Today marks International Women’s Day, celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.
In 2024, the campaign’s theme is “Inspire Inclusion” and emphasises the importance of diversity and empowerment in all aspects of society.
It calls for action to break down barriers, challenge stereotypes, and create environments where all women are valued and respected. “Inspire Inclusion” encourages everyone to recognise the unique perspectives and contributions of women from all walks of life, including those from marginalised communities.
So, as someone that is used to overcoming challenges in her professional life, we thought we’d take the opportunity to celebrate our Head of Product, Kristina Ristovska.
Kristina joined XConnect in 2023 as Head of Product to help us to better serve the evolving needs of the voice, messaging, and identity & verification (ID&V) markets by defining our product strategy and developing new solutions for customers.  She oversees XConnect’s existing product portfolio as well as exploring gaps for new products to be introduced.
We caught up with Kristina to find out what it means to be a female Head of Product in telecoms, how she feels about leading the way in this field and what advice she would give to women wanting to take on this kind of role.

What’s your role at XConnect and what does it mean?

"At XConnect I work as Head of Product and am responsible for the overall product portfolio, managing all aspects of the product lifecycle, gathering customer insights and feedback and turning them into requirements.
On a day to day basis, this includes overseeing collaboration between the management and cross functional teams. On top of managing our current portfolio, part of my role is also to track the changes in the market, identify requirements and use this information to create our long-term vision for new products, capitalising on opportunities to expand our offering."


Have you always worked in telecoms?

"No I haven’t, even though it does feel like it! Before I started in telecoms I was working as a Project Manager in Banking and later, in the Visa Centre at the USA Embassy."

How long have you been in telecoms then?

"For over 12 years now. I guess it is true what they say “Once you start in Telecoms you never leave”".

What do you like most about the industry?

"I love the dynamics of the market and the overall complexity of it all, with so many new things to learn and discover.
It is unfortunately also an industry with many challenges. New types of fraud are constantly appearing which means we have to think outside the box, work collaboratively and exchange knowledge in order to secure the future of our business and protect our consumers."

How did you get into the Product field?

"When I first started working in telecoms, I was lucky to receive in-depth training about the industry and how the entire ecosystem functions.
 Being on the Sales side of products, I noticed that I was always “wearing the customer’s shoes” and thinking about how we can cross combine services to create a unique offering for that particular type of customer.
 After a while, I decided it was time to step away from Sales and start getting hands on, creating solutions for telecoms services while still staying close to the customers and being involved directly with them, building trust and forming close working relationships."

What interests you most about working in product?

"For me personally, it is the challenge of keeping existing products performing well, while in the background, creating new products and services that will only serve to improve the overall customer experience.
 The approach I always like to take when it comes to new products is having the complete end goal and vision in mind. The most interesting point starts when you try to paint the picture for your stakeholders and team members.
 Evolving this from an initial vision, to brainstorming together and then developing this to a concrete requirement that is being worked on...and then seeing the product go live for the first time is a huge reward for all involved, especially when you can really see that your ideas are improving the customer’s business."

What makes a successful head of product?

"I believe that it is the combination of strategic long-term vision, clear goals and priorities and strong cross-team collaboration, making well informed decisions that align with the company’s goals and overall objectives.
 A clear understanding of the market and customer is of critical importance in order to identify their needs and emerging trends, as well as to identify opportunities and drive innovation."

What would you tell other women who are looking to get started in this kind of role?

"Simply believe in yourself! Embrace your unique perspective and never be afraid to speak up and share your thoughts and ideas. Product Management is a dynamic field that thrives on diverse voices, different perspectives and innovative thinking.
 Always stay curious, keep pushing the boundaries to create impactful products that make a difference. You never know what could become the next big thing, from just a moment of inspiration and spark to potentially reshaping the future."

Where do you start with developing a Product Roadmap for a new product idea?

"After the process of defining the requirements is finished, we usually create deliverables broken down into different stages with estimated timelines and success metrics.
 We define what the POC (proof  of concept) needs to look like, define the MVP (Minimal Viable Product), scope out the full product launch and the long-term vision of how the product needs to evolve to maturity, plus all the functionalities it needs to support."

What do you feel are the most important steps when developing a new product?

"I would say gathering clear requirements of the expected performance of the product/solution or customisation. Sometimes the smallest, most obvious details can be overlooked and cause delays in delivering the product/solution. So, by taking the time to properly think of every detail, asking for feedback from Technical Solutions, Operations, Engineering and the industry experts we have in our company, we can develop critical steps to ensure a clear, focused start for development."

What are you working on right now?

"I am currently actively working on a new product that is tackling the biggest issues in  – telecoms – Artificial Inflation of Traffic and Voice Fraud detection. It is a very comprehensive, complex solution that will hopefully help many companies to stabilise their traffic termination and prevent further losses."

And what do you like to do when you’re not at work?

"In my free time I like to read and spend time with my children, doing different activities that are fun and keep us connected, as well as exploring beautiful places across the Netherland where I have been living for the past 7 years."