After 2 years with Employment Hero, Ray decided to expand his expertise and enrol in the Product Management: Elevate course. Find out how Ray’s new skillset is helping him hatch a plan to make financial advice accessible to everyday Australians. 

What were you doing career-wise before studying Product Management?

I’m formally educated in social psychology and worked for a number of years in financial services. Ongoing changes to the financial services industry has resulted in some questions as to how accessible advice is to everyday Austarlians. Often, advisers need to see a minimum level of income or wealth in order to justify the investment in advice.

I started with Employment Hero a couple of years ago and immediately started working on a service that would leverage the power of tech and offer financial and wellness advice at scale. My team and I challenged ourselves to break down the barriers that prevented everyday Australians from developing their financial literacy. Our long-term goal is to create an environment where people earning an average or below average income are able to easily access sound guidance on how to make the most of their personal finances. 

For the project to be a success and really get the most out of technology, I knew I’d need product management skills and a solid grasp of the fundamentals that go into building an optimised product. I wanted to learn how to manage a development team, and make sure we were using the power of the Employment Hero platform to its full potential. There was a gap in my skillset that I wanted to fill, so I started exploring Product Management courses.

Why did you choose to study with Academy Xi? 

After I’d carried out my research, it came down to choosing between Academy Xi and a couple of other providers. When I downloaded the Academy Xi course guide, all the modules were broken down very clearly and I could easily sense the depth of what I would learn. For a 12 week course, it seemed very comprehensive.  

I spoke to the Academy Xi sales team and they sent me a link to the course mentor’s LinkedIn page. His resume included some really heavy hitting companies. It was reassuring to know that the course would be led by someone who’d had such a distinguished career as a professional Product Manager. 

Plus, a team member I work with had already taken an Academy Xi course and was really impressed by the whole experience. In the end, I picked Academy Xi, and I’m glad I did – I made the right choice!

How would you describe the course experience?

It was much less prescriptive than a degree or other formal education courses I’ve taken in the past. There’s an advantage to learning Product Management with the freedom to experiment. When you have an opportunity or face a problem in the real world, there’s not always going to be a clear roadmap to follow. Instead, you have to think critically about what tools suit the situation and improvise the best possible solution, which is exactly what we learned to do throughout the course.  

The class worked on two projects, one for Cellar Door Society, which is an online marketplace for wine lovers and another which was a personal project of our choosing. We were given a brief that involved using the Product Management process to increase revenue and optimise the business. The process uncovered some really unexpected results in both projects. I’d never have guessed what we’d end up focusing on in order to improve each company, which was a great way to learn the power of the Product Management process. 

My contribution to the projects allowed me to practise scoping projects and leveraging tech, which is exactly the exposure I needed for my role with Employment Hero. 

How did you find working with your mentor?

My mentor was Dane and he was fantastic. Dane was a brilliant facilitator and did everything possible to keep everybody fully involved. Recognising that lots of people in the cohort would be new to Product Management, Dane made a point of giving each individual time to talk and the chance to answer questions. It gave everyone the chance to ease themselves into the course and develop their ideas. 

Studying in an online environment makes it that bit easier to find a corner to hide in, but Dane made sure that the whole course was a really inclusive and engaging experience.     

Throughout the course I had two opportunities to sit down with Dane and deep dive into my Product Management questions. As well as getting practical advice about my assignments, I also got the chance to talk openly with Dane about the industry. Being able to build a relationship with someone who’s got such a high level of professional experience was invaluable. 

How did you find working in teams?

I really enjoyed it. We would break off into group discussions during the live sessions, which gave everyone an opportunity to learn firsthand what someone else’s interpretation of the same information was. I think it’s possible to go down a bit of a rabbit hole with your own ideas, and it’s not until you talk to someone else that you realise there are all these other possibilities to consider. 

The course is condensed into 12 weeks and you’re trying to develop your knowledge in a relatively short time frame. For that to happen, it’s really important to have other people that you can explore and test out your ideas with. As well as Dane, we learned so much from each other. There’s a course requirement that you provide feedback on your peers’ assignments, so we were actively involved in one another’s progress. 

At the end of the course, there was a big round of LinkedIn invites between the cohort. We had a pretty cool group, so it’s really nice to keep an eye on what everyone’s been up to professionally since graduation.

How are you applying what you’ve learned with Employment Hero?

Employment Hero is a business that just about doubles in size every year. Naturally, that level of growth presents a bunch of new opportunities. As a product manager, it’s my job to decide which opportunities to follow and how to allocate our resources. I have to make sure our teams’ efforts are focused in the most effective ways possible.  

My role involves understanding the risks, rewards and feasibility of possible projects. I have to come up with a project hypothesis and then present it to the leadership. It’s crucial that I’m able to validate my proposals, and the Academy Xi course has put me in a much stronger position to do that. I can suggest projects that are carefully considered and backed up by a really robust process. 

Once everyone is onboard, those projects are broken down into action items and divided into sprints. I work with product developers and it’s important to articulate a clear vision of the project’s underlying purpose. Everything I learned throughout the course helps me impart an understanding that even the smallest tasks can positively impact a project. That way when the team is working on the project, no matter how small a decision is (for instance changing the colour of a font), everyone will have a clear understanding of how their work impacts the overall product vision. The course has put me in a strong position to ensure everyone’s contribution is aligned. 

Would you consider taking another course further down the track?

Absolutely. In this space, I believe everybody should always be willing to learn. For anyone involved in tech, the skills you pick up even a few years ago can very quickly become outdated. This means you have to be on the ball and always willing to update your skillset. 

The whole tech industry is about change and innovation, and your career needs to be an extension of that. As soon as you decide that you’ve learned enough, that’s likely to be the point when you get overtaken by someone who’s still pushing their boundaries! In the not too distant future, I’m sure I’ll be taking another training course and expanding my knowledge. 

What advice would you give to someone interested in studying Product Management?

It might sound obvious, but I’d say make sure you take it very seriously. The guideline workload for the coursework is 10 hours a week, but don’t be tempted to take any shortcuts. It’s an opportunity to seriously advance your career, so putting in anything less than the maximum will only be a disservice to your own ambitions. The course gives you full access to a wealth of learning material, and you should spend as much time digging into it as possible. 

I set my alarm for 7am every Sunday, shut myself in a room and spent a solid block of time going through the assignments and all the learning content. In the end, my hard work really paid off. The Product Management: Elevate course has equipped me with a bank of formulas and techniques that I can use to solve problems in my day-to-day work. Whatever obstacles I encounter, I have the toolkit to troubleshoot them and devise the best possible solutions. In that sense, the course has set me up with know-how that will serve me for the rest of my career. 

Finally, would you recommend Academy Xi?

100%! Based on my experience with Dane, Academy Xi mentors are passionate subject matter experts, and not just people in the industry looking to make a little extra money on the side. They’re industry professionals who are at the top of their game and it’s a real privilege to get their time and attention.

Ray Jaramis

I’d also recommend Academy Xi for the sheer amount of material the students get access to. I now have a paid Notion subscription, which is basically a web-based personal wiki that gives me access to all sorts of articles and subject matter expertise. There’s this deep library of expertise that I’ll have at my fingertips for the rest of my career.  Regardless of what crops up in my role, I’ve got the know-how and resources to respond in the best way possible.

Learn how to take a product from idea to launch with the Product Management: Elevate course.

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