Our Product Manager Riddhi Jamnadas was chosen to be the first guest on #GirlsWhoProduct, by Productized. We are proud to republish the interview she gave to Katsiaryna Drozhzha (who was also in charge of the photos).
We hope you enjoy to know Riddhi and her thoughts about being a woman in product Management.
The first girl who products featured in this project is Riddhi Jamnadas. Riddhi is a Product Manager at Premium Minds, a software house based in Lisbon, Portugal. After 8 years of experience in Marketing for IT companies, Riddhi has successfully transitioned into Product Management. In her spare time, Riddhi thinks about new product ideas, traveling around Europe, volunteering for social causes that can 'make difference in people's life' and jogging with her Ipod Shuffle — because 'no music, no life'
How did you make the move from being in marketing to becoming a Product Manager?
I come from a marketing background, so before getting into Product Management I've already had this product mindset, even though back than I still didn't know what exactly Product Management was and where I could learn about it. Luckily, a friend of mine who was working in the field, told me about a great company that happened to be hiring a Product Manager with marketing skills. She helped me understand the responsibilities of that role and gave some practical advice, which I found to be very helpful. So finally I thought, "Why not? This field could be right for me! My background is marketing, but my field of studies is management, both of these experiences could help me complete the role". I wanted to try something new and that was the reason why I've accepted the challenge.
Every year we see more and more gender diversity in the product community. However, women account for a minority of the leading product roles. Why do you think women are still grossly underrepresented in the product world?
I think that lack of information is the main stumbling block on the way to aspire more women to apply to product management jobs. Women usually don't know what the product management is and what are the responsibilities or tasks in field that could complete their role, because this job is usually by mistake being related to technology industry experience. However, I don't see it as a problem. Product Management is something relatively new, something that came with the evolution of the digital. Since it's just the beginning, there is still room for improvement. Product world is constantly growing and we'll definitely need more women to get the product jobs done.
What are the challenges we face in closing the gender gap in product world?
The main challenge that we have nowadays is how to inform women that Product Management is NOT necessarily coming from IT field and that a non-technical product manager can also be successful. Yes, it's true that in the beginning more opportunities in product management were coming from the IT and engineering areas, mainly because it was necessary to have someone to build the product and the roadmap of the product. Nowadays, we have lots of alternative ways that help girls know more about the field. There are many possibilities out there, but of course if you have a non-tech background, you will not try to grow in the field that you think is designed for software engineers. Actually, that was my case as well. First I thought, "Maybe this job is for engineers and I shouldn't try it." Only later on, already working as a Product Manager, I've discovered that my role was more about planning, having management skills, the product roadmap and strategy prepared for the team and understanding the market needs,- these are the skills that can help to make the product better.
In spite of being a woman, I have never felt any difference
Do you think that women have distinctive skills that make a perfect fit for a product management job?
Honestly, I don't think that there is a difference between men and women in performing the role in this field. I think our skills are the most important asset we have. In spite of being a woman, I have never felt any difference between me and my male colleagues. The only thing that I have needed to understand is not whether men and women have different working styles, but how to have someone senior to help me develop the skills that I need. Not because I am a woman, but because I am in this field for a short time.
Do you think that women can bring some fundamental difference in the way we see/manage the product?
I think it depends on the person who gets the job done. What matters is the personality, the field of study and the type of product management and product, but not the gender. For instance, the educational field where you're coming from can make the difference. Typically, who comes from business management or marketing will have management skills more developed; someone from a technical field will share more about the technical specifications and probably a Product Manager with a background in design will have more to say about user interface. As someone's told me once, it's not possible to have all these skills but what is really important is to be able to improve and understand what is necessary to get the job done and to achieve the team's goal.
Your performance also depends on your company and the working environment. Here, at Premium Minds, I don't see any differentiation between women and men. Of course, girls are just entering the field and product world is still a man's world, but this has been evolving and we're just recruiting more and more women. Recruiting women is happening naturally, but we should create more awareness to make women understand that they can get into this area.
How can a woman with no experience in product management land the first job in the field?
Software companies like Premium Minds can be an entrance to have these types of jobs. Because the companies that have unique products usually need the product managers to make the roadmap of the product more clear and manage the relationship with the client. You can also approach startups with interesting products that also need product managers. There is also the traditional way to approach the market on LinkedIn, job fairs, recruitment events and companies' websites. Shortly: be really proactive. Don't be afraid to apply to the job position that you've never done before, even if you think that you don't have some specific skills.
Lack of information is the main stumbling block on the way to aspire more women to apply to product management jobs
What're the key skills that employers' want to see in Product Managers?
Understanding the market needs is the main skill that you need to have, simply because you cannot ship a product if you don't understand what is the need of your customer. A good PM should also have strong leadership skills. You need to be detail oriented and at the same time have the macro perspective. Try to have the best management instruments to apply into the job.
When you first start a job it's always difficult to work with the product that you barely know. How to stay focused on your next plans and get the job done?
What matters in Product Management, like in any other job, is managing the priorities and understanding what has to be done now and what can be done later. You should understand what is Minimum Valuable Product and according to that define the priorities.
What part of this job challenges you the most?
It is hard to say, because I like pretty much everything in my job. Struggling against short timings that we usually have is something very difficult but challenging. Another challenge that I have is that I don't have strong enough technical knowledge. But it is also a plus because it makes me want to grow in that field.
My job helps me to be more organized and care about the details
What do you like best about your job?
I feel a more complete professional and person because of this job. Before I used to have only one perspective on the product. Now I have to think how to find the match point and organize all different fields that can help me put the product into the market. I also like the possibility of applying Scrum and the way it helps my team to work for the same purpose. I am not coding but I am always trying to learn more and more. So I really appreciate the team environment in my company and that I can learn from other colleagues.
How do you balance personal life and professional career?
As you manage your tasks, you'll also manage your personal life with your career. Of course, the company's culture and the phase of product development are very important, but there's always a work-life balance if well-managed. In my daily life I got used to do the same as I do in the professional life. I have some tasks to be completed. My job helps me to be more organized and care about the details. I have to say that organizing and having slots dedicated to specific tasks to be completed is very useful to achieve this goal.
How do you envision a balanced future career for yourself?
I would like to develop my technical skills, that is one of my goals, and also become a better Product Manager through different trainings like Jobs-to-be-Done or design thinking that can help me complete this "scientific" part of Product management that I didn't have at the university. I am also trying to absorb the knowledge that is there inside of the company.
Don't be afraid to apply to the job position that you've never done before, even if you think that you don't have some specific skills
Do you have role models that motivate you grow as a product manager?
Dan Olsen, whose workshop I got to attend last year at Productized Conference, is one of the main role models for me in product management, who helps me understand how to give direction to the quality of the product and how to build the design that can help us stay closer to the user/customer.
There are also some blogs and authors/PM's that I follow regularly:
And of course I attend conferences, masterclasses and trainings. These events help me not only improve my skills, but also share experience with other product managers, network and stay together as a community.
Dan's Olsen workshop on The Lean Product Process at #productized17
What advice would you give to women who want to become product managers?
Don't be afraid to embrace something you have never tried before! If you have no/little experience in the field, try to understand how you can make the most out of the skills that you already have. If you really like what you're doing, it's doesn't really matter what your background is. Product Management allows you to 'mix' the areas and match the lines that sometimes might seem to be parallel. learn