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#GirlsWhoProduct with Rute Costa, Head of Product @ Farfetch

by Productized Podcast
October 14th 2020
Listen to this #GirlsWhoProduct podcast! Rute Costa, Head of Product at Farfetch, studied Economics in Lisbon. She became passionate about Technology during college, when a friend introduced her to In... More
girls who product tells the stories of amazing women to inspire others to follow their path in the product area. This project is supported by Zalando Hi everyone, and welcome to the 10th episode of season Free Off Girls who brought a podcast. My name is Elena, tis otta and I will be your host today. So what is girls? Product? Girls Product is a serious of interviews with women that have been able to beat the ceiling and become successful makers, entrepreneurs and agents off change. Our mission is to inspire, connect and empower more people to get into product rolls. Our guest today is Route Costa Roots studied at Lisbon School in economics, and she became passionate about technology during the college when a friend introduced her toe Internet applications. So she is now the head of product

at Farfetch, and she started to work as a consultant for a firm specializing strategy and product for telco companies, and later on, she worked with global teams and ended up in the fashion industry. At Farfetch, Root is currently head of product and where she enjoys working in a platform leader for luxury products and the state of the art technology and the product practice. So when she is not a work, she loves spending time with hair to kids and well, or as you can see from hair break ground, she loves to read eso higher it and welcome. And thank you for being with us today. I Elena, thank you for hosting me and, uh, like such a pleasant end up the afternoon. Thank you. Thank you. So we said that during the college you felt in love with internet applications. What made you passionate about the tech words? So

I was in college by the end off last millennium, which is before 20 20,000. Um, so, uh, in college, I was introduced to Internet, my friend that explain me, what was an email like Hotmail? I don't know if everyone in the coal remembers what that is. Onda Web portal like yahoo or supper in Portugal. Uh um it was my first turn in this amazing world. Soon after, I bought my first Internet dialect CD because the internet was like that by that time. Andi, I start accessing Internet at home. Um, for the ones that are older, like me, they can recall the sound off the Internet dialogue for the ones that are younger. They don't. Um everything was amazing by then. The ability to reach information from all around the world is such

a quick way. It was an open door to knowledge, Remember, I remember those directories, um, that organized by categories where you could, like, find the sites that you wanted before, like Google was a thing. Andi, I had a Brazilian pan friend that I have never met before. We exchanged, uh, physical letter since I was a teenager. Suddenly I could exchange emails with her on one communication that usually took, like, one or two months to come, Uh, could be done in within the same day. That was amazing for me because it was like, whoa, game changer. Uh, I felt this was it was very like a big revolution. When I finished my degree back in 2000, we were in the middle off off a big Internet bubble. The telco sector was lib arising in landlines third more, while of graters

were lunching in every country. New Internet startups were appearing everywhere On my end, of course, was all about these changes in this sector So the more I learned, the more I liked on the more I was sure that I wanted to be a part of this. Most off the people that finished economic by then we're going toe a bank or auditing or other financial institutions. So comparing these two worlds by opposition made me think that I wanted to be in a sector where I could pushed where we pushed to build new things. New products, new ways of life on the Internet was all about that. So that's it. It's a great You were like a pew, near exactly and regarding technology. What impact did you think technology was going to have at that time? And how? How

did your view on that change today? So back in 2000, we were like in the pick of the Internet bubble. Um, the overall vision was that e commerce would rule the world, Aziz. Well, Internet access will be a commodity in cell phones, and everyone will be always on connected. I think that vision by that time was almost science fiction. Um, was not wrong in reality, and reality at has proven that however, everyone thought it would be quicker than it. Waas. I think Internet speeds and devices did not evolve as fast as the vision, and so it took some years to truly make it happen. It was amazing for me to see this information to see this transformation in the first road. One thing that surprised me was

that when I first started toe working on the Internet, most off the content was produced by companies by media companies like newspapers, TVs, radios at some point, all off this change. And we moved to a world off Web 2.0 where anyone could contribute where user generated content dominated the content production through blog's social media. First I five my space or could and then later Twitter, Facebook, instagram and now YouTube, Ticktock, whatever. So they changed. But it's always the same concept. I think that this is that this has made all the difference. Suddenly, any person could appear could be a writer or a rock star on bond. That's the amazing thing about about this, because friendships and human connections could be digital and not

