This week, Product School hosted Aakash Shah, Product Leader at Amazon Web Services, for an exclusive #AskMeAnything session. Aakash talked about stakeholder alignment, advice for prospective and new PMs, and overcoming language barriers in international teams.
Aakash is a Product Leader at Amazon Web Services. He operates at the intersection of technology and entertainment and wakes up every day excited to build the next generation of products for video-on-demand (VOD), media, gaming, and e-commerce.
He is passionate about user experience and market-disruptive solutions and is able to drive both big picture and fine details to orchestrate complex enterprise IT projects. He has steered 35 team members across 3 continents and controlled costs on projects of up to $12M. His track record includes blazing trails across the market for the 4th-largest cable provider in the U.S., a $1B+ direct marketing company, and Amazon Web Service’s Media & Entertainment division.
The biggest challenge I see Product Managers face is stakeholder alignment. Do you have any tips?
This is a good one—influencing stakeholders is one of the most important jobs of a Product Manager. There is no easy way to go about this. You simply have to put in work and be an expert on the subject matter you’re dealing with and show the stakeholders that there is value in your opinions and directions.
When key stakeholders/executives constantly change direction, how can you meet those changes and still deliver the product on time?
I think this is a very valid concern from most of the Product Managers out there. As Product Manager, you are guiding the entire team to a common goal. Now, if the stakeholders are changing directions too rapidly then it is safe to say everyone is not on the same page. And that needs to be resolved first before redirecting the team. So I would work with the team to build internal approvals first.
What is the most important skill for a PM?
Communication skills are by far the most important. And this doesn’t mean that you need to be fluent in English, or any other language, but how you make someone understand your idea and your perspective.
What are some tips for breaking into PM roles in tech companies if my PM experience is non-tech?
The easiest way will be to find something that you love working and learning about. And then dive deep into that subject matter and enhance your knowledge.
Any advice for a new Product Manager?
Find what you’re passionate about and work towards solving real-life problems. Make sure you enjoy this process—if you’re not enjoying it, that means it may not be for you. So kindly work on finding that thing that you love to work on 🙂
I have heard it is better to start as a PM in your current industry. Is this true?
At the end of the day, any industry is a good industry as long as you love working in it and you have a higher goal which is to solve a problem or change peoples’ lives in one way or another. So I would say look at all the things that you like and work backward.
What is your advice for overcoming language barriers as a Product Manager in an international team?
I can understand that this can be challenging. Since I haven’t faced this problem I may not be able to give you the best answer, but I think it could be helpful to 1) present with more visual content to stakeholders and team members, and 2) make sure your message is rightly received after every meeting.
What tool do you use for OKR management?
Great question—we have our own in-house metrics tools that we use that are not available to the general public. So I won’t able to shed more specific light on this, but understanding some of the popular tools is a good place to start. In the end, any tool is just there to help us understand data and results, so I am not too picky about it.