Tatiana Yudina

Product Owner at Akveo

Tatiana is an ambitious, creative, and result-oriented person crazy about doing her work on time, on budget, and meeting the clients’ expectations. She has a diverse professional background: 6+ years in business analysis, 4+ years in project management, 3+ years in product development, as well as in usability and user experience. Besides being the Product Owner and the Lead Business Analyst at Akveo, Tatiana is also a practicing psychologist, which allows her to understand clients’ needs and pains better, and build strong relationships with customers much faster. In her free time, she likes dancing, painting, and singing, and she continuously improves these skills.

Where did the idea for UI Bakery come from?

Well, UI Bakery is not the first Open Source product our team has made. We’ve brought to life Nebular (a web UI library), UI Kitten (a React Native UI library), and ngx-admin (an admin dashboard template). Ngx-admin has been especially successful, and actually, its success made us think about UI Bakery.

Here’s the thing: those who liked ngx-admin turned to us asking to make some changes in the ngx-admin template to make it fit their brand and business needs. One day, we’ve just felt fed up with all these requests… Kidding 🙂 Our team has always been known for their willingness to help customers, whatever kind of challenge they face. We just thought: why not transform this challenge into a unique product?

I should say that it has been a long way until we’ve finally decided to create UI Bakery. Firstly, we’ve made a totally different product: a company logo-based color theme generator for our ngx-admin. But we all have felt there should be something different, something more… global, ambitious, I guess.

We have made a great deal of work: a range of surveys, a whole lot of interviews with our current and potential customers, as well as our competitors’ customers, neverending research… But all these sleepless nights, shed tears, and dead nerve cells have not been in vain – our UI Bakery is finally live, and we are helping our clients solve their challenges.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I start my work with summarizing my previous day and planning the upcoming one. Since we are a startup, the situation can go topsy-turvy just in a few minutes, and we should always be flexible enough to cope with any changes.
Our competitor launched a new promotion campaign? We were mentioned in social media? New data insights were received yesterday? We have to be ready to respond to ANY kind of event ASAP.
To stay on the same page with our team, we have a meeting at 12 p.m. every day. The team consists of 13 members, and we all cooperate closely to solve any issues relating to marketing, sales, customer support together. It’s not always efficient to gather all the team members to solve a particular question, so we try to find the golden mean between arranging a long team discussion and having a brief conversation with just a few teammates (you know how all these meetings annoy, so why bother everybody without the need?:).
In my work, it’s absolutely vital to keep my eyes on the ball (I believe it’s vital in any work actually). Every day, I devote a good deal of time to communicating with our clients, studying analytics, and evaluating our competitors and their customers. Right now, we are working like Trojans to find our product-market fit. Hardly a day goes by without me checking various hypotheses relating to the product, a client onboarding process, and marketing activities. It requires a lot of communication and discussions within our team to make a better final decision.
To increase the productivity of my working day, I stand by a proven approach: I write down my plan for a day with a to-do list, and cross out the points I’m finished with. You can’t imagine how satisfying this crossing-out process is!
To make sure no one disturbs me while I’m busy with complex tasks, I switch off all the messengers and check them only once I’m finished with the task.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Generally, we use the GIST framework to prioritize ideas. What I like about GIST most is that it puts us down to earth when one of us pops in with some “brilliant idea that will change the world.”
We try to validate ideas as fast as possible, and we usually follow the “lean approach”: we prepare ‘a minimal solution’ just to check whether the user needs it at all. The main difficulty we face is that some ideas are really complex, so we need a bunch of time to make them work and deliver value.
As soon as we notice the demand for this or that solution, we start creating a prototype. Once it’s ready, all the functionality goes through comprehensive usability testing, and each of our teammates checks how the features work. That’s why there may be delays in the delivery of some functions, however, their quality is immaculate in the end.
Each of our new features, even the smallest one, must bring some new information about users. That’s why the analytics stage is so important here: prior to the day X (the release day I mean), we have to know for sure what data exactly will be collected, and what metrics will be influenced.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I’m fascinated by artificial intelligence for speech, voice, and action recognition. We at UI Bakery believe that the digital world is becoming more accessible for non-tech people, and in the future, they all will communicate with machines with the use of natural language and natural gesture.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Asking questions. I know that a lot of people hate it and see this habit as a sign of a sort of control freakiness. But for me, it’s one of the best ways to evaluate risks correctly and get as many details as possible beforehand.