only physical. I think back in 2000 I never saw it coming like this. I realized later. But not at first. Uh, that my my choice choice off career was even more exciting. Um, I always loved thes psychological sociological part off technology. Ah, with impacts people's life. And now it impacts economy. Before college, I was in the size about what degree to choose either economics or more sociological things. Never thought technology, to be honest. But I think technology has made the two worlds coming together in a brilliant way, which is amazing. Yeah, And you started your career in the telco related company as consultant. And then you ended up in the fashion industry, right? So how was your experience off this

radical transition? Well, yes, that's quite a change. And meanwhile, I pies Best Buy Digital media and hospitality Thio. Well, to answer your question, there was always a common line throughout the way, which was Internet and technology. Starting as a consultants made me of a glimpse off the future because we were selling dreams to the telco operators that helping them making them true two on that made me fall in movement with technology do the way it impacted people's life. If you see, Telco was the first sector to be where technology impacted without connectivity and advanced devices. There was no Internet APS or sides, so I started there by launching a broadband Internet in in a I S. P

than mobile Internet in mobile phones advance its Internet solutions for companies Back in Teoh 2000 and two, I think we were implementing mobile Internet connections, but the cell phones, then at Warp brothers, non touchscreen, black and white. So imagine no one cared about Internet with a device like this. Right then. IPhone and Android came and as well as interactivity in TVs, and it changed the world. So I started working in mobile Web in several content taps for Mobil's and TV to accelerate the use off Internet in in these devices, I was thrilled to be a part of the first launches in IOS APS in Portugal at Suppose portal on the first inter interactive APs in Male in Mel TV or connected TV's So Do You Remember like

the Commando Monday meal, which is the slogan off mail like to Toby ableto interact with the TV. At some point, I wanted to move from just doing Internet content and media on start working on e commerce So my first project was in Sapporo, where we started to do a marketplace for small shops to sell online. Then I moved to mail online store, where we sold mobile funds and also telco services like tariff plans On. After that, there was an opportunity to lead the commerce site off the biggest hotel chain in Portugal, extended with hotels in more than 15 countries and customers all all over the world. So that movement toe a global team and the ability to toe work with customers outside of Portugal with in a website localized in several languages made me want to move away from Telco and get to tourism and hospitality

, which is one amazing sector. Where I learned a lot from tourism to fashion at Farfetch wasn't I think, was an easy decision because although tourism is an amazing sector, Kristen had had no technology like Internet technology in their DNA and core business. As I experienced back when I was in Telco, um also, um, they did not have the scale toe make me evolve and learn in product as I wanted, and I was used to do when I was in Belgium. So that is how I got too far fetched and fashion on did. It has been an amazing journey to be able to, um, work in a true technology company. That is the lending platform for Lux global luxury fashion industry in the world. It is such a amazing opportunity and journey so far. Our fetches a sector

that empowers individual individuality and that is very connected with human feelings and styles. Eso I work in the area off loyalty. So we are always trying to understand the customers the way they live, the way they engage with us. So it's very grateful and related to death. How does the attitude towards technology and innovation differ between the telco and the fashion industry? So I think Telco is a very technology driven industry by the finish in their evolution is closely related to the evolution off technology. 40 years ago, people add like land life phones to communicate with each other. No one could even think off what would be Internet right. Uh, today my kids are surprised when they see a landline phone and asked me why they need wires. E

got that question some in a day back television was Anna logic to Onda. We needed toe watch it live right when I was a kid. Otherwise, we'll lose our favorite program. My kids don't know what it is, right. They live in the next flicks and YouTube era, the TVs interactive. You can go back on the mound. Exactly. So the telco industry evolved a lot as technology evolves. So we've seen its DNA to evolve like this. Right? Fashion. I think it's It's different, in my opinion, the production part off course as several production evolutions regarding technology. But where we are seeing a biggest revolution, in my opinion, is in retail. So lately people are changing the way they buy fashion. Previously, the physical store was at the center off the experience

, and people needed to rely on the availability off the inventory that they had to choose from if they wanted, like a piece that was on Lee sold in a boutique in Italy. They had to travel there to buy it right. Nowadays, all of that has changed. Technology is democratizing the access to fashion, so companies like Farfetch allow any designer brand or boutique to send toe any customer around the world. So people are influenced by social media. They can try it out items virtually sometimes they can get stylist advice remotely. They can buy from their phones any peace they want on they it gets shipped anywhere in the world within days, Right? This is powered by text. Apology. Also in shops, things are changing your shopping experience. There's shopping experience with magic mirrors

