Sit down with Head of Product, Yasamin Karimi

As part of our ‘Sit Down’ series we spoke to Yasamin Karimi, Codat’s Head of Product.
Our brilliant Product team are instrumental in our growth and ability to continue meeting client needs, providing innovative new ideas and planning for the future. 

Yas has given some great insight into her team and some of the work they’ve been doing below. There’s no doubt that 2021 is set to be another exciting year for Codat, if you like what you read, please do look out for future opportunities with us. 

What’s your role at Codat and can you tell us a little about what you do?

My role is Head of Product. I provide the vision, strategy and positioning of our product to the market as well as lead the product function, making sure what we’re building ultimately aligns with the direction we want to move in as a company. 

Quite excitingly my role also involves a lot of focus on the future of where we want the product to get to in order to maximise the impact Codat has on the small business economy.

When did you join and how much have you seen the company grow since then?

When I joined we were about 30  people – I’ve been here for a year now and we’ve grown to 87. It’s been great to be part of Codat during such a transitional period of growth. The Product team has been a big part of that growth and I’m really excited to see where we get to in the next 12 months.

What’s a day to day like in your team?

The Product team spends a lot of their time speaking to clients & prospects about the problems they are trying to solve for their small business customers. Our Product Managers spend their time focusing on solving these problems. 

Quite often the Product team is speaking to almost every department in the business about something to do with what they’re building – I believe it is really important to position Product as an ally to the other teams in an organisation.

What team achievements are you most proud of?

In terms of the team, I’m super proud of the fact we’ve built a really strong product function that has a focus on the domain our clients operate in. The ownership and autonomy in the team makes us effective because we’re all really proud of what we’re building and every member of the team feels invested as a key contributor to our mission. 

I’m really proud of the impact we’ve had in such a tumultuous year for the world. In 2020 we’ve seen tremendous growth as a company, not only in client uptake & new product development but also on the impact we’ve had on small businesses. Codat worked with Lenders during the COVID crisis to remove the need for SMEs to manually share their data when applying for a loan. Having input into this really solidified our purpose.

What was your background before Codat?

I’ve been working in the Fintech sector since I left university, starting in payments and then moving into banking at Starling where I led a product function. This was also an API based product so it put me in good stead when I joined Codat. 

My love of product stemmed from a project I worked on when I was doing my year in industry as part of my degree. I’d been working on a big project that was going to be used by every major bank in the UK and as I was wrapping up I had this moment of realisation of the immense impact it would have on millions of people’s lives.

I remind myself of this impact regularly and it helps strengthen my purpose as a Product Leader.

How has the Product evolved since you joined Codat?

We’re a data business & ultimately API first – it can often be tricky to present the value of the product without having something tangible to show our clients. Because of this we’ve focused on design and user experience this year and just released a product that focuses on allowing our clients to visualise small business data in a slick new front end – that is powered by our API.

We’ve also just recently announced our first commerce integration with Square – real time sales data directly from a businesses commerce software coupled with their accounting data creates a full and accurate picture of the small businesses finances. 

Product teams can measure success in a number of different ways, which metrics do you favour and why?

Usability metrics are my favourite way of measuring success because there’s no way you can ignore how your clients are using your product. 

Setting clear expectations when you’ve decided you want to build a new feature is also really important. Predicting uptake vs analysing actual uptake forces you to think about why you had those expectations, were they unreasonable? What can you do to achieve the original goal you set out to achieve? Or should we be doing something differently?

Ultimately a large part of what anyone in Product measures comes down to impact – did it impact the business? Did it impact our clients?  This is particularly important for us because the impact is actually phenomenal when you think about the fact that small businesses make up 99% of all businesses in the UK.

How do you integrate User research into your planning?

In terms of tooling we use productboard to collect user feedback directly from our clients and to help us prioritise. A key part of client interaction is being transparent & publishing our roadmap – this opens up more opportunity for user feedback.

Although we don’t service SMEs directly, we’ve been speaking to small business owners recently to understand their challenges, ultimately this is what our clients are trying to solve. This allows us to pre-empt market needs rather than be reactive to our client base alone. I’m really excited about the insights we’ve been able to gather to date. This also brings us closer to problem focused Product Management.

 Product Manager roles vary hugely in how they are integrated into the business, how does the product set-up work at Codat and how technical do you need to be a PM here?

Great question as I’d class our product structure as unique – we don’t have internally facing product people i.e. Product Owners that are aligned to scrum teams. We’ve got Product Managers aligned to our key client segments. We needed people who understood the domain and could confidently speak to clients about how to optimise use of the Codat product. 

The Product Managers are often speaking to personas from different backgrounds – some technical, some non-technical. Ultimately our product is an API first and foremost so the Product team needs to understand APIs. Beyond that we’ve been focused on Developer experience and building an evangelist community – this type of role does need to be more technical understandably.

Finally, what does the next 12 months look like for the Product team and what are you most excited about?

We’ve successfully segmented ourselves as industry leaders in the accounting software integration space – we now have 18 integrations in total covering a wide range of small businesses globally. The next 12 months will see us looking beyond just accounting data and really focusing on the other applications that small businesses use to manage their finances and allowing these applications to speak to each other. 

I’m also very much looking forward to seeing the fruits of our labour in terms of focusing on design and the front end to compliment our API!

Underpinned by our product evolution, Codat continues to expand rapidly. We are always on the lookout for more talent and please have a look at our Careers page for any open roles or contact Zak Forbes, Talent Acquisition Manager at [email protected] to discuss future opportunities at Codat. There will be plenty in 2021!