Tobi Otokiti:’I am dedicated to making a positive impact and contributing to a more inclusive and progressive tech landscape.’

Tobi Otokiti is motivated by the desire to assist career professionals in becoming competent product managers. She has over ten years of experience building and leading product and technology teams in the financial services and education technology sectors for companies such as Flutterwave, Andela, and Interswitch.

Otokiti is the founder of ProductDive, the largest and friendliest product management community in Africa, with over 14,000 members. Her product school has educated over 1500 product management professionals through workshops, meet-ups, webinars, career-building content, and career fairs.

Her knowledge and insights have been recognized internationally, leading to speaking engagements at prestigious conferences such as Mind The Product, the world’s largest Product Management Conference, Africa Tech Summit, London, The Women in Tech Conference, and even interviews with prestigious organizations such as the BBC.

Otokiti is a US TechWomen 2022 award winner and a member of the Forbes Technology Council. She is a product management thought leader who focuses on shaping the tech industry, which is critical for an innovative and thriving African digital economy.

Read our insightful conversation with her and be inspired.

Can you tell us about your educational background and how it prepared you for a career in tech?
Sure! My educational background in tech has been quite a journey. After completing my degree in computer science at the University of Ibadan, I found myself unsure about which career path to choose. To figure things out, I decided to explore different options.

I took certification courses in Oracle SQL, and CCNA to learn more about these areas and to help me decide which tech role to settle into. I also gained practical skills by interning at a laptop repair shop, where I learned how to fix laptop motherboards, troubleshoot issues, and repair laptop chargers.

At one point, I even considered switching to a career in education because I thought it might be easier to find opportunities in that field. However, I took a leap of faith and moved from my hometown of Ibadan to Lagos, where I believed there were more tech opportunities. In Lagos, I landed a job at a startup as an IT support executive. This role allowed me to learn on the job and acquire additional skills like animation and WordPress website development. After a year, I decided to further my education by pursuing a Master’s degree in Computer Science. During my studies, I continued networking and letting people in my network know that I was actively looking for job opportunities. Eventually, I secured my first role as a product management professional.

Overall, my journey into tech has been characterised by a willingness to explore and try out different paths. Through certification courses, practical experience, and higher education, I have been able to test the waters, gain valuable insights, and ultimately find my path within the tech industry.

You’ve spent over a decade building and leading product and technology teams across financial services and EdTech sectors, can you share a little bit about how you manage cross-functional teams to ensure successful product launches?
Managing cross-functional teams to ensure successful product launches requires effective coordination, communication, and collaboration.

Here are the 3 top proven strategies I employ:
Aligning the team with a shared vision: As a leader, I believe in sharing the product vision with my team and emphasising the “why” behind what we are building. I make it a point to communicate the impact and significance of the product, how it improves our customers’ lives and aligns with the broader business goals. Leading with a shared product vision helps to create a sense of purpose, aligns the team’s efforts, and promotes a collective ownership mindset. It reinforces the understanding that we are not just building a product, but rather striving to make a meaningful difference for our customers and drive the success of the business.

Setting the success metric: In addition to sharing the product vision, I believe in setting clear success metrics and guiding the team based on those metrics. Success metrics provide a tangible way to measure the progress and effectiveness of our product. Once the success metrics are established, I ensure that they are communicated to the team. This helps everyone understand the specific goals we are aiming to achieve and creates a shared understanding of what defines success.

Establishing Transparent Communication: I prioritise transparent communication within my team through clear channels for written and oral communication. We use technology tools to aid virtual collaboration and keep everyone informed and involved through regular team meetings, status updates, and feedback sessions. A crucial part of our communication strategy is creating a product roadmap and a product requirement document, which serves as a guide for my team, stakeholders, and other parties involved, outlining detailed specifications and requirements. Also, applying the agile methodology frameworks enable iterative and incremental development, frequent feedback loops, and adaptability to changing requirements. This approach helps ensure that the team remains responsive, and delivers value early and often throughout the product development lifecycle.

Can you share an experience where you faced a challenging technical problem and how you went about solving it?
While working on a mobile app, we encountered a significant issue where the app would crash randomly for some users. This led to a poor user experience and a high number of negative reviews. To tackle this problem, I collaborated with the development team to conduct extensive testing, including analysing crash logs and collecting user feedback. Through careful investigation, we identified a memory management issue that caused the crashes. Working closely with the development team, we implemented a fix by optimising memory usage and released an updated version of the app, resulting in improved stability and user satisfaction.