that show you the catalog off all the items that that are either in stock in the shop or can be shipped afterwards on. Farfetch is developing a innovative solution in this field in our store of the future business unit, so customers can have, like an infinitive, range off supplies anywhere in the world, and not only on the biggest cities in Europe or us. Thanks to technology, I think, uh, they can buy anything from any boutique in the comfort off their sofas or beds. Right? Uh, today I had a VPN farfetched that that said, when I bored, I do shopping at my bed. So that's that's That's the way it goes, right? Without the need to travel to park, to carry their shopping's or even get infected with Cove it, which is like a thing that made our cells a rise right

on. If something goes wrong, they came, just return it for free on without assholes. So this is transformation, led by technology. So and in the same way it's driving the industry. The pandemic has has shown how important this is. Yeah, also, with artificially augmented reality artificial intelligence, virtual 15 rooms, everything is possible can try it out. You can try like, yeah, sneakers or classes are Yeah, whatever. That's one instagram field. There is everything exactly and so earlier you said that you wanted to learn more about product. So how did you become a product? Woman? So when I was in college learning economics and finance, I always thought I would be working in a financial institution or when I finished my degree, right. But then, as I said

earlier, I fell in love with technology, sector, off, Internet and telco. So I applied for a consultancy company specialized in strategy on product for telco on Internet companies. My first project was to launch a starter, offer travel websites and then afterwards, a game website and then a real estate website, and it never stopped there since then. That's how an economic economist, I think becomes a product woman. I'm always excited to understand the customer problems on Do See How technology can help to solve them. The evolution off customer research methods, the data analytics and experimentation has brought product management toe a very advanced level of customer centric city and data driven. Which my background off economics as a I am input thio give, uh

, in my opinion, I think this is what motivates me the most. I definitely love to see and learn from all the interviews with the with customers to be able to put myself in their shoes and understand how the product can succeed toe, look at data and understand how customers are reacting to our tow, our developments. So that's what amazes me. Yeah, And so all these economics background And so my question is, what's the biggest challenge about being a product woman with an economics background? And do you think you have some locks in the beginning? Do you think you still have some lacks? How do you figure it out? I think product is a very complex role. Um, it has a big component off technology off course, but it has many others like psychology, sociology, economics, the economic side off. This is very important

because we want to launch successful products that are also viable products right on that have behind the business model that is able to ensure return on investment. So, off course, when I'm in the middle of a more technical discussion, things may get hard for me to understand everything on go to go deeper in details. But as you move upwards in your career, my degree in economics and my MBA, because at some point I did in MBA, help me on on a more strategic discussions and help me positioning and market the products by building a better way. S o. I would love to see a degree or false crowding product with very diverse subjects, from math toe psychology, from coding to economics. I I have a colleague that say's that being a product manager is like being a CEO off the

product. You must know a little bit off everything. Oh, yeah, it's an interdisciplinary role. Exactly. And so, speaking about customers and technology that are at the forefront off today's scenario, So why do you think that just to expect so customer and technology are important even more if they are inter twinned in over 20 years of experience as a za product manager, I realized that these are the two things that must come together. Customers century, city and technology. One cannot live without the other, and each one can influence the other Onda. Those things need to be present in every industry. Ah, what I love Maurin product is how we can create products that can change people's life. But to be able to do so, we need to deeply understand their

customer needs when they are explicit and even when they are not explicit, because technology may create needs that are not yet clear, right? I give you an example, Uh, for instance, back in, I think 2000 and six, we did some user research where we inquired groups off people about the willingness toe have social media APS in their mobile phones. This was science fiction back that very mind exactly very in mind that at that time there was no mobile broadband, no mobile, flat tariffs, no smartphones or, like not as we see them today on the iPhone was not launched yet. Neither android. So most off the people said they saw no need to update their status

or upload videos or photos in real time for their phones. If you look today, social media apps are the most used in mobile. So we created the need with technology, right? Um, technology drives, customer needs and customer needs, drives technology. They cannot live independently that I think it's one of the most valuable things I learned and influences me as a product managers. Yeah, that's that's really I, uh, a deep thought. And so we're speaking a lot about technologies and applications. So, in your opinion, what's the best technological application? What's your favorite one? Uh, I don't think I ever single one. Um, I have many. Most off my favorite ones are related with communication, So I truly understand I truly

