Welcome to Meet a Descoper! This interview series shines a spotlight on app builders – whether they are Descope employees, community members, or users of our service. In these chats, Descopers chronicle their daily work, highlight stuff they are proud of, and share advice for developers wishing to pursue similar careers.
Today, we’re delighted to catch up with product management wunderkind Yael Tauman. Yael spoke to us about her journey to product management, learning by doing, and staying human. Take it away, Yael!
How I got here
Q. To start off, can you tell us something about yourself?
Hi, Yael here! I’m 29 years old and proud to be born and raised in Tel Aviv. My road to product management has been an interesting one. I did six years of military service in Unit 8200 where I went through multiple intelligence and technical roles. After military service and a short travel break (a 2-month stint in India which I loved), I joined Palo Alto Networks as a security researcher in the analytics team.
While I enjoyed my time as a researcher a lot, I quickly realized that I would be closer to fulfilling my career potential in the product management space. I got the opportunity to move to a PM role internally at Palo Alto Networks with the Cortex XSOAR team. That’s where I met many of the people that led me to my current role at Descope!
Q. Why did you decide to become a product manager?
Being a product manager gives you a taste of everything. Since you are exposed to the entire journey of a product from idea to code to market, you get to learn how things relate to each other. You get to ideate at the 5000-foot level and execute at the 5-inch level as needed.
PMs are also very close to the customer, which actually frightened me at first! I was worried that I’d leave a bad impression. But continuing to work in the PM field helped me get over that fear. Being in regular touch with customers is gold-dust for a PM – you get the best feedback on what’s working and what needs improving.
Product management is also a very humanized role, which is important to me. Being able to talk to people, get along with them, and drive diverse teams to a joint outcome are skills that transfer to anything else in life.
Q. Why did you join Descope?
As I mentioned before, I like working with people I like! This was a great opportunity for me to join a customer-focused team with decades of experience that’s aiming to tackle a big problem. I’ve also never been part of a startup before, and am looking forward to learning from both the speedbumps and freeways that lie ahead.
Day in the life
Q. What’s your favorite part of your day-to-day work as a PM?
My favorite part about a typical PM day is that there is no such day! My days are filled with different types of tasks that require context-switching and drawing connections.
There are relatively relaxed days when I do backlog work, and there are “all hands on deck” days with back-to-back meetings to fix a problem in production. Within the space of a typical week, I could be doing analytical research work one day, writing my own script to test something another day, or defining a product goal and communicating it to other teams the next day.
I believe my time in the army has helped me a lot as a PM. I’ve carried over the ethos of “just figure it out and do it”, which can sometimes feel uncomfortable in the moment but it’s meant to feel that way.
Q. What’s one piece of work you are most proud of?
When I was in my first PM role at Palo Alto Networks, I played an important role in driving critical features for the Threat Intelligence Management (TIM) module for Cortex XSOAR. Within six months, these features went from something no one was talking about to something in the customers’ hands.
I’m especially proud of this period because I didn’t have any PM experience and learned on the job. Constantly working with developers, hotly debating for features to make it into the roadmap, and continually validating things with customer feedback were all valuable experiences that I will remember fondly.
Q. What do you do to unwind from work?
I like to do a variety of things to unwind (this is probably something I’ve taken from my PM role as well). I like staying active by doing aerobics, yoga, and functional exercises. I also love listening to music, going to concerts, and spending time with family and friends.
I like studying, which is not generally considered “unwinding”, but it’s something different from what I do at work and keeps me stimulated. I’m enrolled in Open University and am currently studying courses in psychology and philosophy.
Needless to say, I also love to binge. I just need to take care that binging doesn’t win over my other hobbies!
Q. What’s something you wished you knew when you started your career?
In a strange way, I don’t think there’s anything I wished I knew because I’ve learned so far by diving in and experiencing the work first-hand. For many PMs, reading books or doing courses help in sharpening their skill sets, but it’s always been learning by doing for me.
Q. What advice do you have for product managers who are just starting their journey?
What has been most helpful for me is to find mentors that believe in me and that I can learn from. Product management is a people business, so find the right people that are willing to invest time in you and see your success as their success.
The other piece of advice I have – something I’ve said already in this chat – is not to be afraid of rolling up your sleeves and trying something new. I got a quote from Pippi Longstocking put on a poster when I left the army: “I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that.” It has held me in good stead so far!
Q. Anything else you’d like to share that we haven’t asked you already?
I’m really excited to be here and be a part of this team! I truly believe that we have the right solution at the right time for a problem that needs to be solved. I can’t wait for people to learn more about what we’re building.
We hope you enjoyed getting to know Yael a little better. For more developer and PM chats, authentication concept overviews, and open-source updates, subscribe to our blog.