Season 1 - Episode 2

What the Future of Product Holds

We kick off this episode with Satyajeet Salgar, a Group Product Manager at Google. He has more than 10 years of experience working on products like Google Play and Search, TV ads, and many others.

Satyajeet Salgar

[00:01:03] We’ll be covering everything from the importance of incorporating many ideas into one solution, to what the future of management holds and how creativity can be the defining factor for the success of our products.

Question [00:01:20] So Satyajeet, I’m just curious to know if you’ve ever wondered about how the biggest services and brands were developed when you were growing up. Did you ever think about these things?

Satyajeet [00:01:32] I don’t think I naturally thought about it, but I think once I was interested enough began to read books about it. I think that helps you. It helps you put into context what you do and how certain things came to be the way they are.

For example, I just finished reading this book Shoe Dog about how Nike got started. Over time, I think you sort of see great companies develop and brands develop and it’s like history lessons for Product Development. I think I started doing that fairly later in my career.

Question [00:03:09] What about your close family and friends when you were growing up? Did you have any sort of role models, or people who were connected to the tech world?

Satyajeet [00:03:36] Not really. My dad was was an accountant by training and sort of worked in management.

But by the time I went to college, I didn’t want to study computer science or computer engineering. I think it was more a sense of: this seems to be where the world is going; let me see if I can I can get there.

Question [00:05:55] You’ve been in product for 12 years. Do you think it was a common role when you started? How was it getting into product in 2007?

Satyjeet [00:06:41] I really stumbled into product management. I used to work in a startup before I went to business school. Just as I was leaving the startup to go to business school, we hired our first Product Manager, and I was like, Oh, what is this job? This this sounds interesting. And the thing I realized when I was in business school I really enjoyed the academics, but I also realized I wanted to go back to technology.

I actually started at Google in a partnership role. But I realized that the things that I am good at are at the intersection of design, product, business, and technology, which is why I switched to Product Management.

So by the time I decided to go to Product Management, there was a role That was well understood. I think now the interest in the role compared to when is dramatically higher. It’s been kind of amazing to see the the interest in product management go up over the last decade or so.

Satyajeet [00:09:35] Honestly, shipping any product then continuing to build and grow it is very much a team sport. It requires a lot of functions to make a product successful; to make a business successful.

Everyone needs to feel like they’re part of the team. So your job as a manager is to set the vision; help everyone understand what the rules are in in accomplishing this, and make them feel like part of their team. That means, you have to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard.

That this transparency. And there are tactical ways to do that. You can have cross-functional meetings, you can have all hands, and there are different ways to achieve good communication. That’s one of the really critical roles of being a PM: you need to understand all the functions that are required to make your product successful and then sort of bring them together.

To me, that’s one of the most interesting parts of being a PM. You get to learn a lot of other things. For example, speaking with lawyers, speaking salespeople, to speaking of this development. You grow a lot in many dimensions because you have the opportunity to be part of a lot of these little conversations.

Question [00:13:04] How do you make your operations influenced by the user?  How do you make sure that yourself and your team are aware of their concerns?

Satyajeet [00:13:25] Yeah, I think losing touch with their customers is one of the biggest risks. But we do a lot of user research, so we make sure we spend the time to go talk to people who actually use the product. We also do a lot of analysis. So we see how they’re using the product and where some of their pain points are. And so this combination of qualitative and quantitative sort of research helps us.

Question [00:14:09] What about when you’re hiring new team members? I’m curious, how do you filter through candidates work? What really catches your attention in a resume and what are you looking for, some technical requirements?

Satyajeet[00:14:32] It varies. Resumes are challenging. It’s easily to be biased with a resume when someone has had a Product Management job that may be similar to the work I want them for.

When someone has been a Product Manager, you have to get a sense of what they’ve worked on, if they’ve faced similar user challenges or product challenges.

I think it becomes a little bit fuzzier when the person hasn’t been a product manager before. And so you’re looking for slightly different things in their resume. In the interview, I get a chance to see if this person understands what makes products successful.

If they work on products before, have they thought hard about why their product worked or fail and anything like the thing that I mentioned earlier, which is do they just enjoy thinking about product? And I think once you sort of try and get a sense of that in the interview. And so the best interviews I always say like end up feeling like conversations. They don’t feel like interviews. You almost never discuss products together, thinking about product strategy together, designing something together. And so when that interview goes, that’s when I knew an interview was going. Well, when when I feel like I am not asking questions when I’m actually having a discussion and learning a lot from this person. Yeah. That’s when you sort of get a sense of like, oh, yeah, this person, I would enjoy working with them. They’re thinking through things that are great.

Question [00:16:11] What has been the most relevant skill for you? If you could just stick with one thing. What do you think for yourself has opened more doors in your career?

Satyajeet [00:16:24] Listening. The ability to listen to a lot of different people and voices — or different sources of input — and integrate that can do something that we can act on. It’s probably the thing that I think I do well and I really enjoy doing.

Question [00:21:17] What do you use to sort of guide you to measure success? To know that you’re going in the right direction? What are your tools or metrics that you’re always like, across every part of you? What do you trust?

Satyajeet [00:21:32] So I think generally metrics need to be very product specific because the metric is how you define what your product strategy is.

Every metric needs to be very specific to the product. And frankly, sometimes need to interchange as the state of the product changes. It’s rarely sort of a general metric.  Your metric is and is something that you can look at every day and say, is our product strategy working? It’s something you can sort of inspire your entire team to look at and sort of go from there.

Question [00:26:14] We all know that Google is a giant company. How do you manage expectations when you are working in a place like, which has this sort of legacy and products? How do you manage expectations internally and also externally with your customer?

Satyajeet [00:26:59] We don’t think of it; more than expectations it’s a feeling of responsibility. I feel very lucky to work here, which is especially right now.

Working here, your impact is really high. You end up working on projects could affect millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions, even a billion plus people, and these things that you do could have that type of impact. So it’s more you feel a lot of responsibility to make good decisions; to make sure your work is of high quality, and respects people’s sort of intentions and serves them well. So I think it’s more you feel a lot of responsibility for that reason.

Question [00:37:02] So now we can finish with some quick questions. Could you mention three tools that you can’t live without, like three tools that are essential to your daily tasks?

Satyajeet [00:37:21] That’s an interesting question!

I’d say the combination of Gmail because a lot of this is a combination of email and chat; communication is a huge part of your job.

Obviously docs and spreadsheets because that’s a lot of what you do as a product manager is setting strategy, present strategy, and then analysis. So that’s another big thing.

Actually, I spend more time managing, and less time in sketch, but earlier on [in my career] tools where you can quickly mock things up. I used Balsamic, but I think at some point I switched to sketch. 

That’s a wrap for this episode of the Product Podcast, join us next time for a fresh batch of insightful product perspectives!

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