Case Study: Rajaram,PreSales to Product Manager

Rajaram, Product Manager, CA, ICPM Class of Spring 2013
“You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.”
The case study covers the perspective of RajaRam, Product Manager, CA Technologies on how International Post Graduate Certificate Program in Product Management and Marketing (ICPM) has been helpful him on his way to evolve as a product leader in future

Playing multiple roles yet lacking satisfaction:

Rajaram completed his bachelor of engineering from Cochin University and immediately joined Infosys where he played various roles from that of a Software Engineer, module lead, etc until he was responsible for delivery of custom projects either in a role of an onsite client manager or as a Project Manager in the Infosys office. Rajaram, who is currently working with CA Technologies as a Product Manager, manages a predominantly cloud based service for authenticating online transactions for financial institutions across the world. The service currently authenticates transactions for millions of cardholders and in that sense what he does in his currently role touches peoples’ lives across the world. The current role gives him what he had planned for his career in the immediate future – be responsible for a mainstream product offering that allows him to use the domain expertise he has gained to improve the value offering that the product gives. Prior to this current role, Rajaram was responsible for key customers in the Europe and APAC regions for implementation of the authentication product. While this role gave him very good insights into what customers want and need, the role lacked responsibility to drive product improvements based on the key common points or themes that he could notice across multiple customers. Rajaram works with the NBI (New Business Innovation) business unit within CA Technologies. They are chartered with identifying new business opportunities in the primary areas of CA business and build a product offering to address the business needs. In a way, this allows the group to be in a start-up mode while working with a large corporation for funding needs. He works with the Payment group within the NBI Org. They work on products that allows authentication of customers during payments. Typically this involves the card issuer (your bank) making sure that the person completing a transaction is the cardholder and not a fraudster. They have multiple products to address different needs of the markets including software based advanced authentication techniques powered by applications residing on your mobile phone, adaptive authentication based on the history of the card and device used for transactions and product lines to meet the legal requirements for the banks to complete authentication. His primary responsibility includes defining road maps and to ensure a successful delivery of roadmaps to their cloud based service. Since they derive 80% of their business through cloud based offering, as a product manager he is also responsible for managing the continuous delivery of new features to the cloud without impact to the existing customers.

3 Key Takeaways:

● Learning science around product management
● Learn to communicate, negotiate and cajole a great team to work for the end goal that is important for the success of the product
● Industry Connect

Rajaram felt that the biggest advantage he could get from the “Industry Connect” was staying comfortable and confident while dealing with C – Level executives. And, this has had a direct bearing in his current role where he pitched the product road map and the critical themes of our releases at two conferences that were conducted in partnerships with their largest partners. These events were attended by a lot of key decision makers and the feedback that his team got on our presentations has been extremely positive.
Pursuing a Passion:
In the past year, he has deeply fallen in love with the role of a Product Manager primarily because it is what he would call an elastic role. It allows him to confine himself with very tactical objectives while at the same time expand his role to business development. In the immediate five years, he would look to grow within the product management organization and take up additional responsibilities that allow business development, identifying potential partners, take make vs. buy decisions and finally look at acquisition targets, etc for expanding business. This in his opinion allows him to look at roles of a GM (General Manager) responsible for a line of business. While though he is not considering taking up any entrepreneurship opportunities right now, who knows in future he might!!!

Implementing what you learn:

Finally when the time for his internal job interview came, he could use a lot of the learnings from the course to offset the gap of not having a product management background. He believed, this course and the practical learning one gets from doing a live project would give him a lot of the learnings which is invaluable while looking for a move to Product Management. He had learned about the course through some research on the web. When he was looking at multiple courses, he chose this because of the course structure, which included soft skills and other workshops like industry connect. The fact that the course is blessed by the captains of the product management industry in India also helped makes the decision easier. Finally he also attended the skype sessions conducted by Prof Shah on Product management and that helped cement the decision he had made in joining the course. While he had also looked at part-time MBA Programs (like the one conducted by IIM, Bangalore), he felt that the quality of people who have graduated from these programs have reduced drastically over the years and he did not want to end up with a certification that will not make him stand out from the degree. To him, one intangible benefit, in asking the management to fund the course was to communicate his personal commitment to move to Product management. While this also helped me get the course program funded through the organization, he believed the bigger value add was that it showed my management and his future manager a difference between him and a lot of other members who had shown interest in similar lateral moves.

Significant Change in perception:

Before joining ICPM, he viewed the role of a Product manager as a person who can identify common minimum points across customer requests and combine them as a product feature.
Since he was confident about his communication skills and ability to work with customers, he strongly felt the role would allow him to control the destiny of a product. That did feel powerful!!!
However his perception of what the role meant changed soon after he joined ICPM. He understood the different facets of product management and the principles behind the different phases of conceptualizing to building, going live and measuring the success of the Product launch. It also dawned on him that the Product Manager role requires you to build invaluable relationships with the folks within the organization that would help you in the product launch when required. He has always considered this as his strength and could quickly see that a lot of soft skill techniques that the course concentrated on allowed him to build on these strengths. Joining the course also allowed him to demonstrate to his organization that he was indeed serious about his career shift to Product Management. His manager could see him finish his work and then scamper to get on the weekly Skype calls and do assignments that the course required participants to do.
“You cannot help but learn more as you take the world into your hands.”
Performance appraisal rating moved up:
Rajaram believes the biggest testimony that he added value to his employer was his appraisal rating this year after he moved to product management. When he was recruited, his manager was hesitant due to his lack of professional job expertise in product management and because he was not collocated with him. However, to his credit, he decided to take the chance, and after a year his feedback was that he is extremely happy that he made the choice. This in effect is because of what I learned from the course which meant that he did not need to go back to him in a lot of the decisions while at the same time could win his trust in the way he was managing the product roadmap and requests from different quarters. There were times when he had gone with detailed analysis on why he did not want to change the product roadmap on the back of single customer requests and that was possible due to the fundamental concept of adding to the product intrinsic value that he learned from the course.
“The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you..”.
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