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Interviews — 23 Jun 2022

Meet the Affisians: Yulia Belenkova

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  • Meet the Affisians: Yulia Belenkova, Lead Product Manager

Meet the Affisians: Yulia Belenkova, Lead Product Manager

Meet the Affisians – we’re a team of professionals that share the values of trust, freedom, growth, and support. We respect ownership and each other, we experiment, learn, and grow together. Diversity matters to us, so we welcome new Affise family members with a helpful attitude and an honest smile.

Affise provides many possibilities for our team members’ growth – like moving to new departments, gaining new skills, and more. We’re proud to present the stories of Affisians who developed their career path with us.

Our first “Meet the Affisians” story features Yulia Belenkova, Lead Product Manager, and how her career is developing at Affise.

Your career path at Affise is impressive. How did you grow together with the company?

In 2018, just shortly after Affise was founded, I started my journey in Affise as a Junior Technical Support Specialist. To be really honest, I didn’t imagine I would ever become the lead product manager. I didn’t even think about this role back then, since it seemed to be unachievable. But because of my interest, I tried my hand at being a support specialist. I believe it was the easiest way to learn about the company’s products, values, the customers we work with, and the industry.

While I was developing myself within Affise’s support team, I also had the chance to take on the position of Knowledge Base Manager. In this role, I took care of both external (for our clients) and internal documentation while onboarding new support team members. Within six months, this initiative grew into a separate knowledge base team which is now – thanks to its current members – operating in the best possible way.

A year later, I found myself wanting to understand the technical side of the product deeper. I wanted to be more involved in the product development and features implementation, so I found myself moving into the business / system analysis department. Because of the freedom and creativity I was given, I managed to grow as a business analyst quickly. I was all over the moon about having more chances to influence the product’s development process, and more importantly, take part in it.

Since we’ve been doing more system analysis, I found myself not only lacking industry knowledge, but also the understanding of the features I was making analyses of. I wanted to be more engaged in market research, so I decided to move to the product team as a product manager.

So this was a turning point in your career. Tell us more.

I eventually realized that being a product manager touched on every aspect that I liked within each of the other departments I’ve worked in: in support, I understood who the customers were and what they needed. In system analysis, I learned more about the market and how the product worked. It was a perfect opportunity to use all the experience I gained in my previous positions while being able to learn more.

I’ve now moved into the Product Lead position with Affise. I manage a team of truly great professionals. One would have thought that joining the product team would be the end of my journey within Affise, but it is not. I still have so much to learn, to develop in myself, and I’m really excited about it. I believe that this role implies a big responsibility and I’m so grateful for Affise for the trust and all the opportunities that helped me along the way.

You’ve now been the Product Lead at Affise since April this year. What’s the most important attribute to have in this role?

From my point of view, a great product lead should:

  • be customer- or even people-focused;
  • ask the right questions; 
  • be passionate and curious; 
  • look the bigger picture; 
  • make decisions based on data and not just instincts or intuition;
  • always try to improve in the above mentioned traits. 

I assume most product managers have not actually studied how to become a product manager or grew up thinking they would become one. We all somehow “ended up” in this role. But there are always a bunch of attributes one should constantly develop to be a great product lead, like motivating the team to take actions and working harmoniously towards achieving the product vision.

What is the biggest value of working at Affise?

Freedom. That’s the first thing that came to mind. I always joke that all my managers in Affise have allowed me to do anything, and that’s the reason for my journey. I’ve always had the opportunity to share my ideas – even the odd ones – and they were never ignored. I feel like my opinion matters, from start to finish in the support and product departments. Freedom is something that has kept me motivated to move forward. I wasn’t afraid of being wrong or making mistakes, or not having the answers to some questions (it’s natural not to know something).

Most importantly: I was always supported by a great team of professionals and leaders who somehow always find the best ways to encourage and assist the team, making us realize that we’re an important part of the amazing Affise family.

What do you want to develop in the next 6-12 months?

I humbly believe that there is always a lot to learn, so I strive to keep an open mind. I still see lots of things to develop in myself and the product. But I’ll mention some of them:

  • Be cool under pressure. Let’s admit: product management is tough. Really tough. When deadlines are approaching, the flow of posed questions never ends. You need to keep cool and calm, keep developing plans and translate confidence in the team.
  • For me it’s crucial to understand the technical implications, challenges, and opportunities of the product I’m working with. So building strong relationships with the engineering team and improving my technical expertise is a must.
  • And of course, keep building a strong team and the product that will inspire our users, where the customer’s success is inseparable from the product itself.

#WeGrowTogether

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Franchesca Tan

Written by

Franchesca is the Head of Content and PR at Affise. Based in Berlin and with a background in B2B marketing, she creates customer stories and content that help businesses grow through SaaS technologies. When she's not typing away on her keyboard, Franchesca enjoys baking, travelling, and going on long walks.

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