Tell us about a time when you successfully managed a product’s lifecycle from concept to launch.
As a Lead product manager, I successfully led the development and launch of a new mobile financial services app that provided customers with a seamless and user-friendly solution for managing their financial needs.

Taking a product from idea to execution requires collaborating closely with cross-functional teams, conducting thorough user market research, and employing agile methodologies. We delivered an app that exceeded customer expectations. The result was an intuitive and efficient platform that empowered users to effortlessly manage their finances, make transactions, and access relevant financial information. I am proud to have managed the product’s life cycle effectively, delivering a valuable solution that enhanced customers’ financial experience. The success of the product is evident in its widespread adoption, with over 3 million users across 10+ countries actively utilising the app. I am proud to have managed the product’s life cycle effectively, delivering a valuable solution that has positively impacted the financial experiences of millions of users worldwide.

How was ProductDive conceived and how were you able to build the community of over 14,000 active African Career Professionals?
ProductDive was conceived from a personal need. After I got my first product management role, it was a struggle trying to understand the length and breadth of the role. There were very few resources available and communities to learn about product management. So I saw that it was a major problem for not only me but for other product managers. So ProductDive was birthed officially in September 2019. We launched ProductDive firstly as a community where we brought product managers together and invited guest speakers to share their journeys with us.

What started as a mere idea to create an impact through ProductDive has transformed into something I am genuinely proud of. We’ve elevated the performances of over 1,000 career professionals through our training and programs. It recently dawned on me that hardly any startup in Nigeria exists without a #ProductDiver and I am so proud of our growth.

Community belongs to the people, it takes people to build a community. We worked with community organisers across different cities to host product meetups. We launched our monthly global webinars and bi-weekly AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions. We launched career fairs, where companies came to interview and recruit our students who just recently graduated from our training program. It’s been a worthwhile journey. The quality of the network that I have made in building ProductDive has been nothing short of amazing.

The DIVE is on its first edition, tell us what emerging product leaders should expect from this year’s edition.
For the first edition of The DIVE, emerging product leaders can expect an electrifying and transformative experience like no other. Here’s what they can look forward to:
Inspiring Keynotes: The DIVE 2023 has curated an exceptional lineup of keynote speakers who are influential figures in the product leadership industry. These thought leaders will share their insights, experiences, and strategies that have driven success in their respective industries. So, expect to be inspired, motivated, and equipped with a fresh perspective on product leadership.

Engaging Workshops: At ProductDive, we understand the value of hands-on learning, which is why The DIVE 2023 will feature interactive workshops conducted by seasoned professionals. These workshops will provide practical guidance and actionable takeaways that emerging product leaders can apply immediately in their own roles.

Networking Opportunities: The DIVE 2023 is all about fostering connections and building a strong community of product leaders. Emerging leaders will have ample opportunities to network with industry experts, executives, and fellow attendees. Building a strong professional network is vital for career growth, and The DIVE 2023 offers the perfect platform to make those connections.

Unforgettable Experience: The DIVE 2023 aims to create an immersive and unforgettable experience for all attendees. From captivating keynote presentations to engaging breakout sessions, every aspect of the conference is designed to inspire, educate, and empower emerging product leaders.
In summary, emerging product leaders can expect a power-packed agenda filled with inspiring keynotes, interactive workshops, valuable networking opportunities, cutting-edge insights, and an unforgettable experience at The DIVE 2023. This inaugural edition is set to lay the foundation for future success, empowering emerging leaders to take their product leadership journey to new heights.

How do you stay updated with the latest trends and technologies in your field, and what resources do you find most useful?
Google alerts. I set up topics that I’m interested in on Google Alerts and I receive daily emails on findings about that topic. E.g. Artificial intelligence. Also, I attend tech conferences that are not only related to product management but also cross-functional roles to help me further understand the length and breadth of technology. For example, I’m a product manager but I also attend product design conferences. Additionally, I sign up for tech newsletters: Techcrunch, BenjaminDada, TechPoint, and TechCabal.

Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently when building a community in today’s world?
I would move faster in expanding to more communities and countries. ProductDive is built on excellence. We’ve got a playbook that works. We want more communities to experience quality education.

As a woman in tech, what challenges have you faced in your career, and how did you overcome them?
As a woman in tech, I have faced several challenges throughout my career. One significant challenge has been the gender imbalance and stereotypes that exist within the industry. I have encountered situations where my abilities and expertise were questioned or undermined simply because of my gender.

