Deepit Purkayastha

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What accomplishment in your product management career has brought you the highest level of satisfaction and joy? Can you narrate why?

Simplicity  is the hardest job in Product Management specially when the user's needs are  very simple. While early days of the Inshorts product, when we hadn't yet  finalised the form factor for the content and the core interactions, we were  trying to decide the best and yet simple experience around short news  consumption.

   Our job to be done was how to make a "not news savvy" users  browse through the top 20 news stories "every day". And I would  stress again on "every day".
   The way we thought we would do that is by providing 60 words news stories.  But the product around it was yet to be built.

   The key objectives from the product that we kept in mind to avoid  cluttering the experience were as follows:
   1. One news at a time - one short news in a single screen.
   2. Simple interaction to go to next news without wasting any time
   3. High quality images to help people decide quickly whether they are  interested in the story or not.

   When we were finally able to implement these objectives after multiple  iterations, our Playstore ratings improved to 4.6+ one if highest for news  apps in those times and our "not news savvy users" were browsing  more than 70 stories a day and we used to get regular testimonials saying  that the user had stopped reading news but because of us they got back into  the habit.

   We as a company always wanted to make the people more informed. And seeing  the mission come to life because of good product decisions brought me a lot  of satisfaction.

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What aspect of product management did you struggle the most with? How did you overcome it?

Every  product initiative/ project has a different requirement in terms of developer  bandwidth. And its not always possible to run sprints with dedicated  developer bandwidth available for a startup. We always have faced a resource  crunch internally in terms of developer bandwidth since we had been by design  one of the leanest tech teams out there.  
‚Äć

Having known of agile kind of development cycle which assumes dedicated  developer bandwidth was not easy to apply in a startup setting. As there are  always a host of things to fix. So resource allocation to make sure that a  free developer's time is not wasted while another developer is not overworked  is something that I struggled with the most.

Breaking down a single product feature / initiatives into smaller tasks  which can be asynchronously completed was the way I have overcome it.

‚Äć

What's one common myth about product management that you find common among aspiring PMs?

The most common myth  I find in aspiring PMs is that they only see the "cool" and  "creative" aspect of the job. While IMO the core outcomes that a PM  is able to drive is because of disciplined Program Management skills as well.  Without disciplined program management by a PM it's not possible that the  "creative" freedom can be earned by the person nor will creativity  turn into productivity for the company.

‚Äć

What are some common pitfalls that product managers must be aware of?

The most  common pitfall is not able to balance between one's own intuition vs user  feedback. Its very hard to learn this aspect of Product Management. That is -  when to listen to the user and what to ask them vs when to try and push  boundaries by going with your gut and trying something big out.

It's important for Product Managers to understand what the business needs  the Product to deliver on and also what moonshots can put the business in a  higher orbit of growth.

‚Äć

If not product management, what career would you have picked? Are there any complimentary skillsets that you see between being a PM and your alternate choice?

As an entrepreneur, I  was able to dabble with many different hats during our last 8 years journey.  My heart has always been with Product but I have been an avid number cruncher  so I feel any quant oriented area like investing / finance might have been my  alternate choices. The analytical aspect of the work is very overlapping. But  the creative aspect of being into Product is very different and  multidimensional as compared to the creative aspects of the alternatives I  had.

‚Äć

What is something about product management that you wish you knew when you started out?

I wish I  knew that product management is so much about to about creating a  relationship with the users of your product. It's not always about the  utility value of your product. The most successful digital products globally  are one's that connect with the user at a higher dimension (referring to  Maslow's hierarchy of needs) and hence do much more for them than be of  utility.

   I gradually discovered that like in every human relationship there are many  utilitarian / transactional aspects which help in establishing the basic  connection but the long term retention and true loyalty comes from doing more  than the transactional aspect well for the user.

   For example in case of Inshorts we realised that ultimately some users view  this as an avenue for having things to talk about with friends and family  (Belongingness and love needs) and while some wanted to be the more informed  ones in the group or at least not the least informed ones (Self Esteem). Both  have nothing to do with news on the surface of it.

