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Zeren Place Head of Product at Monolith AI

Calendar icon 15th October 2020

Earlier this year we placed Shelly Luciano De Oliveira at  Monolith AI as their first Product Leader – and then lockdown happened!  We caught up with Shelly to find out how the first few months have been in a new role, her onboarding experience and what she thinks the future holds.


Shelly, you moved away from Strategy& to join Monolith – why did you feel the time was right to leave Consulting?


I had a good time at Strategy& and the training was really great, but ultimately I wanted to have full ownership and responsibility for projects from beginning to end – not just a focus on advising clients on their options.  I really wanted a role in which I could have impact personally, as a team and wider group and really feel and see that my opinions are valued and implemented.


Why were you interested in moving into the Product function of a start-up?


Put simply, Product is strategy in action so there are many transferable skills and in an early stage environment there is a lot of opportunity to shape your role and bring in skills across strategy consulting, insights and driving implementation.  I really think that being in charge of defining product-market fit for a new, emerging technology is one of the most exciting roles to have.  Working for a great company and being given the responsibility for developing the product makes me very happy and is exactly what I was looking to do!


What are the main differences you have seen between Consulting and Start-Up environments?


If you move away from a large Consulting firm, you need to be super comfortable in fixing problems – not just finding someone else to fix it for you!  The obvious step-change is that while I used to be in charge of developing strategic options for my clients, I now have to own the implementation, too – but this is a good thing and means you can be totally entwined rather than more of an advisor and spectator.  The other change is that in super agile companies, even simple actions can have meaningful impact.


What was the onboarding experience like?


Well, what could have been a really complex situation was actually really successful.  I got to spend 2 weeks in the office before we went in to lockdown and between that and trying to arrange childcare it all worked well for a few reasons:  Firstly, the CEO and Founder (Richard) was totally available and gave me all the time and tools I needed to learn and start being successful right away.  Secondly, I had all the autonomy and flexibility to work in a way that was most effective and finally, there was a welcoming, positive atmosphere and appreciation that I was bringing a new skill to the team and so everyone was super interactive.  More generally we have daily virtual meetings, regular quick check-ins and even some more fun team activities to try to enjoy some downtime together.


Monolith AI is a high-growth tech business – why should clients use the platform?


Simple – all companies that develop physical products should use Monolith AI as it enables companies to collaborate, save money and develop better products much faster!!


While it is hard to predict what will happen from one week to another, what do you think the world will look like 12 months from now?


I don’t think we’ll be back to normal and in fact I think our habits will have to continue to change before we start going back to anything like ‘normal’. I believe there will be a vaccine but it won’t be universally adopted and there will, sadly, be more sectors that suffer.  However, there is always opportunity and I think technology that continues to help us connect, collaborate and entertain will have huge success.