In this series, we spend time getting to know some of the people who make up the Procore culture.
Fatima Howes is a Senior Product Manager at Procore and has been facilitating ideas, building products, and serving as a liaison between Procore and our clients for the past three years. Before we dive into her interview, the video below is a window into Fatima's role as Sr. Product Manager.
Why did you choose a career in product management?
Growing up, I saw the range of impact that business and economic development had on human lives. I became obsessed with how this could be used to help people, which led me down an interesting path of public affairs, nonprofits, civil engineering, and eventually product marketing. I was determined to learn as much as possible about the many facets of businesses and their customers, and took on every and any job that I thought brought me closer to understanding. On my journey, it became evident that the tech space was trending away from creating vertical industries and towards infiltrating existing industries across the board. Product management was my opportunity to combine my curiosity with desire to impact people’s lives.
My experience at Procore is set apart by my ability to work closely with the customer and their excitement towards being involved in the process of building out the product. At Procore, working alongside the end user is the norm. With our software, Procore is solving for real-world issues, helping get people home safely and giving them time back. Although we leverage metrics heavily to understand our customers, our primary focus in direct contact is understanding our clients holistically, and in their own terms. Until recently, I led the analytics and machine learning efforts at Procore. For the past three years, it has been an incredible opportunity to see my team’s work directly impact a superintendents’ ability to get home to their families sooner or helping project managers sleep easier. I’m now working on developing products for new and adjacent markets and am excited to see our work impact new customers.
What’s it like working with our clients and the construction industry?
I am grateful to work with some of the most collaborative and knowledgeable people in the construction industry. As a team, we are continually learning from our clients and rely on their industry expertise to build innovative products. Procore clients have a different way of partnering with us than I think many product managers at other companies might experience. We rarely have to go outside our customers and users to get the information we need because they are eager to share their ideas and perspectives. They are familiar with with the complexity of our work and appreciate what we’re doing because in both the tech and construction industry we share common ground: building solutions!
Our clients are making a mark on human history and pushing society forward, building structures that will be a part of our lives for decades, if not centuries, to come. Being a company that is able to support the industry that builds the world is a humbling experience, which drives us every day to do our best. I am immensely proud to be part of an organization that fosters a high degree of collaboration and lucky to work with clients who welcome it.
Describe the working relationship between product managers and their squads.
We use agile development methods at Procore, which includes organizing our teams into small groups called "squads,” consisting of a product manager, engineers, designers, product marketers, and quality assurance engineers. We’re a close team and rely heavily on each other to do our best work. We want everyone involved early and consistently throughout the development process because the more divergent our thinking is, the more likely we are to create the best solution. By getting in front of each other early and often, we’re able to bounce ideas around, receive regular feedback and ensure we’re on track to deliver the most product value to our clients.
There’s a lot of humility in the way our teams approach problems. We aren’t afraid to admit what we don’t know and lean on each other’s expertise, this creates a powerful dynamic. Each person sees a problem and solution through a different lens. For example, product managers determine and define the “what,” but engineers focus on the “how.” So when a product manager and an engineer meet with a client, our understanding of the problem might look entirely different and we challenge each other to keep digging -- which is immensely valuable for getting to the best solution. We trust each other and work hard to earn that trust every day.
Why is continual learning so important to you?
I spent a significant portion of my life in Morocco without much access to education. Even after immigrating to the US in my early teens, I didn’t speak English, and the ESL programs were only set up for Russian and Spanish speakers, so catching up was a grueling process. However, the sheer amount of information I now had access to was too captivating to not take full advantage. It became my path to freedom. Because of that, I have carried a constant hunger and conviction to learn through every opportunity available. From learning about new technologies, new business processes, and especially new cultures, product management allows me to make learning my job. That’s a thrilling place to be.
What’s something not many people know about you?
I used to drag race in my late teens and still have a tremendous love for cars. Shortly after arriving in the U.S., I decided learning all about cars was more hands on than learning English -- so much so that I almost became a mechanic! There was a club on my school’s campus that met to work on and learn about cars, but I needed one to participate. I got a junk Nissan, welded some doors on it, and fixed up the engine enough so that I could not only use it in class, but also to participate in races. It was one of my first experiences building something and feeling a sense of accomplishment as the final product came to life.
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