An Interview With Rachel Kline
In the realm of business, particularly with regard to tech products, growth is the key to success. However, navigating the journey from ideation to expansion presents its own unique set of challenges. How does one devise a strategy to ensure sustained growth of a product in a competitive marketplace? What are the best practices, strategies, and methodologies to accomplish this? In this interview series, we would like to speak to experienced professionals who have successfully driven product growth. As part of this series, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Filipe Torqueto.
Filipe Torqueto is head of US solutions architect for Sensedia, a leader in API management and microservices helping companies overcome diverse challenges to implement increasingly digital and integrated businesses through APIs. He is an accomplished solutions architect specializing in APIs, microservices, and serverless technologies with a decade of experience in software development processes that transform organizational requirements into robust technological solutions and bridge the gap between tech and business. He brings extensive expertise in Java software development, implementing container-based applications within Kubernetes environments and employing CI/CD processes to drive seamless software delivery and is an expert in public cloud platforms such as AWS and GCP, he leverages EKS, GKE, SQS, Google PubSub, and DynamoDB to create scalable, reliable solutions.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before diving in, our readers would love to learn more about you. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m Filipe Torqueto, head of US solutions for Sensedia. I’m a huge sports fan. I started my career as a software developer 18 years ago when I was only 15 years old and have stayed in tech the entire time, holding many roles. I started as an intern, worked as a software developer and architect, and spent time in technical product management roles.
What led you to this specific career path? I started my career developing software in product-based companies.
I’ve always worked in product development at companies focused on developing an actual product. My first intern role as a developer was for Inner Radio, helping them develop software to manage their programs. The path moved me from logistics and banking development to where I am now, working with a more technical product at Sensedia. It was a natural progression. I’ve experienced technology change, but I have always stayed in a product development career and haven’t shifted from that path. The last five years at Sensedia have been fantastic growth years for me, and it’s been fun contributing to the organization’s expansion and innovation.
Can you share the most exciting story that has happened to you since you began at your company?
As Sensedia expands internationally, I’ve been able to meet many people from different countries and experience new cultures. My role continues to evolve, and now I’m moving from Brazil to the US, staying with the same company and working the way I’ve always wanted to work. It’s exciting to open a new market in a country and culture that is new to me. This is the biggest career leap for me, and I’m excited to help US companies become more agile and connected through Sensedia’s API platforms and expertise.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I work with so many interesting companies and projects, and we have many case studies on Sensedia’s website. One that’s especially unique is our work with Cyrano, an AI company designing products to help people communicate better with customers. The founder cares deeply about ethical AI and wants to make sure the company’s powerful product leads humans to take positive action and is not used for harm. His ultimate goal is to enhance mental health care and improve the effectiveness of therapists’ communication with their patients. We’re helping the company find solutions to ensure ethical development and use.
Another project I’m enjoying is providing architecture and support to a new fintech, Localight, investing in what they call “local cash.” The company focuses on small businesses and community financial institutions to keep the cash flow local. The company offers an advanced tech reward program to help the small players differentiate to reach more customers and grow neighborhood markets.
You’re a successful business leader. What are three traits about yourself that you feel helped fuel your success? Can you share a story or example for each?
I’m objective driven. When I have an objective, I use all my resources and energy to meet it. This drive has helped me advance.
I also prefer to have longevity with companies where I work. In tech, it’s common for software roles to change hands every one or two years. I’ve been at Sensedia for five years.
Finally, it’s not just about me. It’s about the people I work with. I want to see people grow, and when I’ve left roles, I’ve prepared people to take over in my place. I make sure I have someone I’ve mentored and encouraged who I know will do a good job.
Do you have any mentors or experiences that have particularly influenced you?
During my career, I’ve been fortunate to have had many mentors. I worked at a software company for ten years. My manager helped me to evolve from intern to junior to mid and senior-level roles. The senior roles involved supervision and connecting with customers. I had to expand my developer hard skills to include people skills. In the next role, my manager taught me even more about people skills and management. I had little experience in that area, and she helped me grow. When she left her role to join Sensedia, she asked me to join her, and that’s how I landed at Sensedia.
I’m learning more about sales and marketing now. My mentors here include our co-founder and Chief Growth Officer, Marcilio Oliveira. He teaches me so much about sales since he grew Sensedia from scratch. Our CMO, Lisa Arthur, brings experience from big companies and has a lot of knowledge in marketing, people skills and soft skills. We talk almost every day, and it’s a pleasure to learn from her.
What have been the most effective tactics your organization has used to accelerate product growth?
Target user business first. During the product design, always keep business challenges in the center and focus on solving them simply and effectively. Sometimes, product development can deviate from the path. It may be tempting to implement new features during development, but that may move the product design away from its business intent. Remaining focused on the business challenge and feedback from the users and team should stay front and center through the development of any product.
Optimize onboarding. Fast, user-friendly and personalized onboarding experiences bring the customer up to speed with the product as quickly as possible. Invest time in how customers use the product to solve their business problems.
Build strong partnerships and ecosystems. Normally, at the enterprise level, the challenges demand multiple solutions to focus on specific areas. Building a solid partnership and ecosystem enhances the final user experience. Creating beneficial relationships between different aspects of a complex business scenario is an excellent way to support solid product growth strategies.
