Hari Om on his Product Management Transformation Story

Hari Om Vashishtha – Alumnus of UpGrad Product Management Program published this article on Medium.

“The Philosopher, The Ideologist, The Problem Solver, The Inventor, The Entrepreneur in me has woken up.”

Though, to understand, how UpGrad helped me, you’ll need to know what I was lacking.

“I was blind and now I see.” (from the movie Limitless, applies to my scenario to some extent). Though, some other things have also changed in my journey.
My journey started back in 2012 when a friend of mine asked me if I knew web development so we could build something of our own. I had no idea if we could build something of our own. My mind was not trained to look at the things like a product. To be very specific, during my graduation, everyone around was talking about getting a day job, any job. But just a day job which would help us survive the so-called tough life. So I went into learning the logic and basics of understanding programming and puzzles, though I could just reach the best of my college level as we had no seniors.

The In-Time Product Manager: Story of Guneet Chadha

So when we started, we explored a lot, learnt a lot and made a lot of mistakes. The very first mistake was the biggest blunder, we started 2 but the other guy was still in his full-time job and I was full time into building the product. We could rarely interact in person so I had to do the coding as well as the sales. My learning curve was almost flat; since my family had no background of a business, they had no clue what I was doing. Also, I was scared looking at my friends doing good in their day jobs and none could discuss my idea/projects with me.

Fast forward to 2015, I was somebody else. I was exhausted, I was scared for my career. I wasn’t able to look at problems in a way to figure out the solutions. I was looking for a day job and with failures of my own startups in my bucket with bad self-sales skills, I couldn’t even get a job quickly.

Read: Product management jobs and their career prospects.

Then, by the end of 2015, I got my first job in a growing startup, where it took me over 3 months to figure out my what skill is required to do my job and where do I need to focus. By the end of 2016, I had figured that my current job is not taking me anywhere and Product Management is the best thing I could do since I had been through various phases of a startup.

By the mid-2017, I figured my skill set, let me list them out in points:

  1. To optimise things using inspiration from other things.
  2. To improve existing products using inspiration from other products.
  3. To find new ways of doing existing things.
  4. To find technical solutions to various problems.
  5. And, to not give a damn about what others think!

And while searching for my ideal job opportunity, UpGrad Product Management Certification came into the picture. Initially, it felt like a costly affair but I realised that it was an investment in myself. Through UpGrad, the agenda was to get the job I am good at but it helped me straighten my thoughts to a great extent.
UpGrad helped me:

  1. To look at various other aspects of being a Product Manager which I had not thought of.
  2. To get into the depth of things where I had never been to.
  3. To work with a team in such a way to work with the best skills of everyone & get the most out of it.
  4. I got hands-on experience on various tasks that a PM does in his daily life.

And out of all, the UX got my attention. The nerd inside me now looks at every situation on how to optimise the same. I solve various UX problems every day (though only theoretically since I am not responsible for any such task) and I even collect them with #ProductManagementProblem hashtag on my Twitter.
I learn a bit about the philosophy of users and products every day and from everywhere. I take inspiration from minute things to solve big problems. I’m not saying, I can solve the toughest problems on earth but most problems are not new. There is nothing original, the problems, ideas, designs, solutions, philosophies, everything is derived from existing ones. Of course, it doesn’t make sense to reinvent the wheel, but we can try to improve the functioning of the wheel by taking inspiration from other things like a pulley or maybe motor inside the wheel so the bicycling experience can be semi-automatic. Well, I saw that this has been implemented by someone already.

So, it’s a skill to find the solutions to existing problems by taking inspiration from other things. Let me try to prove it by taking an example of an existing problem. Neither I see it applied nor I could find that this is being implemented somewhere and I may be wrong.

The Accidental Product Manager

Problem: Worldwide, many tech giants and garage startups are trying to solve the traffic problem and minimise accidents, by trying to build self-driving cars. Even Elon Musk believes that it’ll take a long time to make it a perfect world for self-driving cars so there are zero errors.

In a country like India, it would take at least 20 years to implement self-driving cars. So, it totally makes sense to look for a quick and cost-effective solution.
Solution: In short, for now, we need to help the government by the use of existing technology to its maximum efficiency. In other words, we can use the technology to implement the existing laws.

Technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) can be used to:

  1. Stop vehicles from jumping traffic lights and over-speeding.
  2. Stop people riding two-wheelers without a helmet.
  3. Not let vehicles be driven on the wrong side.
  4. Not let vehicles to have “High Beam On” when it hurts the other vehicles.
  5. Not let any vehicles be driven without a valid license.
  6. Analyse the driver’s driving behaviours by watching their every move using IoT in cars and penalise them for duration respective to their offence (inspired by Ola/Uber’s policy of penalising their drivers in case of customer complaints).

Simplifying above thoughts: IoT can be embedded with traffic rules and they track their own vehicles as well as all vehicles around.

These are certainly possible using the existing IoT innovations and a will to implement them. The technology hubs need to prove these through the hackathon and then show it to the governing agencies to implement the same. I wonder why Bangalore always keeps cribbing about traffic problem and not ever try to solve it using the technology.

I understand the philosophy behind doing things the way they are being done and the philosophy on how to make the best out of them, basically, how to optimise them. In short, the core problem needs to be identified since usually the actual problem is not being attacked but rather people keep revolving around the problem itself but not able to look at the real problem. Since identifying the real problem and accepting it as a problem solves the half of it.

Today, I am confident that making a dent is really possible. I believe, every problem can be solved, taking one step at a time.

The Aspirational Business Developer Turned Product Manager

So, I am not looking for a job but an opportunity to solve a problem and make the most out of my skills, to make the most out of the problem I may get to work on.

Study Product Management Courses online from the World’s top Universities. Earn Masters, Executive PGP, or Advanced Certificate Programs to fast-track your career.

What are the soft skills every product manager must have?

Apart from a good knowledge of both technology and business management, product managers need to have crucial soft skills such as written and verbal communication, organisational skills, and the ability to lead and collaborate with people in cross-functional teams. Product managers must also be excellent time and resource managers, with an ability to keep an eye on the numbers and timelines, the vision to predict possible challenges based on data and market trends, and quick decision making skills in order to overcome or mitigate such challenges and ensure a good financial performance of the product as per the organisation’s business objectives.

Is it necessary to know coding to become a product manager?

While it is not really necessary to know coding to become a product manager, it is certainly good to have some knowledge of how technology works. This is especially required for product managers who work in organisations that are in the process of digitizing their products and processes as is the trend today. Product managers are often required to use tools such as wireframe, JIRA, Google analytics and so on for their day-to-day activities. They are also required to have analytical skills to crunch numbers from various sources in order to create strategies. In very rare cases, such as companies that are purely technology product based, recruiters prefer product managers to have coding experience.

What are the best industries that hire product managers?

These days, product managers are being hired across every industry in India. This is mostly due to the huge focus of Indian organisations on digitization. BFSI is one of the most important of these. Thanks to the government’s efforts as well as the challenges presented by the recent pandemic, BFSI companies are rapidly creating systems, products and processes in order to acquire, serve, transact and engage with customers via digital channels. Others include e-commerce & retail industry, the media & entertainment industry (especially due to the rising popularity of OTT platforms), supply chain industry, IT/ITes industry, hospital industry, and the ed-tech industry.

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