Low-Code Tools With Microsoft Sr Product Manager

This week, Product School hosted Chakkaradeep Chandran, Sr Product Manager at Microsoft, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Chakkaradeep answered questions regarding low-code tools and what it’s like to work at Microsoft as a Product Manager.

Meet Chakkaradeep

Chakkaradeep Chandran, Sr Product Manager at Microsoft

Chakkaradeep is a value-driven Product Manager who works every day to launch innovative products. He is currently working on Microsoft PowerPoint as a Senior Product Manager.

He has also worked as a Senior PM for Microsoft’s Lists product in the SharePoint and Teams apps. His leading strategy drove adoption for low-code development with both OneDrive and SharePoint. He has also been a PM for Visual Studio and SharePoint.

No matter his role, he is always striving for innovation and a high-quality user experience. He is a fast learner and early adopter which is crucial when working with technology. Chakkaradeep earned his Master in Software Engineering at Bharathiar University.

How is a Program Manager different from a Product Manager at Microsoft?

Microsoft work building

With product teams, Program Management at Microsoft is aligned with Product Management. Microsoft has not changed the title for reasons unknown.

Product Marketing teams do have Product Marketing Managers (PMM) and sometimes (rarely) Product Managers. However, Product Marketing team is involved with Go-To-Market, media coverage, product adoption etc., that goes beyond product development and management. 

Given your experience in developing low-code tools, what is your overall take on the low-code tools market?

I value two things when it comes to low-code tools:

  1. Ease of use
  2. Breaking down complex things so I as a user need not worry about things like database scalability, authentication, performance etc.,
  3. Great-looking outputs

I should be proud of the output I get from the tool, be it a mobile app or web app. Things like responsive design, use of good icons, options to include professional media content etc.

You solve those two, users are going to adopt your low-code tool. In fact, I would argue that ‘no-code’ is the answer rather than ‘low-code’. An example I love that does a great job on both is Glide Apps.

Check out: What Is No Code And Why Is Everyone Talking About It?

How do you work together with Product Marketing?

When it comes to marketing-specific activities like announcements, building product materials, getting connected with the enterprises/media/press, analyzing and planning a Go-To-Market strategy (including product positioning, naming etc.), we work with Product Marketing very closely.

What is your immediate team structure like?

My team structure:

My manager → Skip manager (Partner GPM) → VP → CVP → EVP → CEO 

What is your team’s prioritization method?

Prioritization is done many ways, depending on the product’s maturity. Right now, in my current project, we are prioritizing work based on user jobs and needs with a blend of engineering complexities to ensure we can release a Minimum Marketable Product (MMP).

You might also be interested in: Common Product Prioritization Mistakes

How to do you currently consolidate all the customer feedback?

We use an internal tool that consolidates all in-product feedback which we PMs can review and move to backlog. We also get tons of feedback in forums, through support, which is more ad-hoc feedback and will be added to backlog when required.

A sign that says "We hear you"

Are OneDrive and SharePoint built with low-code tools?

They are certainly not using low-code tools :cara_ligeramente_sonriente: 

There are so many things one has to deal with with such products that serves millions, if not billions! Hopefully, as low-code and no-code tools evolve, building and scaling similar products to OneDrive and SharePoint could be a possibility.

Read next: Become a Technical Product Manager Using No-Code Tools

What is you biggest learning as a PM?

As a PM, I am still learning :cara_ligeramente_sonriente:

However, the biggest learning for me as a PM is you should have empathy—empathy is everything.

Being patient, learning to listen, asking clarifying questions, being inclusive etc. And it is also a skill that requires more practice. Empathy is something you can start incorporating at any stage in your career, even in your personal life. That would be something I would advise if you are starting out as a PM.

The rest of the PM skills, you can always acquire them, but empathy needs consistent practice.

What skills do you need be a PM like yourself at FAANG?

Along with empathy, at least for Microsoft, along with Product Management skills you will need people/team management skills as well. Being part of a large company means you will partner with many teams that your product will depend on. So, working with cross-functional teams becomes an essential part of your job. That is very different to, say, a small company.

What learning resources on Product Management (books, videos, articles, podcast etc.) do you like?

To be honest, I am not an avid reader, but I have read most of the recommended books on PM. Product School has a great resource for the books to read and folks to follow on Product Management. I would encourage you to look into those resources if you haven’t already.

How to I prepare to apply for FAANG or Big 4 companies?

Every company’s interview process and candidate’s expectations are different. I would suggest joining websites like Exponent or StellarPeers to understand what the expectations are. And attending mock interviews should help you crack the interviews.

What does a typical day looks like for a PM at Microsoft?

The typical day varies, but for the past few months I’ve been heads down in building product vision, strategy and roadmap.

This means, I work with design, research, customers, do competitive analysis and build the right strategy and roadmap. This also involves working with the leadership to ensure we are on the right path by providing timely updates and getting feedback.

bird's eye view of light brown road against foresty backdrop

What aspects of product does a PM at Microsoft own?

A Senior PM owns a big chunk of a product. For example, I own Video Experiences in Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint). A Principal PM may own an entire division of a product. For example, my manager owns Graphics all up for Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint).

What’s a real life example where product thinking came in handy for you?

I value simplicity and ease of use. If you are designing a product, I always ask the question, “can my mom use it?” or “can the team admin use it?”—sometimes I even go talk to them to see what they think. That way, I come back, provide feedback to the team, discuss and see how we can evolve/improve the product experience.

You might also be interested in: What Do Product Teams REALLY Want In Teammates?

Any final advice?

I only have one piece advice—follow your passion and dream. It is OK to fail. Product Management is a broad space and sometimes it takes a little while to find your place. Before being PM, I was an architect. I failed 4 times before finally I found the right team/opportunity at Microsoft. So, never give up!

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