Thursday, October 6, 2011

Product Management in Steve Jobs Way

I recently finished reading the book "The Steve Jobs Way". Though the book talks about Steve Jobs' management style and what a visionary he was, I cannot help myself exclaiming that he was the best Product Manager that the industry would ever see.

As a budding PM, I got to learn a lot from how he conceptualized, designed and executed the products that revolutionized the industry. As a best PM, he always kept consumers first and always kept on aiming for perfection to please the end users.

Similar to Steve Jobs, a PM needs to be passionate about his Product. It was Steve's passion that gave world such wonderful products like Mac, iPod, iPhones. It was this passion of his which gave him a lot of driving force and he turned a deaf ear to words like 'This cannot be done'. His passion motivated him to push his team harder to get the desired product. His passion made him the best evangelist of his products. Who can forget his great presentations at WWDC evangelizing the new era of music players, phones and tablets.

A PM should always pay attention to every detail especially the ones pertaining to customer experience. This will help a PM in conducting continuous innovation to get closer to an ideal product. There are so many stories dedicated to Steve's attention to details and this blog would be insufficient to quote all of them. And the best thing about him was that he always accompanied details with quality and simplicity. He always wanted the products to be simple to use and never believed in having complex user manuals. This is the main reason behind iPhone having only a single button. Like Steve, a PM should be the ultimate user of his own products He was a master in converting customer's wants to needs.

Often he used to quote Henry Ford "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me, 'A faster horse'." He used to believe that if we ask a group of users - even those who aren't dissatisfied with a product - how to make it better, they will just end up thinking of things that are wrong with the product. The best that we would get from this exercise is incremental improvements. This won't lead to innovation or dramatically new products. Even I believe rather than asking users for features or solutions, just ask them the problems that they are facing and try to solve them using your expertise. He knew the expertise and strengths of his team well. He believed in holistic product development but at the same time knew when to partner with others.

As a owner of the product, a PM needs to take significant decisions by trusting his guts and insights. Then you need to ensure that you convince all the stakeholders for executing this decision. I cant really quote Steve's example here because he had a full authority on the team and could get things done in his own way, but he earned this respect and position because of the qualities mentioned above.

The best way to keep on improving these skills is by "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish!!"

Steve, thanks for being an inspiration always. R.I.P !!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

First 6 months as a PM

Its been a long time (1.5 years) since I wrote my last blog. So the best thing I thought of sharing with all are the last 6 months as a Product Manager as that would summarise a lot of things that I have been upto in the past (obviously excluding things at personal front)

Well, I was one of the few people (single digit I suppose) from my batch at IIMB who opted for a career in Product Management and thought of returning back to the Software industry. You feel good sometimes that you are out of the rat race but at the same time it give you jitters. You wonder if this is the right move after 2 years of investment in MBA as none of your other batchmates want to board this train. But slowly as you interact with more people you realize that all of us are different in one way or the other with different interests, passions and priorities in life. So, to make a better choice for yourself you need to understand yourself better and need to give some time for things to settle down. You get more confidence on your decision when a leading Business Magazine of the country features you in their cover story for doing things differently.

Anyways, afterall these thinking and introspection, I settled with the Product Management role in a leading storage company. I wanted to start my PM career at a place where I could learn the initial nuances of job and get a good mentoring from some senior people. At the same time, I didn't want a small piece of the pie (read it as PM of part of the product based on location). I wanted to work with a strong Engineering team so that my interest in technology booms further. Haven spoiled by the excellent environment in Google, I wanted to work in a company which can boast of its work culture globally and believes in giving a lot of freedom to its employees. Taking all this into consideration, I found NetApp as the best fit for me amongst the available opportunities at that time.

Its the first time that NetApp hired fresh B School grads as PMs but they did a splendid job in ramping us. I must say it took my couple of months to figure out what is happening around me. This is such a technology centric company that initially meetings were like Greek and Latin to me. But slowly, I started reading more about the technologies that we use and develop. I started talking to more people to understand the various products we deliver and slowly started to master my own product. It would be wrong to say if I never thought that why I needed a MBA degree if I had to work in such hard-core techie product (will answer that later). But my passion for technology and zeal to learn new things helped me ramp up soon enough. Infact within 6 months here I was in Delhi, talking to customers on my own and talking freely about our technology and the future roadmap. I was not only confident in talking about my product but also the complete package that we offer to customers (and definitely my MBA skills were helping me here). I was feeling so happy and getting such a kick out of all this. Finally, I had got what I wanted - a good mix of technology and business. I am now in a position where I understand the market and customer needs, translates them to requirements for my Engineering and deliver great products in the market to kick out the competition. I am part of the complete cycle and can see the big picture now.