To overcome these challenges, I have adopted a proactive approach. Firstly, I have focused on building a strong professional network of mentors, allies, and like-minded individuals who support and uplift each other. Their guidance and encouragement have been invaluable in navigating and overcoming obstacles.

Secondly, I made a conscious effort to continuously enhance my skills and knowledge. By staying updated with the latest technologies and industry trends, I have been able to showcase my expertise and competence, challenging any preconceived notions that may exist.

Finally, self-belief and resilience have played a crucial role in overcoming challenges. By maintaining confidence in my abilities and remaining determined in the face of adversity, I have been able to push through barriers and achieve success in my career.

What advice would you give to other women facing similar challenges?
To other women facing similar challenges in the tech industry, I would offer the following advice:

Believe in Yourself: Recognize your worth and have confidence in your abilities. Trust that you have what it takes to succeed, despite any doubts or biases you may encounter.

Build a Support Network: Surround yourself with a strong support system of mentors, peers, and allies who can provide guidance, encouragement, and a sense of community. Seek out organisations and communities that champion diversity and inclusion.

Continuous Learning: Embrace a growth mindset and commit to lifelong learning. Stay updated with the latest technologies, industry trends, and best practices. Invest in professional development opportunities and seek out mentors who can provide guidance and help you navigate your career.

Advocate for Yourself: Take ownership of your career and actively advocate for your accomplishments and ambitions. Make your contributions visible and share your successes with others. Don’t be afraid to speak up, ask for opportunities, and negotiate for what you deserve.

Support Other Women: Lift others as you climb. Celebrate the achievements of fellow women in tech and offer support and mentorship to those who may be facing similar challenges. By building a network of support and collaboration, we can collectively drive positive change.

Challenge Stereotypes and Bias: Don’t be afraid to challenge stereotypes and biases when you encounter them. Educate others on the value of diversity and inclusion and the importance of creating an inclusive work environment.

Find Your Voice: Speak up and share your unique perspective and ideas. Your voice matters, and your contributions can make a difference. Don’t be afraid to take risks and step outside of your comfort zone.

What are your long-term goals as a woman working in the tech industry?
As a woman working in the tech industry, my long-term goals are centered around three key aspects: Empowerment, Innovation, and Diversity.

Firstly, I strive to empower and inspire other women to pursue careers in technology. I want to actively mentor and support aspiring women technologists, providing them with guidance, resources, and opportunities to succeed in this field. By breaking down barriers and promoting inclusivity, I aim to create a more diverse and balanced tech industry.

Secondly, I aspire to be a catalyst for innovation. I want to contribute to groundbreaking advancements in technology, whether it’s through developing cutting-edge products, leading transformational projects, or driving industry-wide initiatives. By pushing boundaries and embracing emerging technologies, I aim to make a significant impact and shape the future of tech.

Lastly, I am committed to fostering diversity and equality within the tech industry. I will advocate for equal opportunities, representation, and fair treatment for all individuals, regardless of gender, race, or background. By championing diversity in tech teams, organisations, and leadership positions, we can drive innovation, foster creativity, and ensure a more inclusive and equitable tech ecosystem.

In summary, my long-term goals as a woman in the tech industry revolve around empowering others, driving innovation, and promoting diversity. I am dedicated to making a positive impact and contributing to a more inclusive and progressive tech landscape.

How would you like to be remembered?
As a person, I would like to be remembered as someone who made a positive impact on the lives of others. I want to be remembered as someone who was compassionate, kind, and empathetic, always willing to lend a helping hand and make a difference in the world.

In my professional life, I aspire to be remembered as a leader who inspired and empowered others. I want to be known as someone who brought out their team’s best, fostering a culture of collaboration, growth, and innovation. I aim to be remembered as a visionary who challenged the status quo, embraced change and pushed boundaries to drive meaningful progress.

Furthermore, I hope to be remembered as someone who contributed to the advancement of technology and made a lasting impact in the industry. Whether it’s through innovative products, transformative projects, or advocacy for diversity and inclusion, I want my legacy to be one that positively shaped the tech landscape and inspired others to push their limits. Ultimately, I would like to be remembered as a person of integrity, who lived with purpose, made a difference, and left a legacy of positive change in both personal and professional spheres.

Connect with Tobi through ProductDive here