Product sense is a skill that grows and develops as you advance your career in product management. This is a kind of 6th sense. It helps you understand why a product would or wouldn’t work, and discover what problems your product aims to solve. So, how do you develop a product sense? Amazon Sr. Product Leader Rekha Venkatakrishnan meets with Fidelity Investments Head of Product Deba Sahoo and shares insights on developing a product sense and best practices in the product community. 

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On wearing the customer hat

“Now, customer hat, what does that really mean? You become the customer, right? The best way to build empathy towards your customer is by being the customer. We all work for different companies and different brands. Becoming the customer for your brand, or for the company that you work at, is the best thing that you could do. That’s one way to build empathy. 

“The other thing that I generally love to do is observing and listening to customers. I can give you some good examples. There was a time when I used to work in the supply chain product space. I used to go into fulfillment centers, and I had an opportunity to work in the store as an associate. This gave me an opportunity to empathize with the customer, who’s actually buying the products that you are building. I think that is one of the best ways you learn from your customers.”

On maintaining ongoing awareness

“Ongoing awareness is a different element from what I talked about. Now we are learning about our customers, but at the same time, it’s also important that you learn from your market. The industry is moving so fast, there are so many technological advancements that are happening. The tech stacks keep changing, the market is changing.

“When you operate in different marketplaces worldwide, learning the market, learning the economics behind the market, learning those technology trends, plays a very key role. And learning from your peer products, what do I mean by peer products? Peer products are similar products that you can play around with. They are probably offering similar propositions that you are offering. Learn from your competition, right? We are not here to say do what your competition does. But you can learn from your competition. Maybe there are things that are working well in the market for the customers, it’s all about learning from your peer products.”

On rapid prototyping

“As your product grows, as you grow in your product function, lean experimentation, rapid prototyping, is a very good framework to apply. Instead of building everything at the first shot, sometimes you have an idea, right? And you want to validate whether the idea will work. I would say you can just build a lean prototype around it and see how it works for your customers. 

“See how significant your results are, right? Are you able to validate your hypothesis, is your data proving that this model or this service, or this app that you’re building, is going to work for your customers? As you practice more, it evolves. We are all working for customers, right? Maybe it’s a customer in you too. And when you do that, the first question to ask is, you are tying it back to your organization?

“It’s important to know, what’s your organization’s goal? What’s the vision or mission? And within that, you could have sub-products or various products. There are different ways you can segment your products. When you are in the problem space, when you are trying to understand if your product is working or not, take a minute to draw a picture around the vision. Vision strategy goals, right? See how you can tie back to what you are trying to solve. At the end of the day, I think this all needs to come together.”

About the speaker
Rekha Venkatakrishnan Amazon, Senior Manager, Product Management Member

Rekha is a product evangelist and technologist with a solid background in product management, strategy, and engineering in leadership roles. Rekha is seen as a product leader with high energy, strategic thinking, a data-driven approach, creativity, and leadership qualities. Her experience includes but is not limited to building B2C and B2B products using the latest technology stack and managing large complex cross-functional teams. She believes in making simple yet delightful products with a seamless experience that helps win customers and business. Rekha is a strong advocate of Women in Tech, Data, and Product and runs mentor circles to advance women in different functions. She holds an MBA from the University of Arkansas, United States, and a Bachelor of Technology from Anna University, India.

About the host
Deba Sahoo Fidelity Investments, SVP, Head of Product for Customer Journeys
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