At last, I am glad that I picked up something which aligns with my passion and didn't follow the rat race.

Disclaimer: All the views presented are my personal and not endorsed by my current employer in anyways

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Google OS on its way!

Finally the much talked about, hyped Google Operating System has been announced and it would be in market in a year's time. I remember numerous times people asked me "Google is launching its OS, right?" and when I you used to give them an amused look they used to feel that I am just keeping it confidential. I used to say that Google is a web based company and will not enter into desktop operating system. Well, I was partly right in saying that.

The new Google Chrome OS is a lightweight OS that would be designed majorly for the notebooks to run the web browser and web based applications. The best thing about it is that it would be open source which will result a huge developer community building applications on top of it which will soon make it popular. Definitely, it would be a great product for the users who just work on internet most of the time and rarely use their desktop for any other purpose. Its going to be fast, more secured, easy to use and obviously damn cheap compared to the existing Operating Systems.

But the question is if this OS would be able to challenge the No.1 in the market. Its definitely a threat for Microsoft but we still need to see how big. To make Chrome OS popular, we need to make internet even more powerful such that users dont need their desktops at all. Hopefully, this OS would provide that platform to create more user friendly web based applications which would make the costlier desktop hardwares and softwares useless. Cloud computing will definitely play a very big role in this.

Congrats Google! Way to go!!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Chilled out at -6 degree celsius

It was the first time, I was exposed to the temperature of -6 degree Celsius and it was really an awesome experience. Well, I didn't go to Antarctica but just to the Chillout Bar in Dubai. The place was completely frozen and everything there was made of ice. We were given a good thick fur jacket and gloves before entering in to the freezing zone but they could help only a little. I could stay there only for 40 minutes and had to come out twice to bring down my body to little normal temperature and avoid myself from freezing.

All the stuff in the bar was made of ice - the tables, chairs, glasses, show pieces etc. There was also a flower pot made of ice. Even the menu was a thick ice sheet and glasses for cold drinks were made of ice too. It was good that we got a complimentary hot chocolate which helped us a little. I had gloves on but still my hands were numb after sometime itself. We were clicking each and every corner of the bar. We were picking up each and everything : ice fish, ice stars, ice glasses to have a photo with them.

When you are in such a crazy place, you get to turn little more crazy and we were no exception. We ordered even a cold juice there to add to the chillness of the place. We were touching the ice cubes to our face to take the pic. And the best one came after half an hour. We were done with clicking all the places and objects in the bar. We got rid of our jackets, caps and gloves and came inside just in our normal clothes. We stayed there for around 3-4 minutes in similar state and had a quick round of photos. We were almost frozen to our depths when we ran away outside to the normal desert weather

The evening at Burj Al Arab

The day I landed in Dubai, I have been hearing about this tallest hotel of the world - Burj Al Arab. Supposedly it is the only 7 star hotel. Everytime when I used to pass by the Sheikh Zayed road or the Jumeirah road, I used to look at this magnificent piece of architecture with awe and used to click its photograph from my car window. When we visited the Jumeirah beach, we clicked more pics with Burj in the background rather than having sea in background.

I decided to visit this place after I saw the documentary which described how much effort went into construction of this hotel and how its so different from other buildings. Its built a few hundred metres inside the sea in the shape of sail which looks so simple and marvelous but it took great engineering minds to build it this way.

So, Finally this weekend our entire IIMB gang thought of hitting the Skyview bar of this hotel which is suspended 250 metres above the sea level and gives you a feeling as if its just hanging in the air without any support. Having a champagne at such a place was an awesome experience and we just kept on watching Dubai from this height with admiration. This was the costliest champagne that I have had in my life and I am sure I am not breaking this record for a decade. Also, this bar holds a Guinness book of records for serving the most expensive cocktail for 27,321 AED.

As usual we had lot of pics in the restaurant and enjoyed our champagne to the fullest. Also then we spent a lot of time in the beautiful lobby and had many pics there too (afterall we had to recover our cost :P).

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Xoogler's journey in the B School

Many people have been constantly asking me if it was a right decision to leave Google and join MBA. The count of such people was low when I have just joined IIMB because only doubt they had in mind was if I wasn't happy at Google; some where like what more do you expect than Google - it has an excellent work and culture. But as the economy plunged into recession and it started effecting job markets everywhere not even sparing the best B schools across the globe, the count of such people increased. Even when I wasn't thinking about this at all, they were constantly questioning me and trying to make me realise that this was the biggest mistake in my life till now.

