Future-First Thinking with Facebook Product Manager

This week, Product School hosted Sandhya Char, Product Leader at Facebook, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Sandhya gives insights into adopting new tools, developing future-first thinking, and how to build a great product strategy.

About Sandhya

Sandhya Char, Product Leader at Facebook

Sandhya is a Facebook Product Leader with over 15 years of experience building products in big 5 and startup environments. Before her current role, she was a Product Leader for Growth, Partnerships, and Marketplace at Funding Circle US. In this role, she created new revenue streams and increased direct origination volume by 50%.

According to her colleagues, Sandhya is a quick learner who is great at developing and implementing killer product strategies that deliver results. She is always looking for ways to improve the whole team’s effectiveness and even goes on to spread any successful ideas throughout the whole company. This creates an encouraging work environment that encourages communication and good teamwork.

What’s the best piece of advice you have for choosing which tools to use/trying out new tools?

While choosing tools, I try to keep them as lightweight as I can. In general, I think that the process should be in service of the product, and the quickest and most lightweight way to build the product is the best.

tools on a table

How do you help your team to adopt a new tool?

Change is always challenging. It helps to do a pilot for adoption, or titrate (adoption in small steps).

How do we develop future-first thinking to plan for user and industry changes?

Great question.  Using your product, studying industry trends, competitors—all of those can help. One way is to visualize what an extremely futuristic—think sci-fi—version of our product might look like, and what are the concrete steps to get there.

How do you determine what is a “killer product strategy” before the product is built?

There is no silver bullet here, but I think about a few things:

  1. What is the problem that we are trying to solve, for whom, and why is it important to solve?
  2. What are the steps you can take to build a solution that has long term competitive advantage?

Have you faced pushback when you articulated a product opportunity to leadership? If yes, how do you get leadership and stakeholder buy-in?

Ha, this is something that I think is unavoidable. My usual go-to has been to build a traffic-light decision matrix showing why I’ve chosen the product opportunity, and if available, data or research that backs up any of my decision-making. With stakeholders, it’s also immensely useful to build relationships, and have influential allies.

How do you decide when or if you should escalate if there is a disagreement between you (PM) and your Engineering team?

Good question. Before any escalation, it’s helpful for both sides to try and see if they can agree upon a framework to make decisions, and what parts of the framework they can agree upon, and if they can test into the parts that they don’t agree upon.  Or if there are win-win compromises that both teams can agree to. If both fail, then escalation is an option.

group of people sat around a table working and discussing

What do you do when an engineering team refuses to embrace Agile? Are there teams at Facebook that are not Agile?

I personally feel like there’s no right process, and each team should pick a process that works for them, whether it be Agile or some other hybrid. Every team at Facebook has its own process, but a completely waterfall process is pretty rare, in my experience.

Check out: What Is Agile Product Development, and Is It Here To Stay?

What do you do when you’re hired for a Product Management role but you’re asked to do product support work the majority of the time?

That’s a challenging situation. Sometimes companies, especially smaller startups may have a bigger need for product support. The way I’ve handled it in the past is to support the company’s needs but also look for opportunities to address the core issue. For example, if there is a frequent product support issue, I’ve tried to step back and see if there is a larger-scale solution, and evangelized that solution to leadership.

What do you recommend is the best path into getting a job at a top tech company like Facebook?

Obviously, doing a good job at wherever you are, and having the right impact and metrics is important. Other than that I would recommend interview practice—there are a ton of websites and books that provide guidance around the interview practices of top tech companies.

Read next: How To Get a Product Management Job at Facebook

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