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Meet Chika Obiwuru – the product manager who started her career with just vibes

Chika Obiwuru Product Manager at Enye
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Meet Chika Obiwuru – the product manager who started her career with just vibes

Enye’s Product manager, Chika Obiwuru, became a product manager without any prior knowledge of the role. In this conversation, she looks back on her career path and shares what it’s like to never give up.

Walk me through your journey into product management.

I studied microbiology in school at FUTO. I loved the course; if I weren’t in Nigeria, I’d probably pursue it as a career. However, after graduating and waiting for NYSC, I realised I would not be going with Batch A, so I told friends and family that I needed something to keep me out of the house until NYSC posted me. Someone reached out and mentioned that he needed someone to communicate with his software engineers and interface with clients. I was not sure I could handle it, but he assured me that he was sure I’d learn and adapt quickly. 

The first app I worked on helped users track sales and payments. That was my first exposure to software; I had zero prior knowledge of anything IT besides Microsoft Word.

You started your tech career with just vibes?

Exactly, yes.

Wow. Okay, when did you realise you were ready to build a career around it?

I learned on the job. I learned how to speak to clients and realised that I am a natural with people. In my first role, I spotted a lot of bugs in the app and created a bug sheet based on priority. Initially, I did not know the direction we would take to solve them, but we eventually cleared them all.

Cut soap!

Haha, please! 

The first few months, I didn’t even know the name of my role until I told a friend about my job. He said,  “Oh, they call them project managers.” Another friend told me they were called “service delivery” in his company and how he had just paid for a project management course for his employees.  He encouraged me to apply too. By this time, I had started NYSC. I decided I would save up my allowance for the PMP certification. In November 2019, while taking the course, a friend told me that his workplace was hiring a product manager intern. I applied and got in. 

I wrote the exam in early 2020, but I did not pass. It hit me hard, but everyone was supportive. A friend hired a personal coach for me. I attempted the exam again on December 6, 2020.

And?

I passed!

Yay!

Yes, I finished my internship and officially became a product manager as well. 

Great, so how did the context change for you, from complete newbie to professional? 

I think it’s more about learning than being confident. I don’t over-emphasize confidence because someone may be confident and still not know their craft. My first time being a PM, I didn’t even realise I was a PM. I was only trying to solve problems. After I left the first job, I realised that the company was almost losing the contract when I’d joined. It was a make-or-mar contract.

You saved a company without any professional skills? Whoa!

You could say that. I live to solve problems. I’m less concerned about labels and more about what needs to be done. For example, if you’re an early-career designer, fine, you just need to understand what needs to be done and what your client wants. If you can take it from the first principle thinking to know what needs to be achieved and how to achieve it, and then break it down, then you’re good to go. 

Has it always been Product Management for you?

Two months into my job, a superior asked me to learn code; he thought software engineering would pay me more. I thought writing code was boring. No, please.

Chika and Ayo at Enye Cohort 5 demo day

A lot of people don’t know the difference between a product manager and a project manager. Tell me.

On a high level, as a product manager, you are thinking about what you want to build and how you want to build it?

For project management, the questions change: what do we need to build it, what will be involved in terms of cost, resources, timeline, communication, et cetera?

But companies do not always hire a project manager; they just hire a product manager and call you what they like.

This sub is cooking!

I’m tired, please, but we move regardless.

Okay, tell me about your entry into Enye. 

I saw an open call on Instagram through a job recruitment page. Enye was looking for a technical product manager. At that point in my career, I was thinking about being a technical PM. I was wondering if I really needed to know how to code. 

I only applied for the role out of curiosity; I wanted to experience a technical PM interview. I received an assignment to improve an application during the interview, but I didn’t get hired because my presentation was not technical enough. 

I decided to learn coding so as not to lose out on future opportunities. I got a scholarship in Product School on coding for product managers. Fun fact, I’m still not done with the course.

Two months later, I reached out again to Uche and found that the person who was hired ahead of me had failed to meet expectations. I went over the issues the previous product manager caused with the team to ensure I would not make the same mistakes. I officially joined Enye in February.

You don’t ever give up, do you?

Never. We die here.

How has the experience been working as a product manager with several teams at Enye versus managing a single product in your day job?

Exciting! I love to have an idea of different things. I can be inquisitive, which is fun, but it can be annoying when it comes to personal relationships. I enjoy working on diverse projects like in an Enye cohort. I could have someone building applications on logistics, while others build data products, pension, et cetera. Working on a single product can get boring and monotonous, so working across products offers a refreshing dynamic.

What’s the most exciting thing about working in Enye?

Enye enables me to work without feeling like I’m working. Everyone knows I love Enye. There was a time I was getting overwhelmed with work, and I had to let go of some projects, but everyone knew Enye was (is) non-negotiable unless the team wants to let me go.

With Enye, it feels like I am a part of something big because of what we are trying to achieve. Helping engineers upskill land their first major roles with reasonable remuneration is rewarding, the same as assisting early-stage founders in building out their MVPs for free. The value we bring keeps me going.

Chika (2nd Left) with teammates at Enye Demo Day 5

What’s one tool you feel you can’t do without?

Notion. It’s a beast of an app!

When you’re not working, what can I catch you doing?

Probably bantering on Twitter, seeing a movie, or just pressing phone. I dance in front of my mirror too!

What’s one hot take you have that can double as career advice?

Do not be stiff. Be flexible. Be willing to do some things you will naturally not do to get to where you want to. Don’t have a straight-line path. It’s okay to have a plan and to say, “This is where I’m going and these are the things that will take me there.” However, it can help to stray a bit sometimes.

What’s one thing for which you’re thankful?

I’m thankful for my tenacity. I think it is my resilience that has gotten me this far. People see how relentless I am and instantly believe in me. I’m not trying to brag, but I think it’s one thing that has made me have conversations with people, and midway they say, “I believe you’re going to be great!”

I’m also grateful for my first boss, who gave me my first ever role. He told me that he believed I could do anything. Some months ago, I was reflecting on my career so far.  I sent him a random message, thanking him for his faith in me because if I did not get that job, I do not know where I would be now.

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