In this INSAID Spotlight interview, we feature Akash Hebbar, a Program Manager with over 4+ years of experience. He is currently associated with Amazon. His insatiable quest for knowledge and upskilling led him to enrol in the Global Certificate in Product Management at INSAID.
Question 1: Which program & batch are you part of at INSAID & tell us more about your current work profile?
Akash: I am a student in the July Cohort Global Certificate in Product Management. I am currently a Program Manager with Amazon. I work in Amazon Customer Service, where we use data analytics and process improvement methodologies to identify and fix defects and improve customer experience.
Question 2: Walk us through your career journey & what got you interested in Product Management?
Akash: I am a mechanical engineer by trade and passed out of Amrita School of Engineering in 2017, and was lucky to get placed from campus in Analytics Quotient as a business analyst.
I spent 2.5 years there where I built custom analytics dashboards for FMCG giants to track brand performance and customer satisfaction.
This role had flavours of product management where I had to work with full stack tech teams to convey client requirements and build web-based analytics tools which showed data in an intuitive and visually attractive form.
In 2019 October, I joined Amazon as a program manager in their customer service division. I worked on large and complex data sets to identify customer pain points, and liaised with product and tech teams to get these addressed.
Thinking on behalf of the customers and trying to solve problems for them, but not having the freedom to be the decision maker or change owner was frustrating, and this desire to proactively solve problems at scale for customers is what drew me to product management.
Question 3: What all Product Management concepts, frameworks & tools have you mastered in your program at INSAID so far?
Akash: The following tools have given structure and clarity to how I approach problem solving now:
- User personas: Defining exactly who our customers are and why they will want our product is paramount to product success
- Empathy maps: Understanding how our users should be using our product helps tailor a delightful experience for them
- User funnels: Analysing user actions in a product by defining funnels helps break down which experiences could be cumbersome
Question 4: What are some of the initial challenges when you got started on your Product Management journey and how did you overcome it?
Akash: The shift in thinking from metric defined execution to first principle thinking and putting customer experience at the forefront of solution design was a challenge.
But as I read more about the product management space and interacted with tenured PMs at my organisation and learnt about their journeys, I’ve noticed a difference in how I approach problems.
Even how I analyse products now is purely from a customer’s POV, and I think of how each tiny element of the customer experience can be improved.
Question 5: Who is your favourite faculty at INSAID and what did you learn from them the most?
Akash: Shailendra Nath Jha is an excellent faculty, and I have watched his sessions on user personas and empathy maps multiple times. His explanations of real world problems solved by actual interaction with customers were eye-opening.
Question 6: In your view, What is the goal of product management & how has it evolved in the last few years?
Akash: The goal of product management has evolved from building products to service user needs, to now creating user delight. As the penetration of the internet in society has increased, users now know that there are multiple options for the same need and hence they can choose the most economical and convenient option.
Thus, the goal of products is to now service the customer need in a delightful way, and also at a price point that is attractive to them
Question 7: What are the current trends in Product Management that you are most excited about?
Akash: The growth of products with a conscience is particularly exciting. There is a demand in the market for first principle thinkers who can put customer experience at the forefront of their solutioning process, and work with engineers, designers and marketers to create beautiful products.
But these brilliant minds are now foraying into realms like ambulance-on-demand, environmental products etc. Leveraging tech to solve pressing issues like hunger, poverty, ecological damage and financial equality is where I want to be.
Question 8: Which are some of the Product Management blogs, podcasts, communities, & channels that you follow?
Akash: I follow Diego Granados, Liam Bolling, Shravan Tickoo and the Exponent channel for product related content on YouTube. I have also read the following product books which have helped me a great deal:
- The Product Book
- The Lean Startup
- Zero to One
- The Lean product playbook
- Decode and Conquer
Question 9: Please tell how your journey has been with INSAID so far and what are the elements that you liked.
Apart from the early mornings, INSAID has been a great experience. I’ve learnt a lot from the experienced faculty, and also during the mini-capstone project. Being able to interact and network with some of the best minds in product in India has been a blessing
Question 10: What is your advice to anyone wanting to start a career in Product Management?
Akash: My advice would be to consume as much content as possible around the role. There is a ton of information and resources available for free. Also, people currently in product roles in amazing companies are surprisingly approachable and happy to connect and share their insights into how to crack product roles.
They should also consider institutes like INSAID to give them a structured approach to getting the skills to become product managers
Hope you enjoyed reading this interview. If you want to read more such interesting student stories, check out INSAID Spotlight.