What goes into a day of a Product Manager?

“We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?” - Steve Jobs

Three… Two… One… Go! It was that time of the month again where we land into another city with our “A Day in the Life of a Product Manager” event. It was Pune’s turn to swing to the tunes of Industry leaders and subject matter experts (SMEs) and bask in the knowledge showered upon them.

Prof. Rahul Abhyankar, in his signature style, inaugurated the day with a mentoring session on how to further speed up your career acceleration.

Through the session with the absorbed audience, Prof. Abhyankar reiterated to current and aspiring Product Managers the importance of the role of a Product Manager in an organisation and quoted:

“If we believe that the Product Manager is the CEO of a product, we can’t just be a lip-service to it. We have actually believe and act accordingly.”

Another remarkable quote that struck a chord with the audience was:

“Experience and tenure is not the only way to learn.”

The session was made more engaging with the audience coming up with a lot of thought-provoking questions, to which Prof. Abhyankar gave apt answers. He also went on to reward a few who had come up with the most interesting questions.

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While the scene shifted to the eagerly awaited panel discussion, the audience were enthralled by the knowledge that was brought to the table by the esteemed panelists.

The panel consisted of some of the most seasoned leaders in the Industry. Mr. Aditya Gokhale, Director-R&D at VMWare, Mr. Altaf Merchant, Director-Product Management at Mediaocean and Mr. Kiran Diwakar, Senior Director-Product Management at CA Technologies took time off their busy schedules to be part of the panel that discussed “How to align product management across an organisation”. Ms. Seema Joshi, Director-Customer Experience & Ops at Serv’d (and IPL alumna) moderated the session.

Each of the panelists has had an illustrious career that boasts of stellar transitions into the product space. Their stories were no less than an encyclopaedia on Product Management that the audience soaked in by means of the intense discussions that occurred.

The panel was more than enthusiastic about clarifying and answering the questions that were brought to the forum. The answers were ample material for aspiring and experienced Product Managers alike, to soak into, to practice and to ruminate on.

A snapshot of a few questions that were answered -

Q: What does it even mean to align product management into an organisation?

Mr. Altaf Merchant said, “Alignment is essentially with the various stakeholders in the ecosystem. From an organisational standpoint, there are external and internal stakeholders. Your business strategy should be communicated and percolated across various cross-functional divisions that you have within your company.”

Q: In the organisations that you represent, is there a good understanding of what a product management function should be doing?

Mr. Kiran Diwakar, with a smile spanning his face, said, “ Is there awareness about the role of the product manager? The answer will be a blunt No. You would find someone in pockets who would be feeling empathy towards you and acknowledgement for your hard work PMs definitely get. But, do people understand what a PM brings to the table? I don’t think so. I think there are very few people who understand what a Product Manager does and how a PM enables the team to be successful.”

Q: Who owns the technical outlook or roadmap of a company?

Mr. Aditya Gokhale was prompt in taking up the question and said, “Some of the platform changes that we do, there is no PM explicitly assigned to it. There is no roadmap projected on the powerpoint by your VP or SVP. But then, there are technology trends. Sometimes you might be caught off-guard and might render you completely lost in that market space. So, from an engineering or an architect point of view, architect is an internal PM in my personal opinion. The architect has to keep tabs on what are the technology trends and changes that are happening and socialize that with the PM and get on calls with the customer. That will help us build a platform that will keep us relevant 2 or 3 years down the line.”

It would be an understatement to say that the audience were simply bowled over by the wisdom and learning brought forth to the forum.

If the panel discussion was not enough of an engrossing session, Prof. Jayshree Kirtane, IPL Faculty and Co-Founder of Alchemy Management Consultants, involved the audience in an exhilarating post-lunch workshop on “Leading without Authority”.

As a Product Manager, the one quality most desirable is the ability to collaborate across various teams and lead them to the direction of a world-class product. But, would a Product Manager necessarily have the authority or power over all the teams involved? If not, then how can one lead and inspire people without holding an obvious authority over them? The crux of the workshop was in providing the answers to these questions. And Prof.Kirtane dazzled the audience with her insightful talk.

The workshop was not just talk. The audience were pulled into some hands-on activities to personally experience what it takes to lead and inspire people with ideas and actions.

As always, the event was a peek into the challenging and exciting life of a Product Manager, also bringing to light the immense responsibility the title holds in a wider spectrum.

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