#AFEXTechDiary 2: Take a Leap of Faith in your Career

Mariam Tobun is a significant contributor to the growth of AFEX’s technology stack. She is deeply passionate about optimizing our business processes and the larger commodity value chain through technology. In this article, she shares her experience leading an army of product owners and managers to drive digital transformation.

Tell us briefly about yourself

My name is Mariam Tobun, and I am Head of Product at AFEX.

I lead the development of products and features that transform AFEX’s business challenges and customer needs into innovative digital solutions. I am also responsible for identifying process gaps and automating the AFEX business process while defining strategies to take products from ideation through to launch.

How did you get into the tech space?

For this, I will say that tech chose me.

My journey to tech was a case of serendipity. I had been looking to move to Abuja for family reasons and stumbled upon an opening at AFEX. At first, I was very reluctant to take up the role as I was concerned that it might discount all of my previous experience as a business strategist, and that is mostly the case when you make a career change. In my case, I was switching into a new industry and a new role. Scary!

It was a sink or swim decision at that time. Looking back now, that was the best career decision I made.

How does your involvement with ComX/WorkBench impact lives? What are some of the activities you’re involved with?

One of our key responsibilities in the Product Management Squad is to identify user pain points and design solutions that best address this. One of the numerous ways WorkBench impacts farmers’ lives positively is through the provision of an electronic warehouse receipt which is simply a proof that farmers have access to a secure system whereby they can access storage for their agricultural commodities and that serves as a collateral for better transaction fees.

Basically, as a registered farmer on WorkBench, you can benefit from guaranteed off-takers and access to cheaper financing for business expansion.

ComX, on the other hand, is mostly targeted at retail investors. We impact lives by providing a platform where people can invest in commodities and grow their income. These people would ordinarily not have been able to invest because of the high capital required to play in the commodities space.

What is it like working as Head of Product at AFEX?

Challenging, fun and fulfilling are the words that come to mind really. In my role, I am constantly interacting with stakeholders (various levels) while also carving out time for learning, analyzing, and making strategic decisions about my product’s future.

What skills should someone in your role look out for?

Aspiring PMs should consider three primary factors when evaluating a role: core competencies, emotional intelligence (EQ), and company fit. Beyond shipping new features on a regular basis and keeping the peace between business, engineering, and the design team, the best PMs create products with strong user adoption that have exponential revenue growth and perhaps even disrupt an industry.

Tell us about what you’re working on now and what your biggest challenge is?

I am currently working on finalizing the plan for the year. The biggest challenge on this is really prioritization. See, when you must build products/features for multiple departments who will, in turn, use those products to achieve their own target it becomes extremely difficult figuring out who gets what and when. You must negotiate on the features/product that will be built now, later, or never build. Factor in the fact that the human resource you must work with is limited and stretched it becomes a more difficult task. But hey, that’s what I am paid to do.

Who would win in a fight: Gates, Musk, Cook, Bezos, or that kid at Facebook?

The business fights I presume? I will say, Bezos.

If that guy could see the future of what the internet will become at a time when no one thought anything out of it and built businesses that made him the billionaire he is today, and you add on his customer obsession philosophy! My money is on Uncle Bez.

What aspect of tech most excites you?

User Acceptance Tests.

When you have put in so much work in building something and it is time for the user to test? It’s adrenaline time!

When the user tests and accepts, it makes the whole hard work worth it. It also gives me a sense of satisfaction knowing that this will improve their life one way or the other.

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Stay tuned to the memoirs of our Tech Xperts as they reveal their experiences and drop some deep, expert knowledge in the tech space. Watch out for the next part in our next post. Follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn to stay in the loop.

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AFEX

AFEX’s infrastructure and platforms drive capital to build a trust economy in Africa’s commodity markets.