Q and A Recap: Building a Strong Product Culture

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We keep seeing product people everywhere — on LinkedIn, at conferences, and even in your own office. It’s a growing tribe. But have you ever wondered what product management is and what do product managers do?

Martin Eriksson explains it best with this Venn diagram in his article. 

product management
© 2011 Martin Eriksson.

“Product Management is the intersection between business, technology and user experience. A good product manager must be experienced in at least one, passionate about all three, and conversant with practitioners in all.”

Product Management is a domain that more and more companies are beginning to understand, appreciate, and are increasingly seeking out.

So we recently hosted a Q&A session with Tapojoy Chatterjee, Head of Product, Video and Display Advertising at Amazon India to help our community understand product management better.

During the webinar, he discussed topics such as the core skills required to get into product management, the primary responsibilities of product managers, and the ways to build a strong product culture in organisations. 

About Tapojoy

Tapojoy started his career as a software developer in Samsung India. 

Then, he went on to do his MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur. Post that, he joined the FMCG giant, ITC Limited, where he was part of the brand management team.

After this, he joined Amazon and has been with them for five and a half years now.  His team’s work encompasses how a customer sees an ad, where a customer sees the ad, and how an advertiser can find relevant customers.

Watch the full Q&A here.

Snippets of the Q&A session

1. What are the core responsibilities of a Product Manager?

A successful product manager is like a mini CEO. You have to work a lot in ambiguous domains and ensure each one is taken care of. 

Product management ultimately is a synergy between business consultancy and tech development roles. 

The first responsibility is figuring out what the customer problems or pain points are. And then you analyse where the opportunity to improve lies and come up with solutions. 

This, of course, often becomes a pile of ambiguous data. So a lot of research has to be done to convert this data into a more understandable form. As a product manager, this is your primary responsibility.

The next responsibility is presenting your understanding, analysis and recommendations to say, a C-level leader.

If your recommendations and strategies get approved, then you go into the execution mode and start putting on the hat of a software developer. You work with engineers, creating the design, the structure and the architecture of what will work, and then spend a lot of time in getting the development/execution done right. 

Once the development is done, you figure out adoption and user behaviour. How are people adopting it, who are the people who will, and do they like or not like the changes? 

So these are your typical responsibilities as a product manager, in a nutshell. 

2. What are the core capabilities you always look for while hiring a Product Manager?

1. Data analysis skills. All product managers must have the ability to take an ambiguous dump of data and research, analyse it, and present it in a more understandable form or as an actionable set of elements.

2. An eye for detail. The difference between an ordinary product and an extraordinary one lies in the attention to details.

3. Ownership. You must be willing to roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, and dive deep if need be. 

4. Ability to understand customer behaviour on a deeper level. What does the customer want? When do they want to buy? How do they interact with your page or platform? How do they read, from left to right, or right to left? Are you able to empathise with the customer? You must be able to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and understand what might work best for them. 

3. How do you build a Product Culture?

Four things are essential in building a strong product culture. 

1. Total buy-in from the whole team. In most organisations, the C-level leaders and seniors tend to do all the planning. After that, there needs to be a downward flow of the information to the rest of the team. Members have to be perfectly aware of what the goals or plans are at all times. Regular meetings with the team can ensure this.

2. Exposure. My tip to team leads — take some of your team members along for core business reviews or senior team meetings. This will help them get more context and understand the expectations of the top management. 

3. Review, as often as you can. It is always better to find an issue in your product, design, or architecture at the beginning rather than spotting it six months down the line.

For this, try to seek different viewpoints and perspectives from other team leads who have their own requirements. I would definitely like my product managers to just go through that hard grind of getting their requirements validated by different stakeholders and business partners.

It could be the sales team, the customer support team – check if the product team can answer or solve the conflicting questions or viewpoints that they have.

4. Be part of the development process and collaborate with the engineers. Typically the product manager says, I have created the requirement. Now it’s up to the engineer to develop. But often at the end, there is a difference between what the expectations are and what the end product is.

The best way to handle this is to get your product manager and the engineers to have biweekly (and I mean twice a week, and not once in 14 days) meetings.

Product Manager
Source

4. What is the biggest challenge in product management? 

I’ll explain with a small example. 

If Amazon tomorrow wants to get into say, pharmacies, then it will be a product manager who will be evaluating pharmacy regulations, pharmacy behaviour, prices, and so on. 

To put it simply, it’s the PM who is the first person to analyse the new domain. The initial research ends with a lot of ambiguous data. And the biggest challenge is the ability to convert this data into easily understandable and actionable insights.

5. How do you make the switch from a different domain to Product Management?

First of all, you must have a good understanding of the business and the capability to take ownership of a particular part of the ecosystem.

Then the four core skills and capabilities I mentioned before, can ensure your transition to Product is smooth.

The most significant bottleneck people have when they try to move from one domain to product management is a sense of tech averseness. ‘I don’t understand tech. I don’t know how to code. I don’t know what the language is. I don’t know how I’ll communicate with the engineer.’ But this is more of a mentality issue; most of your communications with engineers will be at a logic level. 

You will never have to teach your engineers how to code. Instead, you will be discussing what step one is, what is step two, and how the steps will be interacting with each other. So, it’s a very logic-based discussion. 

On the whole, if you possess the four core skills and capabilities, you are not tech-averse, and you are willing to spend your first six months getting your hands dirty to learn the ropes and techniques, you’ll do quite well as a product manager.

Lastly, work on a project on your own. Go for something in the open-source world. Create your demo, it can just be a one-pager, and then show it to product people or decision-makers, you know. Get their feedback, so you understand what’s working and what’s not, and learn. 

Wrapping Up 

We, at TapChief, are grateful for the incredible participation and response we received for the Q&A session.

A massive thank you to Tapojoy for being a part of our Facebook Live Webinar despite his busy schedule, for discussing all the questions that were asked at length and providing so much value to all our community members.

The next TapChief Q&A will happen soon, watch this space for updates.

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Karthika Anand

Karthika is a Content Creator and Community Manager at TapChief. When not found writing, she's most likely to be found at the gym.