Mentor Spotlight: Lamya Ezzeldin

Mentor Spotlight

To summarize Lamya's career journey in one line: University of Toronto Chemical Engineering → Operations Management (worked a variety of roles in one of Proctor & Gamble largest manufacturing plants) → Product @ GoBolt (managing a suite of transportation products for a fast-growing Canadian startup)

Where are you currently located?

📍 Toronto, ON

Describe yourself with 3 emojis 👇

🕵️ Analytical, good at getting to the root of complex problems and breaking them down into manageable pieces

🏋️ Love to go to the gym and always down to meet workout buddies

🌞 Thrive in warm weather, when I get to go to the beach and be outdoors with friends

Career Pivots

What prompted you to want to pivot industries?

I volunteered for some digitization work in my Operations role at Procter and Gamble. I ended up really enjoying that work, and taught myself to code (sort of). This sparked my curiosity about tech. I continued to work on several digitization projects and took several courses in product, data and design to expand my skillset and narrow down what I wanted to do next in my career. I realized that my strengths were in identifying and designing solutions to complex process problems.

How did you identify types of roles you wanted to shift to?

After speaking with my peers working in tech, they helped me identify that product management roles might suit me, due to the combination of the people leadership skills I gained at P&G with the process-oriented thinking and problem solving skills I groomed through the continuous learning I did.

How did you find your current role?

Through alumni groups in my university, I was able to discover roles opening up at various startups and companies that my former classmates were recruiting for. Eventually, I ended up interviewing and joining the startup that is now GoBolt. I also identified a few companies that I was curious about and started following their pages on LinkedIn for new job openings.

What was the interview process like?

Being new to the tech space in general, I struggled with product-specific interview questions, like product teardown questions. I had to try a few times to find an organization that was willing to take a chance on someone new to the product role. But what I lacked in “tech lingo”, I made up for in the case study, where I was able to showcase a solid-process thinking.

How has your thinking around career paths changed over time?

Borrowing from Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In: I shifted from thinking of my career as a ladder to thinking of it as a Jungle gym. I’m generally a curious, free-spirited person, so I like to think that the skills I’m building are transferable across roles and industries and that I’m free to follow my interests and pursue exciting opportunities as they arise.

I have also learned to really lean into my strengths more than fixating on my weaknesses. I used to work so hard on getting over my “weaknesses” that I ended up losing sight of and really leveraging the skills I was naturally good at. When I shifted to that way of thinking, I started to see some great results in my career.

On-the-Job Knowledge

What’s a business principle that you’ve learned in Product?

Shape Up by Basecamp - I like how it deals with prioritization of problems through data and how it incorporates “managing up”, through concepts like the pitch table, sizing an initiative to the appetite and using fat marker sketches and breadboards to clearly communicate and iterate on a solution.

What are 3 skills you think are foundational as a Product Manager?

Listening and “asking why” - being able to put yourself in the shoes of your user, understand their goals, needs and motivations. This comes from listening through user interviews and verbatims and questioning your assumptions about your product.

Methodical & Data-driven approach - Especially in a startup, where things can change quickly, I believe it’s important for a product manager to see through the chaos and take the time needed to truly validate that a problem is worth solving or that an initiative is worth doing. It’s easy to get swayed by the loudest stakeholder in a room, but being able to ask the questions and collect the data needed to qualify and prioritize different problems is key.

Communication - As a PM, you will be interfacing with a lot of individuals within your company. Being able to take everyone on the product journey with you requires you to communicate through a number of channels. This includes being able to translate data into stories that all your stakeholders can understand, as well as providing updates, challenging people and asking questions in a way that still makes people feel heard and understood.

Advice for someone diving into an ambiguous problem for the first time?

Use a process map, a flow diagram or a user story map. If possible, try to go and see the problem in  action. Start by mapping it out at a high level, then continue to add more and more levels of granularity to your problem. I find generally, depending on the problem, it can be abstracted into themes or high level steps and looking at each individually can help communicate the problem and the break it down into all the separate pieces that need to come together in order to solve it end to end

How do you think about Learning & Development (L&D)?

