“Most people ‘fall’ into Product; because business-product context is key - we usually start our careers doing something else usually tech related.”
We’re in Cape Town this time chatting to one of our product owners, Leon. He sat down with us to speak about what a product owner actually does, and how they fit into Team Luno. At face value, our product owners focus on setting, prioritising, and evaluating the work our engineering teams do.
That’s where the special spice gets added to get us #ToTheMoon, but now let’s find out what makes filmmaker-turned-Product Owner, Leon, tick.
I’m a Luno product owner in Cape Town, I’ve founded my own businesses, produced a feature film, and my current goal is to make Luno’s product the best in the market.
- First computer: A monochrome Epson, I think, this was slower than my next PC (x286, 20mb HD). I attempted to run Grand Prix off a 1.55 floppy disk but it just couldn't handle it. So I upgraded to the x286 life and spent the rest of the year playing Wolfenstein 3D instead. Of course, I had to figure out that I needed to edit that config.sys and autoexec.bat to get enough of the first 640k available.
- Fun fact: I directed my first feature film in December.
- Prized possession: Weber 56” Charcoal BBQ.
- Challenge: Skydive with a wingsuit over the Cape.
- Favourite travel destination: Llandudno beach at sunset.
Team Luno: You worked in Australia for almost 6 years, what made you come back to the Mother City?
Leon: I fell in love with Australia. It's a superlative country and Sydney is my second home, filled with lifelong friends I made while I was there. Australian culture is unique and incredibly special. The Cape, however, is truly the most beautiful place on Earth. The combination of city, mountain, beach, and wine farms all within 15 minutes of home makes this place a joy to exist in. That and, of course — The Secret Gin Bar.
TL: And since moving back and joining Luno, what has stood out for you?
L: Winning the internal Lunosaur competition, and producing an episode of the “IT Crowd” for our company offsite that we dubbed “The Crypto Crowd”. But, the true highlight is having a team of fellow PO’s (product owners) to bounce off, share, and grow with. You see, Product can often be a lonely role if it’s just you at the helm, so having a team to share the ride with is an absolute treat.
TL: Do you have any advice for someone trying to become a Product Owner (PO)?
L: Because the business/product context is key, most people ‘fall’ into product ownership. We usually start our careers doing something else, that’s generally tech-related. Then an opportunity will arise and we’ll have the chance to do an aspect or two of the full PO role. We get a taste for it and find it either finally scratches that itch you never knew you had, or you leave a person-shaped hole in the wall as you run for the hills.
Product is a curious beast. It is an intersection between business acumen, software development, creative thought, logical thinking, stats, data analysis, customer empathy, stakeholder and people management, long term strategic thinking, and short term tactical ability. To add a sprinkling on top, you need to quickly context-switch between all of these aspects on a daily basis.
I would say Product is an ideal fit for a curious mind, and someone who loves to be in a state of continual learning, exploring, leading, and sharing. If it’s something that you find yourself wanting to actively target for yourself as a career from the outset. On the other hand, for a more hands-on, planned approach you might check out any combination of software development, data science, business, or even an MBA, and you should be able to get your foot in the door. But be warned - it’s one of those roles where experience is vital to success.
I was building Flash websites at the time (being my own soon-to-be one-man-band- PO), and doing QA on the side for a startup in Sydney when some of their PO work fell into my lap. The PO role was still a relatively undefined and unknown role at that time; for me, it was a feeling of, “Hold the phone, they’re actually gonna pay me to do this?” I was hooked.
TL: What was the most exciting product update to work on?
L: At Luno it’s been building our tokenised credit/debit card feature which has empowered our customers to securely and compliantly save their credit card details. Thus allowing for faster, easier deposits — meaning buying that beautiful Bitcoin at the right time is now even easier than before.
TL: What keeps you busy other than work? Any interesting hobbies?
L: I dabble in filmmaking. I make really cheesy music videos, and I’ve been writing and producing a feature [film] that I’m aiming to direct at the end of the year. Photography and cinematography are great hobbies, too, but directing performance and visual literacy is where the real fun lies for me. I often parallel the worlds of product and film-producing, and their surprisingly similar required skills - it’s an interesting study.
TL: What's the most exciting part of working for a crypto company?
L: The overall passion naturally infused throughout the teams for everything crypto stands for, and what it will become. I mean, in what other industry can one spend their days surrounded by intelligent, passionate, out-of-the-box, fun-loving people, plus a view of Table Mountain out the window as you work on upgrading the world to a better financial system?
Leon’s enthusiasm and passion for Product is contagious, and while you've read those PR articles about how ‘fun, thrilling and fast-paced’ it is to work at a fintech company, we believe it's important to get your info straight from the source.
We were in London for our first Life at Luno chat, where we spoke to Engineering Manager, Amo. We hope our Life at Luno series inspires you to choose a career off the beaten track.
Look out for our next Life at Luno series, and get even more of a taste of what it’s like to work for a company changing the financial future. Has this piqued your interest? Take a look at the various engineering positions available in our Cape Town team.