Meet the Product Manager: Frédéric Pattyn

Welcome to our interview series, "Meet the Product Manager"! In this series, we showcase various product managers and share their insights on their roles, experiences, and learning paths. This time, we had the privilege of interviewing Frédéric Pattyn, Co-Founder & Principal Product Manager @NOWJOBS.

What led you into product management?

My journey into product management began with a busy mind, a unique skill arising from having ADHD. My mind was always busy with new ideas to address problems (even imaginary ones). After debating my ideas with myself, I would come to the conclusion that they were worth solving, and then take action by creating a Minimum Viable Product.

Although I didn't excel in sales, it brought me great joy to see even small progress. This venture had been my side hustle since I was 18, and I didn't realize that I was gradually getting involved in the field of product management.

I entered product management when working at the House of HR. Initially, I was hired as a functional analyst and later promoted to the position of project manager. During my time there, the organization aimed to disrupt the flexible staffing industry.

My manager assigned me the role of a product manager, making me accountable for meeting the business objectives and ensuring the product's success. Although the task was challenging with high stakes, it resonated with my personal desire for autonomy and responsibility.  I accepted this opportunity, and I have never looked back.

What does a typical day look like for you?

As a product manager, I set my own goals every day, but I don't always know what challenges I'll face. Effective time management is crucial to avoiding burnout.

Here are a few things I do daily, such as checking in with the development teams during their stand-up meetings, collaborating with the head of marketing, and assessing the outcomes of our latest feature releases. Apart from these regular tasks, my day is filled with high-level responsibilities. My daily routine is determined by the goals I set, which can vary from a few hours to a whole day (and sometimes even night). 

I enjoy brainstorming solutions to problems, whether on my own or with analysts. I evaluate these solutions by analyzing relevant data and engage in discussions with business and tech leads in order to make informed decisions. I also assess the business viability of these solutions. Once these tasks are complete, I like to delve into academic pursuits. I am currently working towards earning my PhD in product management and plan to work with startups in the coming years."

What are you currently working on?

Our team recently achieved a significant milestone by releasing a fully automated staffing process that includes a recommendation-making function powered by ChatGPT. I'm also really excited about the next big feature on the horizon, which will initially launch in France. It involves enhancing our application to allow customers to hire both interim temp workers and freelancers within the same platform. This project posed significant technical and legal challenges, which makes it unique. These projects are just a small part of what we have planned, as I'm currently focused on shaping the roadmap for the upcoming year, with more innovative initiatives in the pipeline.

What piece of work are you most proud of?

One project that is particularly meaningful to me is "Instant Payment", which was launched in Belgium a few years ago. This service allows workers to receive payment within a mere 10 seconds after completing their shifts. This achievement was truly remarkable, as the HR industry typically pays employees on a monthly or, at best, weekly basis. I had envisioned instant payment options and explored ideas such as digital wallets, PayPal, and even cryptocurrency to make it possible.

After more than a year of functional and technical analysis and development, we finally launched the new feature. I still remember the excitement I felt when we received our first payment, and our service has become very popular among workers. In fact, we are still the only ones offering this service.

What are your favourite tools to use during work?

In my opinion, the tools that are essential for me to perform my job are pen, paper, Excel, and Metabase. Other tools like Google Analytics and Confluence are also significant in the overall product management process.

How is your product team structured?

I have been working as the only product manager for several years. However, as our engineering department grew to over 20 people, I realized that I could not manage everything alone. At present, I am responsible for the product, and I work closely with a team lead who takes care of people management. We have a team of 6 analysts and 3 designers, while the engineering department operates as a separate unit. Our organizational structure is very flat, and we strongly believe in taking responsibility and pride in our accomplishments.

What product or feature have you been impressed by recently?

HeyGen Labs has developed an incredible innovation. They were able to effortlessly create a flawless video of me speaking in Portuguese about NOWJOBS. Although I appreciate the efficiency of ChatGPT, I am not easily impressed considering the enormous resources invested by industry giants in this field. 

What do you do to stay up to date and improve as a product manager?

I am an avid reader of non-fiction books, particularly those focused on behavioral economics and the rise and fall of companies. These books offer a wealth of insights and ideas that I can apply to my work in product management. Pursuing my PhD in this field has given me a unique perspective that allows me to make incremental advances in my approach to product management. Networking and engaging with other passionate product managers has also been incredibly valuable, as they are generous in sharing their experiences and learnings. I believe that diversifying my sources of knowledge is key to staying up-to-date and uncovering new knowledge that can take me to the next level.

Any recommendations for aspiring product managers?

My advice for aspiring product managers is to learn by doing. Create MVPs, immerse yourself in the complexities and diversities of the role, and accumulate those 10.000 hours of practice needed to master product management. But do try to invest a decent portion of this time in some hard skills that will make you a force of nature, and not just a talking suit. This will highly increase your credibility with your engineering team.

Embrace failure as a part of the process and be prepared for the possibility of not receiving immediate recognition. If you struggle with handling failure or lack of recognition, this role may not be the right fit, and that's perfectly okay – it's better to discover this early on.

Remember the motto, "Nihil sine labore" – nothing gets achieved without hard work. Persistence and delayed gratification are essential virtues in this field. Focus on your long-term goals, consistently build toward them, and success will come. Product management is a journey that values endurance and results. If something seems easy, it's probably not worth pursuing. In the words of "Aquila non captat muscas," don't sweat the small stuff; instead, tackle and resolve challenges that truly make a difference, and keep moving forward without dwelling on the past.

How can we help you?

Do you feel we could be a match?
Then let’s have a first chat together!