Working With Cutting-Edge Products with Microsoft PM II

This week, Product School hosted Anisha Gupta, Product Manager II, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Anisha talks about what it’s like working with cutting-edge products and how she manages her product roadmap.

Meet Anisha

Anisha Gupta, Product Manager II

Anisha Gupta is a Product Manager II currently working on HoloLens at Microsoft. She made the move to her current team after over two years as a PM for Azure Security. Anisha has also worked as a Developer Advocate at GitHub, devising content to generate better understanding and empower API developers, leading workshops, and helping communities get the tools they need to enhance coding education. Further back she also worked as a PM at CodePath.

What’s it like to work on a cutting-edge hardware product like HoloLens? How do you arrange the product roadmap given the complexities of the field?

Great question—when joining the team I had never had an experience with HoloLens. It is truly a piece of revolutionary tech and it is amazing to see how it does help a variety of different customers (such as med students seeing anatomy as 3D holograms to practice).

The product roadmap is really driven based on how much our vision can go. We have an awesome EVP (Alex Kipman) who really pushes us to think outside the box!

person wearing headset and sitting at desk

What experiences convinced you to pursue Product Management?

Being able to make an impact on the product itself! I was in several roles where I had to use the product as is and had so many areas where I wanted to change something based on the amount of feedback I was getting. Being able to make a change to the product and have the user experience grow has been super rewarding.

How would you define the PM role?

PM can mean so many different things. I typically like to go with the definition from Cracking the PM Interview where there are 3 swim lanes of PM:

  1. Project Management
  2. Program Management
  3. Product Management

As a Product Manager, you do need foundational skills in both project and program because you end up doing so many different things at the same time. In my experience, Product Management has been getting customer feedback, setting a strategic vision, and working with a team of engineers and designers to execute on this.

How do you handle the situations where a lot of ad-hoc requests creep into the roadmap?

I would really question the ad-hoc request. Why did it come up now? How urgent is it really? How many customers will benefit from the change? Would our success metrics go up if we invest in this? Ask a ton of questions before blindly working on the request! A number of times, I have seen requests based on what engineering wants to work on versus what the customer needs.

An essential read: When Saying ‘No’ Adds Value

two people sitting at a table. one we can only see the back of their head, the other is leaning forward attentively with their face in their hand. there are coffee cups and notepads on the table

What tools do you find the most helpful to manage all the different things you’re working on?

Great question! Tools has always been an interesting one. Typically the company you work at you are given a toolset to choose from. For instance, at Microsoft, I use:

  • Azure Dev Ops: Add, Delete, Edit Tickets for Engineering
  • One Note: All purpose note tool
  • Wiki SharePoint sites: Database for all the links and resources
  • Microsoft ToDo (Wunderlist): Used to track my top 3 tasks for each day
  • Sticky Notes: Used to remind me of really urgent items I need to get done
  • On a personal note: I love using Notion and Google Calendar—they are simple tools but I really value the amount of customization I have in these tools

A great follow-up read: Tech Mastery Part 1: Choosing Your Product Stack

What’s different in your new role as Product Manager II?

As a Product Manager, I was really told exactly what to do and given a very defined scope. As a Product Manager II, I am given more of a vague problem that I need to scope myself and deliver on.

Person kneeling on floor and looking at papers on the floor. They have a notebook in hand. There is a couch out of focus in the background

How should I build my skillset if I don’t come from a technical background?

Start something! Find a group of friends and build something. My love for Product Management was a journey but really started at hackathons that I went to based on the role I was playing in my team.

The adoption rate of enterprise companies is still lagging, in my opinion, so what has been the most challenging part of working on HoloLens?

Great question—working on HoloLens has been super rewarding. I think the largest challenge, at least for myself, has been learning about all the product itself and how everything is working together. I learn something new every day!

How does one shift from a Customer Success role to a Product Manager?

Great question! In my experience, I know a lot of Customer Success PMs who transitioned into Product Managers. My advice would be to try to influence a part of the product based on the role you are in now. I actually was in a customer experience role for about 6 months before transitioning to the product team. While in the role, I  befriended the product team. So when there was an opening on the team it was an informal interview process because the product team knew what I was capable of.

You might also be interested in: Transitioning to Product Management From ANY Background

How do I transition from engineering to a Product role at Microsoft?

Moves within Microsoft are a lateral move, so you should be able to keep the title while moving in PM. However, it is also dependent on the team you are moving into! If you have a PM on your team, I would start off by talking with them and seeing what their day-to-day looks like. I know a lot of engineers who were their own PM based on their communication styles. Happy to talk more after the AMA about this too!

How do I find my first PM job when experience is needed everywhere?

Join an associate program! These are specifically designed for first-time PMs. Google has the APM program
Facebook (Meta) has the RPM program. Pinterest even has an APM program. A lot of companies have started adopting these programs to really build the foundational knowledge for first-time PMs. Would definitely start there.

What do you think a young/relatively new to the field PM should focus on to improve their skill set while on the job?

I had to go through this myself. My best advice would be to find mentors who are where you want to be 2,5, and 10 years from now. My mentors gave me direct advice on how to level up my skills and tackle the problems I was facing on the job.

Any final advice?

My parting advice is that if you are passionate about becoming a Product Manager then do it! Product Management is all about listening to customers, understanding them, and solving their top pain points. This can be applied anywhere—for instance, the next time you take a walk are there any streets or sidewalks that you would improve? Why?

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