I don't know if this was a right decision or wrong. As Steve Jobs say: "you can only connect the dots looking backwards". I am still only half a MBA and I had spent only one year at Google. So, at both the places I dont think results should be used for comparison. I won't like to see it from the point that I became a team lead in Google in just 6 months but wasn't one of the toppers in MBA.

If, any day I have to compare between these two places, I can just compare the experiences there and even then I would never say that one was much better/worse than other. Both the places had their own pros and cons. They were similar in many aspects - I had to meet deadlines at both the places, both the places gave me ample freedom to do what I want. If Google gave me 20%, IIMB gave me choice of electives and obviously all the time after the classes to do what I want.

Both gave me ample opportunities to learn. I learnt a lot about the corporate culture and one of the best at Google. I learnt how to behave professionally, how to conduct meetings, how to orgnaise and prioritise my tasks, how to do the perfect time management, how to meet my deadlines, how to work in a team, how to motivate my team, how to achieve the desired results and most importantly how to play foosball. I guess after coming to IIMB, these learnings continued and actually took the next bigger step. All these professional learnings were honed more when I was working as a member of the placement team and was interacting with companies. I learnt more and more about team work and time management when I was working in so many teams to complete my projects along with managing the studies and placecom tasks.

Both the places gave me an exposure to the outer world with small international stints. Its a different learning experience all together to go outside and work with people of different culture but similar objectives. Also, its much more exciting and you really enjoy a lot visiting so many places in such a short time. Not to forget both the places gave me many friends and contacts which will always be helpful to me wherever I go.

I have never limited my learning at IIMB to only academics and I think that was only possible because I came after a little industry experience which taught me that all these things do not matter in the long term. Because of this I was able to focus on other things which I liked doing. I was able to analyse the long term benefits of many things which were not giving me any short term benefits at IIMB. I am glad that I didn't lose the motive with which I entered into IIM.

I am no financial expert and I dont know when this recession will end and I dont even want to take any guess or make any hypothesis here. I would not mind if I get a lesser paying job from IIM. I never came here with the astronomical figures in mind. I came here to achieve my long term goals. Since, I would be achieving them in long term only, they are insulated from the recessions of the world. So again I wont like to compare these places with their end results in the short term but definitely I would like to cherish the experiences that I have gained here.

As somebody has rightly said, "Enjoy the journey, enjoy every moment, and quit worrying about winning and losing." So, I strive to enjoy the journey and not the destination.

Monday, May 11, 2009


As the title says, I am going to talk about Dubai in this blog. So, what brings me here: my summer internship which is part of curriculum at IIMB.

I came to UAE in April and after spending two weeks in Abu Dhabi, I came to the new luxury tourist hot spot of world - Dubai. Its a beautiful city which has both sea as well as deserts. To me it seems like India with US infrastructure. Yea, you can disagree with this but it comes from my limited exposure to only a few countries. Now, why I made such a statement was because you will find lot of Indians everywhere. There are so many Indian restaurants also around that you will hardly feel home sick because of food. Infrastructure is amazing. Awesome roads, wonderful bus/cab service, tall buildings, 24 hours power, big cars all around. I am surprised that still there is no railways/metro in this country.

Dubai has been always in news for its skyline. Leading from the front is Burj Dubai: tallest building in world and Burj Al Arab: tallest hotel in world and supposedly the only 7 star hotel. Hopefully, I will visit it this week. Apart from these there are many other great buildings in variety of shapes. Seems like people dont like making simple and small buildings here and all the architectural experiments are conducted here. The city has so many malls and they have hardly left out any brand. But one good thing in the malls here is they are based on some central theme and are not boring like malls in other countries. In a single mall you would find acquarium, zoo etc and in other you will find a place of skiing with a temperature of -4 degrees. Some malls have the traditional Arabic look and some look like Egyptian pyramids. Bottomline, you will never get bored in these malls as you will get chance to click so many photos and numerous opportunities of window shopping.

Weather here is hot as expected but you hardly feel it as everything is air conditioned. I also got a chance to go for the desert safari where I did Dune bashing in the car which was thrilling. We had the dinner in the camp and the icing on the cake was the Belle Dance. As desired by the rulers here, this place is rapidly growing as the favoured tourist spot and you will find many tourists at every place and numbers are expected to grow as Dubai is growing and coming up with more interesting options for the tourists.