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Boaz recently started working at Cazoo as a Product Manager, a position he found using Otta. We caught up with Boaz six months into his role to chat about his experience finding and settling into his new company.
Tell me about your career to date.
I was born and raised in South Africa, where I studied and also started my career. Whilst at university, I interned at a social private equity firm that invested in startups, and then after finishing my studies, I moved to Buenos Aires where I joined a startup focusing on recruitment for multinationals.
After a year there, I moved back to South Africa, where my experience helped me get a job at a leading fintech company called Prodigy Finance. At that time, the company had about 40 employees and was on a really strong growth trajectory – it meant everyone wore many hats! I started out working in a sales and account management role but quickly got a taste for product, design and engineering and realised that was the side of the business I wanted to work in longer term. So I convinced Prodigy to give me a shot at Product, upskilled myself and ended up as a Product Manager there for two years, revamping their loan application user experience.
Earlier this year, after four and a half years at Prodigy Finance, I was curious about working in a new Product environment, doing something completely different. Up until this point, I had mostly worked with financial products and I wanted to work on a tangible product.
How did you find your new role at Cazoo?
I started out by drawing up a list of the best-funded companies in the UK and looked at the portfolios of VC firms I liked – Index Ventures, Balderton, Accel amongst others – and saw what roles they were hiring for. I also had an extra layer of complexity because I required visa sponsorship, so I had to factor this into my search. About this time I came across Otta and really liked it because it displayed the start-up/growth companies that could sponsor a Tier 2 work visa in the UK.
I also looked for companies that demonstrated a really good customer experience. Trustpilot and Glassdoor can be really good proxies for this (and are two parameters which Otta also has!). This helped me to filter out all those companies that I felt didn’t align with my values from a culture or customer experience point of view.
I came across the Product Manager role at Cazoo on Otta, and found it interesting because I wanted to go into a very product engineering focused company, where my role would be more technical. So Cazoo was actually a great opportunity for me because it was so different to what I was doing before.
Otta was by far my best channel, so much so that I effectively stopped using other platforms like LinkedIn and AngelList.
Why did you decide to accept an offer from Cazoo?
I ended up turning down other offers because I was drawn to the potential to be on a rocket ship, and an environment that would make me feel really challenged and stretched. I was looking for an environment that would enable me to compete at the highest level.
You want to be pushed by those around you, and to not be the smartest person in the room. Cazoo was definitely going to offer me that. I was really impressed by the people who interviewed me, and my line manager came across as a really good Product person who I could learn from. All of these were considerations in my decision.
Had I picked the other offers, my life might’ve been a bit more comfortable, whereas I really think Cazoo has the potential to become a household brand and do something really special.
So, what do you do at Cazoo?
I’m the Product Manager for the Logistics function. In any e-commerce business, but particularly when you’re dealing with physical goods, there’s a lot of operational complexity when you move from an online digital user experience to the physical. With cars, it’s far more complex than just sending a parcel in the post and using off-the-shelf logistics solutions.
At Cazoo, a lot of this has to be custom, because selling used cars end-to-end is fairly unique. We are responsible for automating vehicle movement across the UK. Cazoo offers customers the ability to select a delivery slot at the point of sale and with a chosen time window (i.e. 10am to 12pm) – my team is responsible for that and the calculation behind it, which is ultimately a data optimisation problem. This type of calculation is increasingly common for online grocery retailers but rare for dealing with large items like cars.
We also build tools for our internal users, including our Delivery Specialists and Logistics Planners. All of this is to enable a world class customer experience when we actually hand over the vehicle to a customer. We need to get cars from A to B, make sure our internal colleagues are really happy with the software that they have, and then ensure that the customer has had a very positive experience. My team is the key component in making this work.
Have the first few months been as much of a challenge as you expected?
Yes, absolutely – it’s been a wild couple of months. I think working remotely has also added a lot of complexity, because a lot of my stakeholders aren’t purely office based. They are operational logistics people at our various sites, and so they’re not always on Slack or email. In a normal world, I’d be spending a lot of time going to those sites, but it’s much much harder to understand their world when working remotely.
What was the onboarding process like at Cazoo?
The first few months were intense but really rewarding. It was full on, and I was dropped head-first into the challenges in this space, learning about the top problems, the key players, the stakeholders and the team dynamics. It was really, really challenging, but I received a lot of support internally from my manager and colleagues. There was no time to ease into things so I had to jump in. Logistics are really important to Cazoo, so there is no shortage of interesting challenges to solve.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve worked on?
We want to deploy world class solutions to challenging logistics problems – in this space, it’s a data problem: “given X drivers, X routes, spit out the best optimisation”. It’s a perfect use case to deploy AI and Machine Learning.
I'm currently working on some really interesting projects to answer the question of how we get the right level of optimisation for Cazoo. The ability to build something really inspiring in this space gives me a lot of motivation day in day out, and thankfully I got to dive in from week one.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to someone interviewing at Cazoo?
I think it's really important to do your research. Why do you really want to work at the company and why are you a good fit for them? Ask good questions, and save enough time to ask lots of them. Consider competitors, the customer experience and the business model: that will demonstrate that you have the commercial acumen and that you’ve really thought about their product.
Lastly, it always comes through in an interview if you really want the position. Especially if it’s being carried out remotely, when it can be hard to detect someone’s body language. So be sure to show passion, hunger and ambition.
What advice would you give to someone who is keen to move into Product Management?
My biggest advice is to look at Medium articles and find out what the most important books around Product Management are. And look at what it means to be a really good product-led organisation. A great example is Monzo: they publish a lot of good stuff on their blog around building Product. Two of my favourite books are Shape Up by Ryan Singer at Basecamp and Product Management in Practice by Matt Le May. Both are thought leaders, who give a unique perspective about what Product Management means to them. Each company does it differently and ultimately there are similar mental models which are applied depending on the problem and the context.
But really, it’s all about the mindset. And that can come from anywhere, which is what makes it such an interesting discipline! It’s about solving user problems that achieve a business impact and aiming to do in the leanest and most effective way possible, which is how I usually describe a Product in a nutshell.
You don’t need to spend money on a General Assembly or Udemy course. Instead, prove that you have the ability to build products. It doesn’t need to be in a formal role – you can start asking for product opportunities in your current role and fill gaps where you’re working to get more exposure closer to Product Managers at your company.
Be scrappy: release a product of your own. Find a gap: for example, if you think there is no online directory of Vegan restaurants in London, build a little directory and release it to friends (that’s your alpha launch) and then release it on LinkedIn and Facebook (that’s a beta launch) and then get user feedback and put it on your CV with a link to the website that you built over a weekend using Squarespace. That demonstrates way more of your product thinking than a General Assembly certificate or a random certified scrum product owner certificate.
That’s my biggest advice: if you’re passionate about it, show it, and do something with it. For me, these sort of things show drive and execution and they come through in interviews. It worked for me!
Found a job through Otta and want to share your story? We'll organise a Zoom call to learn more about your experience, and then give you £25 in Amazon vouchers as a thank you. If you’re interested, email me at email@example.com with a bit about yourself and your new role (a few short bullets is fine!).