For many years, I have been a noteworthy leader and powerhouse in product management. I have dedicated my career to creating outstanding, world-class products and investing my time to educate the next generation of product leaders. My mission is to make the world of product management more accessible for diverse product makers entering the field – providing insights and authentic experiences for the next generation to draw from.
In my current role as Senior Product Manager at PayPal, I am responsible for collaborating with global stakeholders, leading the strategy and development of new products while supporting the career development of the product management teams. At PayPal, I am a recognized mentor that leads with charisma to bring cross-functional and innovative products to life. In my previous positions, I partnered closely with key members in various industries to develop the entire life cycle of products, envision and define product vision, and achieve optimal performance levels.
I have always been passionate about sharing my wisdom and experience with beginner product managers. Partnering with Product School, I have the unique opportunity to contribute to a community of over one million product professionals, sharing my industry insights to help shape their effectiveness and leadership. At Product School, I host webinars teaching the importance of leading with empathy, and gratitude and utilizing soft skills, interpersonal characteristics, and building coalitions. I also host Product Management Certification courses, where I guide product managers joining the space. In addition to my various teaching opportunities, I regularly volunteer my time at the University of Washington’s Product Management Center. There, I engage with and offer insights and guidance to empower product management students from historically marginalized communities.
In addition, I actively use my website and podcast to engage with fellow product managers and provide valuable content that helps expand their careers and create clarity from ambiguity. You can read more on www.ronkepm.com or tune into my podcast “Product Magic” on your favorite listening platform!
KISH: What is your dream and how will accomplishing your dream benefit you and others?
Ronke: My dream is to eventually become a CPO (Chief Product Officer), a role that will enable me to continue building people and products, and lead with empathy, gratitude, and vulnerability. In addition to setting well-thought-out and tactical product guidance within my organization. This opportunity will encompass helping to set the objective, the goal, the vision, and the mission. In addition, I will be able to help build products that will shape and change lives in our communities for years to come, I want to do these by safeguarding we have diversity in our viewpoints and the inclusion of those different from us, so that products would have the same reach, they would be created with everybody in mind.
Diversity and inclusion are essential within the product management space because our cross-functional teams are made better by them. We can only build efficacious, best-in-class products with individuals from unique cultures, backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs.
A diverse product management team powers imagination, ingenuity, and creativity. It provides organizations with a competitive edge. In addition, when cross-disciplinary teams include individuals from unique ethnicities with different interpretations and experiences, we strengthen our propensity to comprehend the requirements of our current customers, leads, or prospects.
When product exploration encompasses a wide range of thinking, the product can be built into something everyone can use regardless of race, ethnicity, and circumstances. So, if we create products that work for everyone, we can increase our customer base, allowing our organization’s revenue to grow. Diversity is essential to building best-in-class products.
KISH: Who or what inspired you to pursue this dream?
Ronke: As a Nigerian American who arrived in the United States at age 11, I wanted to excel at whatever I decided to do. One of my earliest mentors was my grandmother in Nigeria, who managed so much having so little. I always felt it was important for me to make my grandmother proud since she sacrificed so much for me to have a great future. My grandmother was an orphan who was raised by her grandmother; she never had the opportunity that I have been privileged to have, yet she managed to raise a family and motivate us to be the very best. It was very important to my grandmother that I not only finish high school but graduate from college as well. This I did and began setting goals beyond a college degree and into a career path that I have today.
KISH: What challenges have you encountered while pursuing your dream?
Ronke: I am a successful African American product leader. I am humbled by how far I have gotten in my career. I’m driven, motivated, intelligent, graceful, and I lead with humility. I’m profoundly grateful for my story in all of its messy brilliance. The person I am today evolved throughout the years because of four women who took a chance and mentored me.
I am a product of my village. They have guided and supported me at various stages of my professional and personal life. They all took me under their wing, provided me with truthfulness, robust advice, and support – even when I did not realize I needed it or wanted it.
When certain opportunities have not worked out for me, when I am dealing with personal and professional setbacks or failures, they ask me what is next?
I have learned from these incredible individuals the importance of getting up after disappointments and missteps. Owning my mistakes and, most notably, the importance of not running away from challenges but instead running towards opportunities.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson of all, the impossible may take a long time or cost money, but it is possible – and I am a testament to this life lesson.
KISH: Who or what inspired you to keep pushing regardless of the challenges you’ve encountered?
Ronke: There are opportunities that await us all when we choose to follow our dreams, even despite them looking impossible to achieve. What keeps me going is my desire to be a part of history.
I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to use my leadership voice to help shape the next generation of diverse product makers. I look forward to making the transition easier for them, or even blaze the path forward. Afterall, when we use our voice, we can create everlasting change that impacts future generations to come.
KISH: Please provide final thoughts/advice for others by finishing this sentence… dream.
Ronke: Using your voice means providing a light in the dark. Change can only transpire when these lights burn magnificently, preparing the way for others.
The generations of women who came before us always looked behind to see who was there, who needed help, and they pulled them up. When there was no opportunity, they created one to make our path much more accessible. They were only able to do that because they preserved. Therefore, we must continue to develop new opportunities for the next generation of women that will need our help to shatter the glass ceiling. It all starts with a dream.