‚Äć

What accomplishment in your product management career has brought you the highest level of satisfaction and joy? Can you narrate why?

Simplicity  is the hardest job in Product Management specially when the user's needs are  very simple. While early days of the Inshorts product, when we hadn't yet  finalised the form factor for the content and the core interactions, we were  trying to decide the best and yet simple experience around short news  consumption.

   Our job to be done was how to make a "not news savvy" users  browse through the top 20 news stories "every day". And I would  stress again on "every day".
   The way we thought we would do that is by providing 60 words news stories.  But the product around it was yet to be built.

   The key objectives from the product that we kept in mind to avoid  cluttering the experience were as follows:
   1. One news at a time - one short news in a single screen.
   2. Simple interaction to go to next news without wasting any time
   3. High quality images to help people decide quickly whether they are  interested in the story or not.

   When we were finally able to implement these objectives after multiple  iterations, our Playstore ratings improved to 4.6+ one if highest for news  apps in those times and our "not news savvy users" were browsing  more than 70 stories a day and we used to get regular testimonials saying  that the user had stopped reading news but because of us they got back into  the habit.

   We as a company always wanted to make the people more informed. And seeing  the mission come to life because of good product decisions brought me a lot  of satisfaction.

‚Äć

What aspect of product management did you struggle the most with? How did you overcome it?

Every  product initiative/ project has a different requirement in terms of developer  bandwidth. And its not always possible to run sprints with dedicated  developer bandwidth available for a startup. We always have faced a resource  crunch internally in terms of developer bandwidth since we had been by design  one of the leanest tech teams out there.  
‚Äć

Having known of agile kind of development cycle which assumes dedicated  developer bandwidth was not easy to apply in a startup setting. As there are  always a host of things to fix. So resource allocation to make sure that a  free developer's time is not wasted while another developer is not overworked  is something that I struggled with the most.

Breaking down a single product feature / initiatives into smaller tasks  which can be asynchronously completed was the way I have overcome it.

‚Äć

What's one common myth about product management that you find common among aspiring PMs?

The most common myth  I find in aspiring PMs is that they only see the "cool" and  "creative" aspect of the job. While IMO the core outcomes that a PM  is able to drive is because of disciplined Program Management skills as well.  Without disciplined program management by a PM it's not possible that the  "creative" freedom can be earned by the person nor will creativity  turn into productivity for the company.

‚Äć

What are some common pitfalls that product managers must be aware of?

The most  common pitfall is not able to balance between one's own intuition vs user  feedback. Its very hard to learn this aspect of Product Management. That is -  when to listen to the user and what to ask them vs when to try and push  boundaries by going with your gut and trying something big out.

It's important for Product Managers to understand what the business needs  the Product to deliver on and also what moonshots can put the business in a  higher orbit of growth.

‚Äć

If not product management, what career would you have picked? Are there any complimentary skillsets that you see between being a PM and your alternate choice?

As an entrepreneur, I  was able to dabble with many different hats during our last 8 years journey.  My heart has always been with Product but I have been an avid number cruncher  so I feel any quant oriented area like investing / finance might have been my  alternate choices. The analytical aspect of the work is very overlapping. But  the creative aspect of being into Product is very different and  multidimensional as compared to the creative aspects of the alternatives I  had.

‚Äć

What is something about product management that you wish you knew when you started out?

I wish I  knew that product management is so much about to about creating a  relationship with the users of your product. It's not always about the  utility value of your product. The most successful digital products globally  are one's that connect with the user at a higher dimension (referring to  Maslow's hierarchy of needs) and hence do much more for them than be of  utility.

   I gradually discovered that like in every human relationship there are many  utilitarian / transactional aspects which help in establishing the basic  connection but the long term retention and true loyalty comes from doing more  than the transactional aspect well for the user.

   For example in case of Inshorts we realised that ultimately some users view  this as an avenue for having things to talk about with friends and family  (Belongingness and love needs) and while some wanted to be the more informed  ones in the group or at least not the least informed ones (Self Esteem). Both  have nothing to do with news on the surface of it.

‚Äć

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