instances.” 

After seven months of playing a substantial role in the talent hub in Argentina, Agustín left the Product Ops chapter to lead over a thousand people towards Nubank’s vision of creating a financial revolution in Brazil. 

“Our skills allow us to implement ideas, take them out of the paper" - says Agustín. "Product Ops are capable of making the machine work by (a) monitoring and correcting the course of projects and (b) encouraging and aligning people. And those capacities, in my case, were built during my work within rugby.”

The wild card player

Paradoxically, the misunderstanding about the role of a Product Ops among the international talent market in the past has brought amazing professionals. In 2019, Argentinian industrial engineer Juan Aragón was aiming to change jobs from the tourism industry. When he learned about the open positions at Nubank, he read that a ‘Product Operations’ vacancy was available at Nu Argentina and felt fatally attracted.

“The Product Ops is the wild card of the company: lots of functions and adaptability, lots of coincidences with many other roles”.

During his first nine months inside the company, Aragón has worked for three different projects in three different geographies. He studied possible strategic approaches for new markets, worked in operations for Mexico, and is now, alongside a multidisciplinary squad, focused on improving the usability of Nubank's app for its Latin American customers.

“Our role is intentionally comprehensive; you have to understand the global context of the company to apply its vision to specific projects. But always - always - with an eye on daily operations and OKRs. In a way, we are the guardians of Nubank's operations on a global scale.” 

Product Ops' calling: what we're looking for in candidates

“Come out of the cupboard, you boys and girls”, says one verse of a mythical song released forty years ago by a mythical punk rock band.

Nubank is currently looking for those potential Product Operations professionals out there in the world, inviting them to come out of their cupboards and connect with us. 

“Product Ops may have two main ineluctable skills", assures one of our business recruiters at Nubank. They have to be very analytical, as they must deal with intricate databases, and also very influential, as they have to influence and collaborate with a myriad of teams. More than ever, as Nubank grows in its organizational complexity by tackling new segments, new products, and new geographies, the impact that Product Ops will have on the company will be even greater".

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