How to build a Product Roadmap - AMA with Saloni Arya

Hello folks: after a brief hiatus, we are back with the TPF weekly AMA series! This week, we were glad to welcome Saloni Arya, who currently is Director of Product Management at Flipkart.

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Saloni is an IIT BHU graduate  – she passed out in 2010. Since then, she has worked in various different roles. Her professional career started off as a software engineer at Microsoft, post which she shifted to Amazon as a Program Manager. Her break into Product Management came in 2015, with Flipkart. She then had a 3 year stint at Jumbotail, before returning to Flipkart as a Director of Product Management. 

Thanks to her diverse experience, Saloni knows a lot about taking products from the 0->1 journey. She knows how to build detailed, far-sighted roadmaps, and naturally, being a former SDE, she knows a lot about tech as well.

So, let us jump straight into it:

How to get into in Product Management

A lot of questions in the AMA were around how one should enter the PM space. Some folks were curious how they should go about switching into a new PM role if an internal switch wasn’t possible. Others were curious if online certificates and bootcamps are worth the hype, and finally, a few questions were around the tech understanding a PM is supposed to have.

Here is what Saloni had to say about such questions:

  • Self-Preparation is the way to go: Saloni doesn’t really believe in online courses/bootcamps – she feels self-preparation is the best path. After all, navigating the ambiguity in terms of the vast amounts of Product Management information out there will only help in developing one’s PM skills! Further, Saloni adds that pro-bono gigs and critiques/commentaries on recent product changes are also a good strategy to get noticed. For interviews, she recommends Crack the PM Interview.
  • Apply to Start-ups: For switching into a Product role, Saloni believes start-ups are the best option. Start-ups are often more flexible to waiving off experience criteria’s if the candidate is worth it. And if that does not work out, Saloni adds, there always is the MBA option.
  • Building Tech understanding: Saloni believes having a good tech understanding is a great boost for PMs – as it helps them build relationships with Devs. 
  • Favourite Product Resources: The following are some of Saloni’s favourite product resources, that she recommends every PM aspirant/early stage PM to read:
  • Lean startup
  • 0 to 1 
  • How to lie with Statistics 
  • Design of Everyday Things
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Life as a PM at Flipkart

Saloni has several years of experience as a senior/group PM. She knows all about the big picture. So it was not a surprise to find a fair few questions on Product Roadmaps – best practices, how to prioritize things, and mistakes to avoid while creating a Roadmap. Along with this, there were a few questions about her typical day as Director of Product Management at Flipkart.

Here are Saloni’s responses to the above:

  • Product Roadmap: As far as Product Roadmaps are concerned, Saloni believes it’s crucial to align the goals and prioritize them by impact. It’s important to keep the big picture in mind – and not to just become a request taker. Also, it is vital to avoid bottoms-up planning, she adds.
  • Typical day at Flipkart: Saloni says her day depends on where her team is in the product journey – some days are heavy on strategy and roadmap, while others require extensive deep dives into features and bugs.
  • Flipkart in 15/16 vs Flipkart today: Saloni reiterates that the things that she loves the most about Flipkart are still the same – the employee centric culture and the quality of work remain of a very high standard. But in her second stint, she realizes that Flipkart has figured out how to function as a big organization!

Want to join the next conversation? We’ll be having another Product Chat soon, get your invite to our Slack community to get all the details. See you inside.

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