People with a ‘give-up’ nature can’t be Product Managers!

A report of the first Career Day at IPL

IPL’s first ‘Career Day’ at the Koramangala campus on Friday, 17 February got off to a good start with 30+ IPLites and 7 industry executives and hiring managers participating in engaging conversations. Hiring managers and senior management from HP, inMobi, GOOMO and ZeOmega and other companies looking for product talent were at the campus.

A panel discussion on “Understanding the product landscape and expectations by hiring managers” was the highlight of the event. Moderated by Prof. Akshay Cherian, product leaders including Piyush Shah (Chief Product Officer, InMobi), Ezhilan Nanmaran (Global Product Line Manager, HP), Anand Kumar Tiwari (Sr Director, Product Management, ZeOmega) and Aniket Nanji(Sr HR Consultant, GOOMO) talked about trends in the industry and hiring managers’ expectations.

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Here are some key insights from the panelists during the discussion:

What are the trends in the product management landscape?

Hiring of Product Managers is shifting into India. Companies like HP have been pioneers in this. As a global product company with a local base, inMobi has been hiring product managers in India from the get-go.

What does it take to land the Product Manager position?

● "Understand what you do in the day-to-day activities. The role is for worldwide product management. You are the sole point of contact for the product or line.” - Ezhilan Nanmaran
● “As long as they can provide value sitting in India, we hire Product Managers here” - Anand Kumar Tiwari
● “We can build a world class product company out of india. That's why we exist. It's super critical that PMs have the guts to take decisions that affect the rest of the world. Bangalore is our Mountain View! Ownership, accountability and being CEO of the product are critical. It is high stress, high bar, high impact." - Piyush Shah

Where are the gaps? What do you wish PM candidates in India had?

● Many applicants do not have enough exposure to the market
● A mindset shift is required to get into into product management. People need to be ownership driven, not just task-oriented. Do whatever it takes to make the product successful!
● Product management is very ambiguous. In companies like HP decision making is driven by consensus. Have the data to back your decisions.
● Product Managers working on global products out of India can't just rip off ideas from the US and Europe. It's all about the “unknown unknowns”. Learn to thrive in chaos and uncertainty.
● Hard skills are good. The bigger challenge is folks who need to endure. How are you responding when things go wrong? People with a “give up” nature can't be Product Managers. Grit is needed!
● Most PMs are very inside out. Be a lot more outside-in: acquire the customer/people context and business context. This is a big gap.

Can people acquire these abilities?

● Yes! It takes practice, mentorship and being exposed to hard business situations. There is no magic or rocket science to this, and definitely no shortcuts!
● Engineering domain expertise is not necessary. Anyone can be a Product Manager. Customer support folks have made great Product Managers, because they have excellent customer context.
● Age is not a bar for product management! Acquire the experience: learn, grow, make mistakes, figure out life. ⅓ of inMobi’s Product Managers are failed entrepreneurs - they are the best PMs!

Feedback from IPLites was equally enthusiastic, with many looking forward to continuing the conversations they started at the event. For information about future career events, contact the Career Management Cell at [email protected]

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