A product management role is an important discipline in any company. Understanding what customers want, synthesizing the complex conversations into simple goals and requirements, and providing a solution with ease of use are quite critical to the business’s success. What if the PM’s past track record came with some mistakes? Docusign Senior Product Lead Gayathri Venkataraman shares how you can improve by learning from mistakes and successes in your PM career. 

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On Driving For Clarity and Results

Gayathri asks herself a very important question when she is assessing her goals: Am I making forward progress? This is an important touchpoint for a PM career, to analyze your results.

“Always as a product leader, you sometimes start worrying about, did I listen to the customers correctly? Am I building the right product? I am spending so much money and energy on the company and like resources, so am I building the right set of features? Did I prioritize it correctly? You should get clarity on all of these things throughout the stages by applying these frameworks to some extent.

Also, I can confidently say I apply the same thing as a manager or when I’m talking with my product managers. Often you will be pretty surprised to see how the answers just fall in place when you start asking these questions yourself. My employees might come and ask me, when am I going to get promoted? What are the things that I need to do to prove that I’m at the next level? I might use the same framework to say to them, you wanted more responsibilities, so these are the things that you could do to get that additional responsibility. So you will naturally see all of these things fit into the matrix, and I confidently say that when I take proactive measures, looking at all of these different aspects, I have been more successful in that role.

The drive for clarity and results is pretty straightforward. Always start with the target goal, set your eyes on it, and start moving towards that. There are several things that you may have to pull back on and you may have to take a detour, but you should always ask the question, am I making forward progress?”

On The Curiosity to Learn

The curiosity to learn is incredibly important in any job, but especially a PM career. Gayathri explains how knowledge is important to growth, and it’s OK to make mistakes in decisions because it is always a learning experience. 

“This is such an important aspect of your growth. When you get that opportunity that allows you to learn and stretch yourself, growth automatically happens. When the time comes, when you’re not learning anything, you have to start thinking, what am I doing in this job? Am I learning something? Is this the right job for me? Should I be doing something else? You will need to ask those questions once in a while if you’re not learning anything for some period of time. I apply the same framework when I talk with my employees, and even for assessing my own work in any job. I would strongly recommend you ask these questions. … 

One thing that I can say is, when I went into the Bing organization from being an engineer into a product management role, my learning curve expanded exponentially. I was learning so much every single day, stretching myself, proactively tackling problems, and growing myself. I have also been in teams where I was not learning and it was a very clear indication that I need to go find something else. It’s okay to recognize that you made a mistake, that you didn’t make the right choice. My motto is like it’s okay to fail, but always get some learning out of it. What was the mindset that I had when I took on the job? What was I hoping to learn? If I’m not learning, what got dropped in the middle, and what did I do? …”.

On Staying Energetic and Passionate

The third component of a PM career is passion. Gayathri explains how to follow your passion and how it can lead to a successful PM career.

“Passion is the one only thing that’s going to keep your momentum going. You got to have that fire in you. When you are realizing that it is lost, find out what is a new thing. Identifying passion is not easy; it is hard. Sometimes it might change. You may be interested in multiple areas, as well.

For example, when I was in my very first job in SQL Server, I did apply all the frameworks and I was actually growing. But soon I realized that coding and debugging was not getting me excited. I had to do something else. I was getting more excited about what customers are asking for, because these enterprise customers, they say, this is so complex. That complexity attracted me to what the customers are asking for. How do I simplify that into a product definition and how do I drive all of those things inside? So that the passion changed? So I had to go back and figure out a product management role. I was able to find within Microsoft to pursue that.”

About the speaker
Gayathri Venkataraman Docusign, Senior Product Lead Member
About the host
Iryna Krutenko Head of Chapter Seattle
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