Overcoming the Fear of Talking to Users

When I got my first position as a product owner, it didn’t take me long to start contacting our users. I was eager to find out what they were doing and how our tool could benefit them. My calendar was full of meetings and there were more opportunities to explore than the day was long. But when I started at my second PO position, I realised that I was not as excited to talk to people. I was downright afraid.

The fear I felt was quite familiar. It was the same feeling I had in school when I had to stand in front of the entire class and do a presentation. A presentation, I was not well prepared for.

Once I started thinking about it, it all made sense. The first tool I worked for was used by people in a Quality role, a domain I understood well. The questions to ask came relatively easy and I could guide the conversation to get as much information as possible. Additionally, the tool was quite new when I started so the backlog was small and it was not hard to shape according to the input of the users.

The tool I am currently working for though, is used by developers who want to set up a deployment pipeline. Even though I have some knowledge of the fundamentals, I felt I was in no position to ask intelligent questions. I was afraid to contact any users as I didn’t want them to feel they are wasting their time talking to me. Furthermore, even if the tool is not that old it already has a rough roadmap in place. Without fully understanding our existing strategic decisions I could be asking our users irrelevant questions, leading nowhere.

Being in the privileged position of sharing the PO role with an experienced colleague, I had the time to do the only thing that could help me overcome my fears. Study. This is how my study topics clustered:

In the upcoming posts, I will write down what is helping me learn as much as I can about these specific areas and hope to hear even more tips and tricks from others.

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