understood the power off them when we were all confined during the lock down, right? So I'm grateful for all the communication Hap's that lead has stay in touch with the most important content and people. We were apart. So can be zoom or micro Microsoft teams that allowed my kids to every mote schooling or blue jeans, Google dogs and slag that enables me to work remotely every day, or even what's up, Or instagram that made me stay in close with my family and friends. So with them, I never felt truly alone during this pandemic. There was always some there someone there at the distance, off a chat, right? Can you imagine going through epidemic like this without this communication? APs e crazy? Exactly. So I think that's my favorite ones. And so you have two kids

you were mentioning. So are you transferring your passion about technology to them? Eso, my youngest son has completed eight years. Last week on my daughter is nine. We gave them two laptops during pandemic epidemic due to remote schooling. Before these, they only use like gaming APS and tablets or cell phones. We thought it was too early for them to start on the Internet. We know the good and the bad that it can bring toe a child. So we always thought they should be more mature to understand. Uh, that and we kept postponing it, knowing too much off. All things are done, I think, and the dangers that could bring makes me worry about it sometimes. So That's the reason why I was postponing it. But

both have programming lessons at school, and the oldest one thought, uh, teach the my son out to code in scratch, which is a programming language for created by M I. T for kids, for Children on DSO, he started to explore YouTube channels about thes reading books about programming games. Andi alone did more than 120 projects during the summer holidays and published some, so she did some more, too. I don't know how many, but they were so excited about this, that they even some days they didn't want to go to the beach because they wanted to be at home programming. Scratch games. So nurse exactly. So I don't think I need to incentivize or transfer my passion to them because they inherit somehow is asking

me to teach him patent, which I don't know eso. I think he has already surpassed me in technology at the age of eight, so well, yeah, I also didn't know they were teaching coding at eight years old Children in, and that's impressive in their school. They are so it's very good. Yeah, and do you think being a mother as an influence in your career. You have two young Children. So how do you manage to be both a successful head of product and the mother? It's quite the challenge, right? Uh, well, off course. I think our career is influenced by everything in our lives, right? It's on avoidable. Being a mother made me a better human being. I think being a manager, a team manager, too. Um, I bring knowledge from both and they changed them. So being

a mother made me understand that things are not black and white, Um, right or wrong, good or bad, there's a multitude of gray zones that you need to acknowledge and understand. Being a mother made me be a better listener on seek for good advice to give made me be more kind but more demanding to eso. Being a mother made me understand. It's more important to teach them how to fish than to give them the propelled mules, the meal eso all of these learnings are really important to my life as a manager to eso all the learnings I have as a manager and I was a manager before I was a mother are are really important to my life as a mother. So I think I exchanged things from, uh from both sides. We started to think as as a team and not as

an individual. Your success on well being is your family or team success trying? So you need them. But it's difficult to combine off course. Sometimes you feel that you are doing a lousy job in both. Um, any hour that you that you need to steal from your family to finish something at work is a now, er that you are you are losing with your family an hour that will never come back because they grow and they grow fast. Um, the opposite is also true. Any hour that you need to spend with your families emails were training, team development, whatever that you are not doing eso. What I learned so far is that you need to find the right balance. You cannot feel bad about this. If you cannot find this balance in the long term, you may risk toe lose both. Right. So I think Farfetch is a great company

toe work because it promotes this kind off work life balance. So the days are really demanding and busy Like, for instance, today I had launched within 10 minutes. But But the schedule, your work schedule is respected. So I'm confident that I can live work at six every day to pick my kids at school. So now I am. In fact, I'm in fact working from home during Pandemic and my schedule is like 8 to 5. So I have much more time to support my family. So I'm really happy about this, and it zvehr e far away from the life work balance that I have in the beginning of my career as a consultant. The funny thing that I concluded so far is working more hours is not working better hours. So the diminishing returns rate that we learn in economic classes really

apply here. I think that if a company is able to respect this, uh oh is able to attract and motivate a brother, range off talent, uh, then otherwise will not come, or we'll move away. As a manager, I want to respect that for my teams to Yeah, efficiency is very important when you work, and also when your mother and so this looks very, very exhausting So what is your strategy when you need some time to relax? Eso When I feel that I'm very tired or stressed out, Uh, I try to do either sports or to read the book like I do Body step, run sometimes. Like just walk in the woods sometimes. Or read the good book usually a fiction book toe. Get my mind out off everything that is related with business during this

pandemic. I used to do this quite a lot. I start to read more, and I'm grateful for that. Also, I started to read with my Children English books because they can read Portuguese books. But English is not is tricky. Eso they need some help to understand everything. It's quite good when we share a reading with someone you can comment on the spot. Everything that is Is that so nice? Very nice. Yeah, I can see you have a lot of books behind you. So do you have any books recommendation for us? It is a small sample. Um, yes. Um, for a za product manager would recommend. Inspired by Marty Cagan. It's a book that tells us to structure and staff successful products organization on now to discover, in deliver technology products for customers that are that they will love and that are viable. There