What do you see as the biggest challenge with respect to scaling a product-led business?
Scaling challenges can vary depending on the product’s nature.
Find ways to maintain the product’s quality and performance over time. Customers and business leaders expect products’ features and user experience to improve over time. These enhancements increase the infrastructure’s complexity, adding pressure to teams working to improve it. Maintaining quality and performance and keeping a clear view of how the product is evolving is crucial.
Focus on customer care. A product is expected to be intuitive and to provide value to businesses with limited friction. Keeping solid support and service quality for customers is vital and can be an enormous challenge for a product-led business as they make changes and grow.
Prioritize the best features. Ask customers what they need and clarify which features are most important for the product. Pay attention to feature scores and user feedback loops to evolve the strategy with a clear vision of what is most important for the product.
Keep an eye on the competition and the market. Competitor analysis and market volume are clues to identify new market segments to differentiate your product. As markets become saturated, finding ways to be unique can become a significant challenge.
Consider embedded partnership ecosystems. Joining forces with other businesses that can complement your product with new services can be a way to enhance products and scale without the need for further development. When your product can be embedded with others, it can create an entirely new journey for your customers, generate different revenue streams and enhance your offerings. Often, it’s a win-win and a game changer leading to exponential growth.
I’ll also give honorable mentions to determining the right monetization strategy, choosing retention vs. growth, and creating the right team culture.
What, in your view, is a good litmus test to screen for a skilled and effective growth manager?
I divide it into two aspects: the technical side and the human side. On the technical side, managers must have analytical and strategic thinking alongside execution capability. They should create strategies to bring success and overcome failures and obstacles. They need the proper technical knowledge for their industry and a good understanding of the aspects of their digital product.
On the human side, leadership and teamwork are essential. Product development involves consistent communication so teams can resolve conflicts and foster collaboration. Moreover, ethical thinking and judgment are required for product growth. While growth is the goal, human and moral needs can be boundaries the manager needs to understand and act on to achieve healthy growth.
Can you describe a product growth tactic you or your team has used that was more effective than you anticipated? What was the goal, how did you execute, and what was the outcome?
My experience with an insurance company comes to mind. The organization was developing a product to centralize multiple insurance companies and provide quotes for different types of insurance in real-time. They wanted users to be able to purchase policies in real-time and facilitate brokers’ tasks.
The product directly targeted brokers who needed to deal with multiple insurance companies to provide the service to final customers requesting different insurance types. During the launch period, we realized brokers commonly use different software vendors for the job. A slight shift in the strategy tackled those broker software vendors to embed the quote and purchase service into their software and naturally provide it to the brokers. A small investment was made to build a pilot with some of the vendors. We tested the approach and checked the hypothesis of embedding the product in the broker software. This approach was a huge success, leading to an exponential volume increase.
Thank you for all of that. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what are your “5 Best Ways to Drive Product Growth”?
1. Work with the business challenge.
Have a clear view of the customer and business problems you intend to solve and keep that view in the forefront of everything you do so your new solutions don’t become new problems.
2. Optimize Product Market Fit.
Ask for consistent customer feedback. Adapt quickly to customer needs within your business.
3. Use Data-Driven Marketing.
Find the tools to analyze behavior and identify effective ways and channels to acquire and retain customers. Segment your user base to deliver targeted and personalized messages.
4. Discover new partner ecosystems for expansion.
Research your market regularly to find and build partner ecosystem programs that allow your business to be more flexible and pluggable with embedded products that drive enhanced customer journeys and experiences.
5. Enhance product value with add-ons and features.
Enhance the core product and create new experiences for the final user. Find complementary products and services to cross-sell that add value to the customer experience. Engage users through community building and turn customers into advocates by getting continuous feedback to allow for better evolution and product improvements.
What is the number one mistake you see product marketers make that may actually be hurting their growth outcomes?
It is hard to define just one, but for me it’s not clearly understanding the target audience. This leads to sending the wrong message to the market, ineffective positioning and using the wrong channels to deliver. This misconception hurts the entire growth strategy.
It has been said that our mistakes can sometimes be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Fresh out of college, after my first internship, I was in a mid-tier role. The company gave me an opportunity to develop some customer-facing skills and placed me on a banking project. The US-based bank was opening branches in Brazil. English is not my first language, and I was very inexperienced. I think I committed every single communication mistake. I kept saying “taking advantage” in a meeting and the bankers looked at me oddly. My manager told me I wasn’t using the phrase in the proper context, especially since the project involved the prevention of money laundering. I also made some product development mistakes that required me to reboot the same feature four or five times. Mistakes helped me learn, and I can laugh at them now, even though they were challenging at the time.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
My pick would be Jeff Bezos, because of the legendary Amazon API Mandate. This mandate has served as the foundation for Amazon since 2002, changing the corporate mindset by bringing API capability to the forefront. APIs are still revolutionizing the way our digital world connects. It would be interesting to find out if the legend is true and to learn more about how Bezos and Amazon evolved into such a game-changing marketplace. I’d also like to ask him what he’s envisioning for the future.