This article aims to explore some misconceptions that are commonly encountered in the field of Design and User Experience, as well as philosophies the Brankas team uses to achieve our ultimate north star.
The Product Lens of Mike Dickinson: Chief Product Officer for Brankas
Mike joined Brankas this year and is leading the team full steam ahead. He grew up in Indonesia and Australia and believes his diverse background contributes greatly to how he breaks down and solves problems. Mike has always been passionate about finding solutions that help people. That’s his philosophy and CPO mission. As Product Head, he says the work days are almost not enough and are normally packed with meetings. The Product world is an organized chaos and Mike appreciates every moment of it. Mike shares a bit of his journey leading up to Brankas, his best advice, and where he thinks Brankas is taking the future of financial services.
Tell us a bit about your background and growing up in Asia? I was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, and later on had the opportunity to move to Australia. My parents loved to travel and that was naturally instilled in me. My holidays were spent in the rural areas of Indonesia, where I witnessed the realities of poverty.
The struggle is real, and if I was to be a little morbid… Life is cheap. When you see a person without any legs, only one arm, sitting on a handmade ‘skateboard’ to move around, filling up petrol at a gas station to earn some cash to get by, it hits pretty hard.
My family and experiences growing up shaped my passion for solving problems that help people. For example, at 16, I assisted different communities in Jakarta construct better housing in the villages.
These days, I enjoy time with family. I believe that family allows you to teach and be taught. Cooking is one of my favorite activities. It promotes creativity and leads to a happier life. Sometimes, I like to get lost in space. Astronomy teaches a thing or two about humility.
How did you find your way into the startup world? My first role at a start-up was a Business and Quality Analyst. That taught me a lot about piecing together products and I’ve been building products since. I worked in e-Learning, Human Resources, Hotel, AI, and now, FinTech.
I had my share of working in the corporate world but moved away from that setting because of politics and how it slows down people’s capability to get things accomplished. When I moved from the last corporate job I had, I made a vow that I wouldn’t join an organization like that again. Haven’t regretted it since. It’s a good feeling to be able to get things done, and know that you (and your team) have an immediate impact on the world.
What’s your experience working in different parts of Southeast Asia? There are close to 670 million people here, from countries which are incredibly different from one another. And then there are hundreds of ethnic backgrounds in each of the countries. Singapore, with its wealth is incredibly different to Jakarta - most know this. But I find it fascinating when people think that they don’t see a difference between Bangkok and Jakarta, when those two cities are worlds apart in culture, diversity and ways of thinking and doing.
Understanding how each society in this part of the world takes time and patience. Showing that you understand how each culture ‘works’, learning some of their language, goes a LONG way in what you can and can’t do here.
My recommendation for anyone that spends any time to work and live in SEA is, when you get the chance, avoid the main destinations. Go spend some time in a remote village in Vietnam, see how people live. Try what they eat.
One of our Tech Leads is based in Bali. But he decided not to work out of the popular tourist-y spots of Seminyak or Canggu. He lives 15 minutes north of Ubud, in a remote village. I genuinely believe this contributes a lot to one of the most humble people I’ve met in a long time.
How did your previous start-up roles prepare you for leading Product at Brankas? At Xendit, I learned how payment rails work, and why working with regulators/banks closely is so important for a larger goal.
At Ematic, I learned why data is so important for product scalability.
At Siteminder, I learned why direct customer insight is incredibly important.
At RedBalloon, I learned that being lean means you can move fast (the honeymoon period as I call it), but the moment you have customers, your priorities shift pretty quickly.
Across all, I learned how important it is to build a strong team, and you need to invest the time to do this.
Product (and life) lessons to share?
Build your own start-up or try joining a mega early stage start-up. The best product managers I’ve met have tried building a business themselves, and (usually) know what it’s like to fail.
Show empathy. You need to care. And then you need to solve.
Devil is in the detail. Go deep on problems, but learn how to come out of them again to understand how to lead a team to follow a roadmap.
Learn your technology. Not asking you to become a Go maestro, but learn the fundamental building blocks of how your products work.
Reach out to your customers. Don’t ever shy away from doing this. Learn UX research techniques. In fact, do whatever it takes to talk to them. Your internal teams provide one perspective, however nothing beats a direct conversation (with the customer).
Know what customers need, not what they want. Identifying this is important.
Have a scientific mindset. Identify the problem. Hypothesize. Then solution. Don’t start with the solution - ideas are cheap after all.
What’s your biggest challenge on the job? Although our products are still maturing, they solve specific problems and we have a great amount of demand for them. Our biggest obstacle will be working with banks and regulators to show the benefits of Open Banking so that we can enable the rails of financial access.
The infrastructure that our products foster will lead to the birth of new start-ups and new products. I believe in our products because it is going to enable new and creative ways of solving problems.
What excites you most about working at Brankas? We are building the blocks to improve people’s lives. I am proud of the team for wanting to build fast. I worry about external blockers that we have limited power over. So we put a lot of effort into showing our partners why Open Banking is important, and hence why we proudly wave this flag.
Our innovative products at Brankas open an immense opportunity to be the fabric of better financial infrastructure in the region. This is a fact.
It excites me that not only can we help bring the mentality of Open Banking to this region, we can also power the infrastructure that will enable people who have extremely limited access to financial services and financial education have access to a better future.
Are you interested in a career in fintech? Join the Brankas team
Brankas is bringing Open Banking to Southeast Asia. Our vision is to make modern financial services available to everyone.