This week, Product School hosted Vyom Nagrani, Principal Group PM Manager at Microsoft, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Vyom answered questions regarding how PMs can add the most value to their team, planning a product career path, and the most important things for a PM to know.
Vyom is a proven leader with an analytical problem-solving mindset and effective interpersonal skills. He has a successful track record of seeding and implementing business ideas to generate new revenue streams and increase profitability through business strategy and operations.
Vyom’s experience includes interacting with Senior Management for pitching new business propositions and product roadmap, seeking resource funding, and reporting business metrics and progress. He is now working as a Principal Group PM Manager at Microsoft where he leads a team of Product Managers in the company’s developer division.
What is something you wish you knew when you entered the product world?
Great question! Lots of things actually. I had heard “talk to customers” 100s of times, but I didn’t really know how that worked, what to talk to them about, and what to do when different customers have different asks. I thought Product Management would be pretty straight-forward and logical, but I learned over time it is that plus much more
What is the most important lesson for a product manager?
The biggest value PMs add to an organization is knowing their customer really well, and knowing everything there is to know about their product really well (features, benefits, use cases, competition, etc.). Focus on these 2 to add value to the team.
How can I get into product management with a non-product background?
There is no hard requirement for any specific line of study or background to get into Product Management.
At the end of the day, you need to be able to talk to customers about their problems, translate those into requirements that your org can deliver, launch these products on the market, and grow the business.
So try to showcase projects from your experience which align with these responsibilities. Try doing projects in association with existing PMs in your own org, if your org allows it do a rotation where you are acting PM for a few months. Product Management certifications definitely help, since they show your commitment to the transition and also help build the skills you will need on the job.
What should be the priorities and tasks of a new product manager in the first 30 and 90 days in the new role in the new company?
Depends a lot on company culture, so hard to answer generically, but giving it a shot. Typically, first 30 days is to learn how things work there, talk to the people, understand the tools and processes your team uses. First 90 days should be about learning about the customers, and learning everything there is to learn about the product. That’s when you start getting productive, and can make a plan on what the team should do next.
What’s the best way to plan your product career?
“Career” is a long long time
You can always make those moves sequentially, where you first join the company that operates in the domain of your choice. Over time, wait for the right opportunity to also transition to the specific product you are interested in within that company. The other thing to remember is that your own preferences will change over time, so don’t narrow your opportunities too much.
What are the most important skills for working with senior management?
Working with senior management is an important part of every role, not just Product Management, though PMs tend to get a few more opportunities than others since they bring the voice of the customer back to the org. It is a learned skill, so the more interactions you have the better you get. In general, be as factual as you can, tie everything you say back to what customers have told you they want and be clear in your asks.
What are your tips about building a product roadmap for a new line of business?
Depends on what the purpose/goal for entering the new line of business is.
If you’re getting in because you have a lot of customer asks in that area, then fulfilling those requests is always the best way to define your roadmap. If your organization is getting into that business to compete against existing players, then looking at their offerings is a good starting point.
How do you negotiate on delivering an MVP vs building out a solution?
Depends on where you are in your product lifecycle, and also where your org is in maturity level. Early on, hacky solutions suffice since getting to market quickly is key. As the product and the org matures, you need to focus more and more on quality, reliability, scalability, etc.
Check out: The Difference: Prototype vs MVP
Any final advice?
My final advice for aspiring PMs would be to understand that any transition is hard and takes time. Don’t expect to land your dream job (industry, company, product, function, and level of your choice) next month. But also don’t give up on your dreams, progress that sticks is always made slowly.
Take up a few projects that work closely with existing PMs, try out PM rotations or internships, maybe take the role that isn’t your dream role but gives you good PM skills and make the jump from there in a few years. And learn more about the PM role and ways to crack the PM interviews from forums like Product School!