When you are working with the largest health care company in the world, there are roles in every position. Get to know the ins and outs of growing a product marketing and management career within a Fortune 6 organization. We talked to Jeff H., Strategic Product Director at UnitedHealth Group about his view of the opportunities available within UnitedHealth Group.
Q1: What makes a product career at UnitedHealth Group unique and what skills do you need?
A1: Consider the four P’s of Marketing—Product, Placement, Price and Promotion. Product Managers deal with all of these but “Product” is the most important. Product Management has a slightly different skill set than Product Marketing, which tends to focus on “Promotion”. Product Managers come from all over the organization, but they’re typically market experts with a strong business background.
Q2: What challenges do UnitedHealth Group product professionals face in their roles?
A2: There’s no shortage of problems to solve in the health care space. One of the biggest challenges is selecting the right problems to solve and solving them in the right way. It’s easy to listen to your loudest customer and just do what they want. It’s much harder to develop a deep understanding of the market trends, the competition the core competencies and to use that knowledge to develop a business and product strategy that drives a roadmap of products that solves the biggest, most urgent and most pervasive problems in a way that’s consistent and coherent across the whole product portfolio.
Q3: What types of software do product professionals use here?
A3: PowerPoint and Excel are the obvious ones but there are many others depending on what type of Marketing you’re doing. Both Product Management and Marketing are becoming very data driven. Whether you’re on the product side or the promotional side you will be making decisions with huge financial implications. You need to be able to defend your decisions with data. This may be data from user studies or 3rd party research or from A/B testing on a web site. Either way, that data needs to be compiled and analyzed. Excel is often used for this, but there are many good cloud-based tools for this as well.
Q4: What does a product career path look like here & how does management support that growth?
A4: Product Managers come from all over. They often have a business background, but that varies. This is partially due to the lack of a Product Management curriculum in colleges. You can’t get a degree in Product Management, yet most Fortune 500 companies have large Product Management organizations managing their product portfolios.
There are many opportunities inside the product organization. There are business analysts who support the product managers, product managers responsible for a single product, technical product managers who convert the high-level requirements into user stories for the development organization, product portfolio managers who own whole portfolio of products, strategic product leaders who define the product strategy for a whole business unit and many others. There are many directions to take your career in the product organization depending on your interests and passion.
Q5: Describe the future of product development and management within UnitedHealth Group.
A5: We’re going through a transformation right now to become a more product-centric organization. This means having a well-defined and consistent product management organization in all our business units that uses best-in-class product-life-cycle and development practices. This transformation will allow us to create the right products that address the right problems and do it in a way that delights the customers with the highest levels of quality and customer satisfaction.
Q6: What industry trends are important for product professionals and how are we incorporating them here?
A6: There are many trends in product management. There’s a trend toward “Lean” and “Agile”. There’s a trend toward deeper market and customer intimacy as well as user experience based design. At Optum, we’re now validating all aspects of the business model—things like user and buyer personas, pricing and target market. We’re using minimum viable products to test both the product hypothesis and user experience. We’ve also adopted the Agile practices and are continuing to refine our processes to learn faster, pivot faster and bring the highest quality solutions to market.
Q7: Name 3 challenges faced in product roles?
A7: Product Management is very demanding, but that’s also why it’s so rewarding. It’s hard to only list three, but here goes...
1. Being the market expert. In order to understand market problem and define a solution, you need be a market expert. It takes a lot time and effort to develop this deep knowledge.
2. Managing differing opinions. Everyone will have an opinion on what your product should be. The only way to rise above the opinions is to have solid data to defend your product proposal. This data typically comes from primary and secondary research.
3. Balancing internal availability versus customer visits. As a product manager, you have to be the internal product advocate, ensuring everyone understands the vision. At the same time the only way to understand the market problem is to get out of the building and talk to customers. This is a delicate balance.
Q8: What is the most interesting thing you’ve worked on here?
A8: As part of the OptumInsight transformation office, I have visibility into all the products that are being developed and launched. Optum has products that touch all aspects of the health care space from Payers to Providers to Life Sciences. When I consider the impact all these products will have on the health care industry and on millions of people’s lives I’m blown away. I’m proud to be a part of it.
Q9: Tell us how UnitedHealth Group has given you tools to improve/expand on your career?
A9: As a Product Manager here, you have access to an incredible library of product information and market research. There is also a huge library of online training. These resources enable you to map your career in whatever direction you want.
Q10: How do product professionals incorporate the mission in their careers?
A10: Everything we do at UnitedHealth Group is aligned with the mission. It’s all about helping people live healthier lives and making the health system work better. As we study the markets to find the right problems to solve, these are the questions we’re asking ourselves.
Q11: What types of benefits are offered to product employees?
A11: As a Product Manager, one of the things I look for is access to information—because it’s critical to validating your product hypothesis. UnitedHealth Group has huge libraries of information and market research available to Product Managers. For those who like to travel, many marketing roles also offer the ability to travel to some of the most interesting places in the world.
Q12: How do you think working for UnitedHealth Group is different than working for other companies?
A12: I’m amazed at how seriously employees at UnitedHealth Group take its mission and values. In general, people don’t come to the health care industry unless they really want to help others. For these people, values like integrity, compassion, and relationships are already part of their personal value system. Here it is also part of the corporate value system. When you get that kind of alignment between the personal values and corporate values, you get a powerful culture. I haven’t seen this kind of alignment anywhere else.
Q13: How does someone know if he/she is a good culture fit?
A13: If you look at the mission statement and values and it doesn’t trigger anything in you, you’re probably not a good fit. If you’re intrigued by the idea of really driving positive change in the health care space without compromising ethics and integrity, then this may be the place for you.
Q14: What types of insight and skills do military veterans bring to product careers at UHG?
A14: As I touched on before, people who are drawn to the health care industry are people who want to help others. Most people at UnitedHealth Group volunteer their time to the community in one way or another. Veterans are an extreme example of this value. They’re almost by definition a culture fit. Veterans also have experiences which give them unique insight to the problems we’re trying to solve and to the people’s lives we’re trying to positively impact.
Thank you for your insight Jeff, we appreciate the time you took to answer these questions about product careers here at UnitedHealth Group.