Transitioning Into Product

This week, Product School hosted Prachi Mishra, Product Leader at Booking.com, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Prachi talks about transitioning into Product Management from a non-tech background, gathering customer feedback, and how data product teams are set up.

Meet Prachi 

Prachi Mishra, Product Leader at Booking.com

Hard-working and engaging are two words that easily describe Prachi Mishra. She has no problem when it comes to handling tight delivery timelines and pressure. She does so by being articulate and engaging the right people for the right tasks. Her talent doesn’t stop there, she also has the strength to take on bigger and better challenges to help her grow personally and professionally. However, she also isn’t overconfident and knows that sometimes the best move is to reach out for help and guidance, something that earns her respect while still helping her improve. 

Prachi is currently working on Product at Booking.com. She is heading the Product strategy across their data services portfolio. Her aim is to build products that power innovation and positively contribute to the companies growth. Before this, she spent almost six years at Tesco. She started off as a Product Manager for Data Platforms, working to make them a highly data-driven organization. 

She was later promoted to Lead Product Manager in the same department. She was very successful in this role, driving platform performance by 300%, improving adoption scores, and bringing in £100m in commercial benefits. Her final role with Tesco was as a Lead Product Manager for their Supply Chain and Fulfilment Data businesses. She succeeded in reducing their operational costs while providing better slot delivery, vehicle schedule, and shelf capacity. 

Prachi has also worked as a Service Manager at Eurostar and as a Product Manager for Dell’s iPaaS product Boomi. She is a Certified Scrum Master and Product Owner. Prachi attended Rajiv Gandhi Technical University for her Bachelor of Engineering. She focused her studies on Computer Science and Graduated with Honors. She also studied Digital Product Management at the University of Virginia.

What blogs or product thought leaders do you follow? Any book recommendations?

Linkedin is the best place for catching up on the latest technologies and product trends. I follow Techcrunch, Product School, etc. I also follow Marc Abraham. But these are very much UK-based. From the community of PMs here, the founder of Brew Dog is an excellent leader – James Watt. Plus all global leaders are product managers like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg. I follow them all because I keep learning from each one of them.

The books I recommend if you are starting in product management – Product Management Toolkit and similar ones are quite handy with the basic outline of product and agile practices. Also, Lean Startup, Lean Analytics, Measure What Matters, Radical Focus, Pheonix Project, and Thinking Fast and Slow. 

You might be interested in: The 20 Most-Read Books by Top Product Managers

What was your experience learning Product Management in a university outside of India?

Product Management online courses are great. You can start simple with Agile courses and PM basics. Some good colleges offer ‘design thinking’ courses including Cambridge, Imperial, etc. Based on what you want to learn or build your skills in, there are various short courses in these universities. I do not recommend an MBA degree for product management, however, analytics is an essential element of this field. So courses on that will also add a lot of value to your stream of work. Product School is one of the bests in this regard. 

Individual studying online and taking notes

I don’t have formal education in product management but I’ve been the founder of a SaaS startup. Is it possible for me to get an entry-level job related to PM?

If you get the opportunity to shadow as a product manager it will be a great start. Getting experience in dealing with stakeholders, resolving conflicts, negotiating and moving forward, creating strategies with the available leads, etc. are skills that come with experience. If you have been a founder, your best skills could be analytics, OKRs, commercial goals, and operating on lean principles. You can grow into this and apply it in any PM role. 

Check this out: Tips for Entry-Level Product Managers

I have experience in Product Analytics and I am currently a Growth analytics team. What do you suggest I study to transition into Product?

An MBA might sharpen existing skills but is not necessarily for product management. As I perceive it, to get a break into PM roles, it’s a good idea to shadow a role outside of your current role. You seem to have quite a relevant experience for becoming a PM so some good books, building community and networks, shadowing, courses and certifications could be your strategy

How are your data product teams are set up?

People building data products can reside anywhere. In my organization, all business teams have their own analysts and scientists. These are the 2 most popular personas. I have had a team of data scientists and analysts in a central team as well, who would help out the business units that cannot hire their own analysts and scientists. Other than this, I work most closely with data engineers who are platform champions. Together, we grow and mature platforms based on the requirements of our users. There is a webinar I conducted last Friday ‘How to Measure Success of Data Platforms’ you can find it on product school Linkedin etc. pages.

Group of people working on a wooden table

How do you democratize customer feedback from different channels and then analyze them for understanding customer needs?

I use both quantitative and qualitative data for measuring progress on my platforms. For customers, I have found that surveys always help me gather feedback collectively, and sometimes when I am focused on one cohort at a time I conduct user interviews. Other than this, I have found building JIRA dashboards, getting system metrics from tools like Graffana and Tableau for analytics to be of immense use in gathering data regularly.

Read next: Customer Feedback Loops: The Tools You Need

What are your go-to metrics frameworks to keep track of success?

Refer to the webinar I conducted last week on Friday. You can find it on the Product School Linkedin page – ‘How to Measure the Success of Data Platforms’, it has a lot of different measures you can use at different stages of a product.

What enabled you to pick the role of being a PM in Data Platform?

That’s a great question. I am always curious about data and I am quite passionate about how data can build and transform a business. Data as a tool has the power to change the world, I have therefore chosen the role to build the foundation of data, with this I get to learn about the different use cases of data, and my personas- developers, data analysts, scientists share a lot of information for me which is always interesting. The reason I never chose another role is that this role kept me occupied and there’s a lot more to explore here.

Check this out: Why Data Analytics Matters for Product Managers

Picture of parachute

How important is it to have domain knowledge as a PM (Data, fintech, retail)?

If you are equipped with product principles etc. it is good to have domain knowledge, so you can have effective discussions with your stakeholders. But that does not mean that you should stick to one for your lifetime. Diverse experience is always encouraged to give a comprehensive strength to your role and to help with making the right decisions for your product.  

You might be interested in: Find Customer Problems You Love

Do you have any advice on how to transition from Software Engineer to Product Manager roles?

A software engineer is a great role to transition into product management. With my experience, if you are a technical product manager, having technical knowledge is quite handy, you could understand the systems quickly. However, there is a lot more you need to explore when transitioning. First of all, find opportunities to gain some experience like shadowing some other PMs, make some mentors who would guide you, some good books, building community and networks, courses and certifications could your strategy…

Any final advice? 

Many of you were asking about ‘how to become a PM’. In my viewpoint, we are all PMs whether or not you play that role. In your own life, you deal with so many problems. You look at the problem and plan. You strategize how to deal with it and what steps to take. You talk to people (stakeholders), and you measure results. Product is a similar area. Think about the problem first and who is impacted, the rest will happen on its own naturally.

Start looking for opportunities to build a network, look for courses and material. Shadowing a PM or a mentor is a great idea. When dealing with an interview strategy always remember to find the answer to – ‘how you are different than others?’ And the last one- measuring is important and I have created a framework for measuring success which you can find on the Product School page. 

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