are several examples there that to inspire ourselves, um, from more personal style. I love to read biographies. Eso I could. They could be biased or amid crucial facts or difficult parts. But in general, you you learn a lot with their lives, right? So I read like Walt Disney, Michelle Obama, Philip Knight from Nike, Jeff Vessels, Elon Musk or off course, Steve Jobs and Jack MMA. So some off the biographies that I read and they are awesome, all of them thank you very much for the recommendations. And so we're speaking about your passion. So we'll go on with this. And we know that you are the first secretary off the General Assembly at group of musical executive pasta. So yeah, I try my best. Would you like Thio? Give

us some more information about this. Yeah. So it's a non profit organization in my neighborhood where I grew up and where I live. Still, um, it aims to organize cultural and sports activities for people that live nearby from all the from all ages, has a folk dance group. It has music classes in traditional instruments, Portuguese traditional instruments, gymnastic. It had a football team where I played for 15 years. Ah, girl at 100% girls team on dso more activities. Eso I participated in several of these activities during my life on it. It's a way to keep close with clip close contact with my roots, where my parents and grand parents lived on where I did my first grade school. Eso ITT's away being the first secretary. It's a

way to give back some support to this organization without, well, like within the limitations off my busy life on the small contributions. Uh, toe, it's community. Oh, that's it. That's a great initiative. I love music. And so it's It's amazing also for all the sports and everything. So, um, do you have any advice to give us for someone that would like to start a career in the product management area or maybe just want a change off direction? I would say that independently. Off their background, I've seen people from all different backgrounds being successful, the most important thing to have as a product manager. It's customer centrist city and the data driven. If you were both, um then you have what it takes to be a good product manager. That's

it Could be an economic degree like myself or a technology. Anyone, thank you very much for for the advice. Okay. And so I would like to start with the questions from home. So if you guys have some questions that you would like to ask Ruta just right here on the chat and in the meanwhile, we have already some questions. So I will start with the one from Paulo Olivera. So hey, would like to ask you nowadays requests are multiple and rather impossible. So how to say no? Well, it's always difficult to say no, right. You have to say no to your stakeholders or whatever. So e think we need to find the balance every time

. You need to find a balance between the business Onda customer, right, Andi with within those two and the technologies, it's ah, 33 angle things. So you need to see if technology will support this. How easy, How how is the effort to do that? If customers will value this, and if the biggest viable for the business and will make the business growth. If you sum up these three angles, you you can prioritize on by prioritizing you ship the best things you'll deliver the best things toe the market and to your customers. Thank you very much. And so we have here another question from Lyceum. Sabra. Sorry if the pronunciation is not good. And so the question is how pandemic influenced Farfetch business growth

. It has a Z influence any commerce company, right? So, people, um, from one day to the other, they stop going to retail stores. Retail stores closed for a while, so people started to transfer their their way off buying toe online. Some of them already watched in the past and they start buying more for others were the first time, and they get, like, good experience about this. So they keep involving, and they keep buying it. So this has accelerated all the commerce industry because of that. Okay, thank you very much. And so I think we are. We're done. If there are no more questions from the from the chat, Okay, There is a question, actually, so Wait. Okay

, so the question is high route. Also afraid Keep kids Parent here does your kid used the PC Laptop or tablet for this sketch programming. Use the laptop. The left off. Okay, thank you very much. Okay, guys. So I think we are. We're done. And we have ah present for you. We have a 20% discount in the purchasing off all our tickets, so you can go on our website. Just one ticket you want for the conference for the workshop, whatever you want. And you can use route 20 as discount together. 20% discount off. Also, don't forget to join ours. Lack channel that you can find on our website. And there you can also have a channel with the books recommendations. So route. If you want to join us, you can just put your books and everything you want to

share with us. That would be great. And guys, let's see all of you at the conference And where we will have a lot of speakers from all over the world. So, guys, thank you very much for your attention and route. Thank you very much again for being here with us. Thank you for having me here. It was a pleasure. Thank you. Have a good evening. Bye bye. Bye bye.

#GirlsWhoProduct with Rute Costa, Head of Product @ Farfetch
#GirlsWhoProduct with Rute Costa, Head of Product @ Farfetch
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