This week, Product School hosted Kavya Maiya, Manager, Product Management at PayPal, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Kavya enlightened us on how to use OKRs, the challenges of working at a FinTech company, and how PayPal approaches problem-solving.
Kavya Maiya is an established Product Leader with an innate desire and ability to quickly pick up new technology trends.
She is currently building next-generation checkout products for Merchants and Consumers at PayPal as a Manager of Product Management. Before this, she was a Senior Technical Product Manager for the company and the single point of contact for issue management from an organizational level. She also worked as a NA SMB Operations Lead & Engagement Manager and Senior Integration Engineer during her time at PayPal.
How would you recommend starting with OKRs and metrics for an organization that is new at it? Are OKRs to be connected across product teams or cascade from broader org objectives?
It should be for both. OKRs are a fairly new concept and its helps the company align on the objective they are trying to solve and the key results they need to achieve in order to determine impact.
Read next: The Difference: OKRs vs KPIs
What general challenges do you come across while being a PM at a FinTech company?
Keeping up with the competition is one of a big challenges working in a FinTech company. PM’s are expected to constantly think ahead and bigger the company is, there are more regulations around launching new features. Another challenge is the evolving compliance rules which FinTech companies have to stay on top off while ensuring we provide the best customer experience.
What is a go to market (GTM) strategy, and when should we start this process?
GTM strategy can be started before the actual Product Development has started. You can think through how you want to launch your product. This can be either scaling through regions, continents, or core markets vs growth markets etc. It all depends on what problem you are trying to solve and how to get maximum impact.
How should I prepare for this interview question: “Walk me through how you approached the product from creation to launch.”
Make sure you have a structured thinking approach. First start with the problem statement (what), why it’s important and then focus on how you solved it which usually involves using data points for arriving at the best solution (you may have multiple solutions so walk through why you choose the solution you decided to). Also mention the impact or results from this launch. For example – with this product launch we generated $XM in revenue etc (This can be tied to the problem where problem may have been revenue generation dropped by X%).
I’m a fresh undergrad graduate and I’m an aspiring PM! What would you recommend someone like myself on how to get started with the PM journey especially at a company like PayPal? What about their APM program?
Always nice to see aspiring PM’s. My recommendation would be to always do projects which demonstrate PM skills. This can be a simple side project or even projects back in your undergrad where you demonstrated some PM skills which you can highlight in your resume. Apply to Grad PM roles which you can find on the careers website and prepare for PM interviews. Cracking the PM interview by Gayle is a great resource to give you a perspective of PM interviews and expectations.
While hiring for PM at PayPal, what are the key things you look for in candidates?
For the hard product skills we look for candidates who can break a complex problem into simpler steps, prioritize the problems they will pursue with the reason behind, structured thinking around solving the problem, and be able to measure the impact. There is no right or wrong answer here but we want to see if the candidate is able to simply a complex problem and have an opinion on the why. We also look for candidates who are passionate and willing to learn and grow.
I am a Business Analyst and looking to transition to Product Management. Any tips?
You can use the experience you have gained being a business analyst to transition into product. Data is PM’s best friend when it comes to prioritization, getting alignment across stakeholders on why the problem you are trying to solve is important, measure impact of your launch etc. I have given a talk on this topic in Product School which has more details on how you can use your existing experience to transition to PM.
What are the best tools to write user stories? Are user stories important for an Alpha and Beta product?
More than the tools, I would focus on if user story is able to help engineering develop the feature as well as solve the customer’s problem. User stories should be simple and should be written from a customer’s perspective, like, “As a customer I would like to do X.” User stories are extremely important to ensure that customer’s goals are met irrespective of Alpha/Beta product. JIRA is the tool which is most commonly used.
How do you approach solving problems at PayPal?
At PayPal, usually we start with a problem statement we are trying to solve and use data to determine the impact of solving it. Then we engage the tech teams for implementation. One of the use-cases I am working on is simply consumer’s experience when using PayPal during checkout.
What is the most challenging project you’ve worked on?
I worked on moving all our checkout products from a legacy platform to a new platform. The challenge was to break it down into simpler chunks and navigate through the different use-cases of all these products so that the functionality is not broken for customer and instead leverage the latest and greatest features.
How did you get into Product Management?
I started my career with PayPal as a solutions engineer where I worked with merchants and helped them integrate PayPal. This helped me understand customer’s pain-points and the importance of building customer centric products. I also created dashboards, reports which helped the business understand the impact of the integrations which the team was working on. Having the customer experience along with data helped me transition to Product Management.
I am a second year undergraduate engineering student and have found most programs/positions to be for those who have graduated already. Are there any resources or programs you would recommend for someone looking to explore the field at my experience level?
You can apply for internship positions. You can also take courses (Product School has one). I would recommend you to take up side projects which can help you to stand out when you apply.
How important is formal education while breaking into Product Management? Is it better to focus on practical projects or invest in studies?
It depends on where you are in your journey. Very early in your career where you don’t have industry experience formal education can help break through into product. But if you had a few years of experience, you can also leverage the experience for transition.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to transition into Product Management with no-tech background? It is hard to get closed doors from recruiters because of “lack of tech experience” even though we are willing to learn hard and do well.
It depends on the companies you are applying for. If company is not tech-oriented, then you definitely need not have a tech background to break into product. But if you are targeting tech companies, then having knowledge on tech will help. That being said you don’t need a formal education. As long as you are able to demonstrate that you understand tech, it should be good.
I’m an analytics and data science expert with entrepreneurial experience. How can I leverage this experience for applying at PM roles at PayPal? Also, do you have any resources where I can get to know more about PayPal’s Product Management practices and methodologies?
You can leverage your experience to show your PM skills. Your entrepreneurial experience itself shows your creativity hat which is very important for PM. If you have used data in the past to provide analysis and recommendations, this can be used as a PM to determine which problem you want to solve or to measure the impact of your product. Regarding the resources, we follow agile methodology overall however, some teams may follow waterfall based on their business requirement.
Related to this: Product Managers and Technical Skills…What’s The Deal?
What are the hotest domains/industries to be a PM in? Does it even matter which industry is it?
There is nothing as hottest domain. It ultimately depends on your passion.