Young Achievers – In conversation with Amrita Kaushik, Product Manager, eBay
I have an engineering + MBA background. I did my engineering from NIT Bhopal and worked as both developer and tester for over 3 years before moving on to do an MBA from AIM in Manila, Philippines. Post my MBA, it took me couple of job and role changes in the first year to land where I am now (and wanted to be). I have found a good fit between my skills and my role as a product manager in my current organization.
Can you please describe what a typical day @ Office is like?
My typical day @ office is spent reading and sending lots of emails, multiple meetings with different sets of stakeholders and some time for paperwork – documentation, road map planning, presentations etc. Broadly the objectives that I try to work towards on a daily basis are below (not in any order of importance, they all go along and are done with the team of stakeholders backing me up) –
My focus is around customer acquisition with a heavy risk management aspect to it. Ours being a global marketplace, customer entry into the system is not straight forward and one size doesn’t fit all from privacy, legal, risk, culture and user experience perspective. Given these challenges, I would say revamping the global customer on-boarding picture for the marketplace has been the most satisfying endeavor thus far and there are great changes coming in 2015 around the same theme which I am super excited about.
Key success factors for a product in my opinion are –
- Customer focus,
- Clarity in business goals reflected through clear requirements,
- Ability to prioritize ideas for a minimum awesome product,
- Ability to customize,
- Great project management and
- Post launch metric tracking to plan for next cycle
What is a typical career path of a product manager in your industry? And what are some of the challenges associated with this role?
As they say, you are a mini CEO of your product. As you grow, you start looking across bigger product groups and diverse domain areas so the end to end business operations and strategy of a vertical or horizontal becomes your R&R.
Challenges are plenty but they all contribute in getting things done –
- You are in the line of fire for anything that goes wrong
- You have to get things done! Working with a group of purists in your team of stakeholders (design, technical/engineering, architect, policy, legal & operations CS), you realize that they all have a very definite way of looking at things and you have to play the role of a practical guy to get everyone to common ground of understanding and product definition.
- Get work done through teams that don’t report into you so you have to earn respect and work, quite literally
- You cannot afford to not remember something, not communicate rigorously, not plan rigorously, and not have an opinion on everything
What personal skills are important for a product manager?
It always helps to align at a broader level with the organization and this philosophical unity of thought can bring lot of clarity as the role is all about reducing ambiguities for all – your customer, your engineering team, your designer, your policymaker etc.
From personal skill set perspective, having these skills are important – business/industry/domain knowledge, analytic bent of mind, some technical know how, influencing/negotiations/evangelizing skills, relationship management, high energy and passion, and a will to get things done. Sure you can’t be equally good at all but you should strive to know your strength and weaknesses. While working through your strengths also work on your weaknesses because that improvement will not just save your job but help you grow as well.