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Podcast

Kelsey Houghton - Digital ethics in product design

Highlights

Are you interested in FinTech? You will want to listen to this episode with Kelsey Houghton, where she provides loads of advice. Kelsey covers many topics during her chat with Seth, from diverse hiring and thinking to what it is like being a woman in the tech industry. Read the article below for advice on switching from project management to product management and navigating complex discussions about digital ethics. Listen to even more of Kelsey's great advice in the full episode!

🚨 Get out of your own way!

Kelsey wishes she would have moved out of project management and into product management long before she did. If you are on a career path that is not exciting, figure out where your passion is and find a way to move in that direction. Do not waste time sitting in a role where you are not happy.

🎯 Get serious about digital ethics in product design.

You are responsible for applying digital ethics in product design decisions as a product person. If a business request falls into a gray area of digital ethics, build a case to show the long-term negative impact that decision could have on the user, customer, and business!

🔥 Focus on hiring for and working with a diverse team.

With a diverse team comes diverse thinking that will benefit the product in the long run. It is crucial to have different perspectives to open up new conversations that will only be discussed if a diverse group of people is involved in the design process.

Digital ethics in product design

In episode 35 of The Product Design Podcast, Seth Coelen interviews Kelsey Houghton, Chief Product Officer at Finotta, a FinTech startup that builds software to help financial institutions increase revenue while simultaneously improving the financial health of their customers.

Kelsey offers her perspective on many topics, including the difference between product and project management, digital ethics in FinTech, and the importance of diverse thought in product design. She also discusses with Seth the barriers she has faced as a woman in tech and the soft skills that can help build confidence when experiencing imposter syndrome.

Seth Coelen and Kelsey Houghton on The Product Design Podcast

How Kelsey found her way into FinTech

Kelsey originally graduated with a sociology major and was unsure what she wanted to do with her life. She began her career in project management but quickly realized that the idea of a career in project management was depleting and lacked the creativity and excitement of creating something new. During her time in project management, she worked closely with the product and engineering teams which she found very exciting.

Kelsey later found herself in an unofficial product management role during a project where the original product person was removed from that project. She took loads of Udemy courses to help bring her up to speed since she did not have any formal coaching available to her. She realized her intense passion for product and has not looked back since.

How to figure out if you want to make the leap from project to product

Being a self-proclaimed personal finance fanatic, Kelsey decided she wanted to move into FinTech with a focus on product. She had been learning and growing in that direction through practical experience working with product and engineering teams at finance and technology companies. She made a move and landed in her current role by thinking about how product management would be different from project management, realizing where her passion was, and ultimately taking a risk. Here are a few key points from our conversation to help you decide if you are ready to leap.

🤔 What is the difference?

A product manager or owner is like a mini CEO for that product. They set a long-term vision and strategy for the product based on business, customer, and user needs. A project manager helps execute the vision and priorities by scheduling tasks and ensuring everything gets executed on what the product manager set forth from their vision.

🚫Don't stay in a role where you are not passionate.

Kelsey wishes she would have taken some time to understand what career path sparked her passion earlier in her career. Instead, she spent a long time sitting in a career with no spark. Get honest with yourself and if you have experience in project management but a desire for product - figure out how to take a step in the direction of what will serve you throughout your career.

“If you're looking to break into this industry, just don't be afraid to take risks. Opportunities come when you least expect it and I never got a product job by applying to a product job. It was through talking to people and connections.”

🎯Say yes to things that scare you!

Kelsey has found the best points along her career path when she stepped outside her comfort zone and took risks. After hearing him speak on a podcast, Kelsey landed her current role by sending a LinkedIn message to Finotta's Founder. She reached out and asked if she could help him with his business and has been growing in her career at Finotta ever since. Take the risk, it may not always pay off, but it will move you forward along your career path.

Navigating the intersection of business value and digital ethics

Working in FinTech, Kelsey has a lot of experience dealing with digital ethics since her work impacts the financial state of real people and real money. Seth and Kelsey dug into digital ethics and how to approach potential dark patterns that could come from a business request. Here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that digital ethics are always at the forefront of your decisions.

📌 Understand the impact of business decisions.

Technology moves fast, but it is the responsibility of the product team to ensure all decisions made will create the best outcome for the user.

This responsibility extends beyond an exceptional overall experience and includes users' understanding of what they are signing up for. Ultimately you want the user to trust you, so keep their needs in mind at all times.

🚨 Don’t be afraid to push back on your manager or project manager.

If you receive a business request in the ethical gray area of design, make sure to raise the red flag. The person making the request may not fully understand the conflict between the request and digital ethics.

Build out a case of the worst-case scenario for the end user if digital ethics are not applied. Present your case to your boss or project manager and reinforce the long-term growth and success gained by avoiding a dark pattern.

📢 A diverse team leads to diverse thinking.

Working with and hiring for a diverse team allows different perspectives to draw from as decisions are made, and the product evolves.

A diverse team can help ensure that the product design decisions will help identify what is best for the user. Pairing diverse thinking with user research will create the best outcome.

“A lack of diverse thinking can result in products that don't meet the needs of their target users, without people realizing it, or that could even have unintended bad consequences to users.”

Thank you so much, Kelsey!

What an awesome chat with Kelsey this week. It was fantastic to gain her insight into digital ethics, the landscape of building products in FinTech, and her journey from project manager to where she is today. We are grateful for all of the tips and advice she shared for everyone in product design to consider when they are approaching a new project.

Listen to the complete episode on The Product Design Podcast, which dives deeper into Kelsey’s advice on hiring a diverse team and her perspective on being a woman in tech! Don't forget to follow Kelsey on LinkedIn and check out what Finotta is up to as well!

Where to find Kelsey

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