I like to work in sprints when it comes to L&D - I will spend 2-3 weeks diving in, reading books, attending talks and courses, doing my own research, then I spend 2-3 weeks reflecting on that, applying some concepts and iterating on my existing product approaches. I find breaking it into phases like that helps me really absorb the content and form my own opinions on it. I usually have a general direction of what I would like to learn more about, as well as some guidance from my manager on areas for improvement in my role.

The Commons

What is your favorite part about being a mentor?

  1. I get to help and give back to a community that has given me so much
  2. I get to level up my own product skills in the process and learn from other great mentors
  3. Meeting new people in product and other areas from all over North America

Has there been anything unexpected from participating with The Commons?

Being a mentor is a challenge in its own rite. While I’m still at the beginning of my mentor journey, the shift from learning to “coaching” has already taught me so much already about being a better PM and a more empathetic, helpful person in general.

Favorite way to stay involved in the community?

I haven’t had the chance to join one yet, but I like to join in-person events, both work or non-work related 🙂

Tell us about your role!

What’s the role, your team, and company?

I’m a Senior Product Manager at GoBolt, one of Canada’s fastest growing startups. I work on a suite of transportation products, most notably our proprietary vehicle routing engine, real time delivery tracker and driver mobile application. Gobolt’s mission is to simplify logistics and provide a sustainable, tech-forward approach to last mile logistics. My team supports that mission by driving towards efficient routing, which minimizes emissions and ensuring a superior customer, dispatcher and driver delivery experience.

Tell us about a cool project you’ve worked on

Project Objective: Improving the customer experience on the day of delivery, particularly of heavy items like furniture or appliances
Project Overview: Provide end customers with real-time visibility to their delivery in order to help them better plan their day around their deliveries.
Your Role: Product manager, working within a small, scrappy team of 3
What Made It Interesting? Going through the whole process of conducting user interviews, we were able to identify the main areas that were contributing to our end customers’ stress on the day of delivery. We found some areas where we could differentiate ourselves from other trackers to bring the convenience of parcel deliveries to heavy/hard to handle. Ultimately, the most rewarding part was seeing all the positive reviews from customers flowing on after the launch, along with the boost to customer satisfaction metrics. We also saw this feature strengthen several merchant relations, as we were able to better represent our partners’ brands and offer their customers a better experience.

What's the most challenging aspect of your role?

Balancing the needs of multiple stakeholders and user personas. With a smaller engineering, product and design team, it’s critical to prioritize and work on the highest impact objectives. I manage it through relying on data, implementing systems and rituals to track the health of our products and questioning and asking why to each request that comes in. It also helps that I work with very supportive leaders who I can freely and comfortably communicate with in case I'm blocked or just need to validate my approach.

Advice for someone who wants to follow your footsteps

What advice would you give to your former self at the beginning of your job search?

1. Cater to your strengths; don’t fixate on your weaknesses.

2. Follow what you’re curious about and always check in to make sure you’re feeling fulfilled at work, and if you’re not, why not and what are you going to do about it?

3. Make time for continued learning and growth throughout your career.

Who has been most helpful in supporting your job search and career in general?

The connections I made at university through clubs and extracurricular activities have helped me tremendously. Having met and worked alongside people who ended up in so many fields has given me a network of peers and mentors that I’ve been able to reach out to at each milestone or fork in the road. They helped me by explaining the different roles in tech and offering their advice on which roles in tech might match my skills. Having worked with me before meant that they knew my strengths as a problem-solver and driver within a team, and knew where I could add the most value to an organization. It was a former university club teammate who first got me interested in product management.

Some fun stuff!

Your favorites:

📰 News: The Peak
📚 Book: Non-fiction “Inspired” - Marty Cagan | Fiction, but relevant - “What You Are Looking for is in the Library” - Michiko Aoyama
🎨 Outside Work: Weight-lifting, dragonboat, cocktail making, crochet, & travel

3 other fun facts

1. My guilty pleasure is competition-based reality TV, anything and everything

2. I grew up in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

3. I make custom cocktail menus for all my friends’ events

Interested in product roles in tech? Hone the skills you need to succeed in the Product Sprint, and get 1:1 support from mentors like Lamya!

Interested in more?
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Mentor Spotlight: Aritra Ghosh
Meet Aritra, Product Manager at Azure (Microsoft) and Product Mentor at The Commons!
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