What advice would you give your younger self?

At this point, I’ve got a little worried I don’t have a time machine…
I will surely advise the young version of myself to begin learning how to sell as early as possible, sell, and never forget to simultaneously build a strong network. In the B2B sector, sales and networking skills help find clients, increase their loyalty, and make them promote your product or services. If you don’t know how to do it, find the people in your team who will do this.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I’m sure that trying to do what a particular client asks for will eventually satisfy a wider customer segment than you expect. When you don’t have a wide client network and haven’t found your product-market fit yet, it’s crucial to check and verify various hypotheses. The requests we got from several clients have changed our product dramatically, but, to our surprise, we’ve filled a larger niche afterwards than we thought we could fill.
Consider each request you get from your client very seriously and attentively. If you get a weird (at first sight) request from a user, question your judgement about this user: their request may appear to be quite reasonable once you learn more about them, and understand the roots of their request.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Do customer research day and night. I assume that it’s one of the main entrepreneur’s activities. Moreover, it’s a background activity in which all our team members are involved. When we release some new feature, we conduct deeper research, and usually find new customer segments and discover the use cases that we have never expected to discover before. The main challenge here is to find the right customers, but if you succeed in it, you’ll save months of work.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I’ve found out that it’s too resource-consuming to search for an audience and sales channels for your product. So now, my strategy is not to look for a perfect audience in the middle of nowhere. Instead, I prefer to listen to the customers I already communicate with and develop the product focusing on their needs.
If you have some clients you’ve built relationships with, just ask them what they think you should improve in the product/services, and just do what they need if it sounds reasonable. And never be afraid to change your strategy on the go – this change may allow you to get revenue faster.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

My most painful failure happened when we announced a new feature well in advance before its actual release, and its release took us 3 times longer than we expected after all… As a result, we’ve got a range of disappointed clients who didn’t want to wait any extra minute (and I could understand them in fact) and left. Fortunately, we’re a startup, so our reputation was not affected that much. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of potential clients.
Now, we are trying to be more genuine and transparent to our customers. We’ve created a public roadmap so that anyone can see our plans and check the status of the upcoming features. In case we announce a new feature and then spend too much time finalizing it, we provide our users with early access to this feature by request. This way, most clients stay very loyal.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

How about digitizing day-to-day activities with artificial intelligence? It can be emotion recognition for emails or calls.
Or, for example, people who build apps on the no-code platforms are eager to get automated UX suggestions. So the information and knowledge that goes beyond their main business field can be really valuable for users.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I’m among those who follow the long-life learning concept. I’m sure that “money spent on the brain is never spent in vain”, so the best $100 I’ve spent on a business course. To be successful, people have to learn constantly to adapt to the fast-paced life.
And, to be 100% honest, I’ve lately spent $100 to buy a new suit. Some may think it’s the wasted sum of money, but I’m sure that a gorgeous bright suit makes it much easier to communicate and connect with people.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Previously, I was really crazy about finance management systems. My craziness culminated so much that now I feel that rational finance management is in my DNA, so I easily get along without these systems. I’ve learnt to be accurate, and never forget to take small but important routine steps, and now this skill help a lot in setting the processes in the team so that the whole system works smoothly.
Now, I adore Apple Notes. It usually happens that crazy but brilliant ideas concerning the product come to my mind at any time and any place – who can predict their occurrence? So Notes cope with their main task perfectly: I just briefly write down something and come back to this idea later when the time is more convenient.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

“People Skills” by Robert Bolton. The best book about communication ever! I’ve found a lot of practical advice there, as well as a really thorough analysis of the communication process. How to listen, talk without causing conflicts, be assertive, and resolve conflict situations if they appear. No conventional and obvious recommendations. Brilliant.

What is your favorite quote?

“We have to work not 12 hours, and head.” (Steve Jobs, according to Google)
I believe that laziness is an engine for progress. There is no reason to work the whole day long – it’s better to work less but be more effective. I often ask myself about what I can do to make significant progress…
It’s good if you improve something a bit to be on the go, however you should ask yourself from time to time: “What can I do to change the situation substantially?”

Key Learnings:

  • Do the things you have to do every day. No excuses.
  • Work should not 12 hours, and head.
  • Connect with people and build a strong network.
  • Be genuine, especially in failure, and people will trust you.