Building happy teams

Business (un)Usual Part 4 - WFH

Business (un)Usual in a COVID-19 world – Part 4

4571 3173 Mita Mandawker

Leading successfully through COVID-19 pandemic is a test every business leader is grappling with at the moment. As leaders across the globe face unforeseen, complex challenges, we are inviting business leaders from India and Kenya to share their experiences of dealing with this unprecedented situation.

In this week’s “Business (un) Usual” series we have leaders from India and US share their experiences on managing the business in the pandemic, how they are navigating WFH with their teams, and more.

In this edition, Anoj Vishwanathan, co-founder and President, Milaap and Sandeep Deshpande, General Manager, Redaptive Service Private Limited, and Joe Bell, Manager, Business Operations, Redaptive talk about how they are finding ways to grow in these difficult times.

How has COVID impacted your business or businesses you work with (positively or negatively)?

Business (un)Usual Part 4 - WFH

Anoj: Milaap has always focused on individual emergencies. Though medical causes are our primary focus, we are also open to other social causes. Irrespective of the corona crisis, treatments like chemotherapy, dialysis must go on without any delays. Hence, we continued to do what we have been doing.

When the COVID crisis set in, we opened our platform for fundraisers around the crisis. When the Janta curfew was announced on March 26th, we realized it is going to affect various segments of society and as a policy (natural disasters and relief initiatives) we waived off fees for COVID related causes as well. But we certainly did not expect it to be of this magnitude.

We raised over 100 crores in a short span of time. This overwhelming response resulted in an increase in the cost, but we choose to stand true to our commitment as always. Of course, this had an impact on the business in terms of the cost involved, the traffic on our site increased by 4x, server cost increased by 3x and our communication cost increased by 10x but we made sure that it was under control. We cut other expenditures so that we continue to support these causes.

The way we look at it is – the usual 5% fee that we charge for our campaigns is Milaap’s contribution to the community because the only way to fight a crisis at this scale is to do it together.

Business (un)Usual Part 4 - WFHSandeep: We’ve been able to use this time for internal process improvements at our company. Additionally, we’ve taken time to hire new talent to start during and after COVID. Overall, we’ve made the best of a bad situation.

What is the biggest impact on your day-to-day life given the recent changes due to COVID?

Business (un)Usual Part 4 - WFHJoe: Although I am used to operating via video call for much of my job, COVID has reinforced the need to actively build strong relationships throughout the team as we can no longer rely on grabbing a cup of coffee or sitting down for lunch to communicate and learn about our individual co-workers. COVID has also given us the opportunity to reflect on internal business processes and begin to critically assess and improve upon our systems.

What’s one tip you have for working remotely? What has been something special you or your company has done to make it a bit easier to WFH and/or preserve team culture and spirit?

Virtual pets day for Milaap team

Anoj: At Milaap, we believe that it is important to invest in employees because how businesses handle things now will undoubtedly determine how they bounce back when things begin to look up. This starts with supporting them through mental health counseling sessions, training, and education that helps develop new skills for a rapidly changing world.

We are glad that we started working towards these at a very early stage. We have tied up with ‘The Alternative Story’ which provides individual and organizational well-being services. We encourage our employees to take up online courses. We expanded our policy to include home office equipment, such as desks and ergonomic chair cushions and UPS too (since power cuts are a routine problem in the city) we are also reimbursing our staff’s internet connection and electricity bills. In the spirit of keeping the business, as usual, we are trying our best to shift our offline traditions online. We had quarantine karaoke, virtual pet’s day, doodling sessions, and a lot more to keep the team connected.

WFH for Joe

Joe: I believe that the most important part of successfully working remotely is learning how to re-create work-life balance. Our team has done a great job of hosting informal game sessions which help lighten the mood and bring people together without the need to think about work!

What’s your favorite thing about WFH?

Sandeep: No commute has been a pleasant surprise.

Joe: My favorite thing about WFH is no longer having to commute!

Do you think that this will signify a shift to more remote work in the long run?  Why or why not?

Anoj: It is likely that remote working will last longer than we thought. A lot of companies, especially tech companies seem to be taking the concept seriously resulting in revised work policies. Facebook, Twitter, Shopify, Square, and a lot more companies have opted for the WFH model on a permanent basis. The shift to remote work has enabled many companies to continue to operate and ensure the health and safety of their employees.

This will always be our top priority. The lessons learned from the pandemic will reshape the future of office work especially for e-commerce and IT industries. This means less office space, less commuting, fewer business trips, shorter breaks, and greater focus for employees and this might also reverse the popular trend of job moves to big cities. All of this might inevitably add up to more jobs offering a better work-life balance and a more flexible office life but the key to be successful in the long term requires a structured approach.

Sandeep: I believe this will lead to some temporary changes. However, in the long run, people will want to get out and socialize with their colleagues. The impact of physical interaction simply can’t be replicated on a video call. People certainly miss the ‘chai’ and ‘coffee’ breaks with their colleagues.

Who’s someone that motivates you?

Anoj: There is no one source! In fact, it is the job itself! At Milaap we see stories of aspirations, of hope, and of change every day. Be it the stories of the families keeping the fight alive to save their loved ones from a life-threatening disease, or individuals raising funds to make a difference in their community, an astrophysicist leaving a lucrative job to help farmers to an 11-year-old kid raising 10L through crowdfunding to help the needy during these uncertain times, all these put together drives my motivation to continue providing for the needs of the community as an entrepreneur.

Sandeep: My team motivates me. They bring in a lot of positivity and good energy to all interactions I have either 1:1 or in a group. The way everyone’s stayed optimistic and believed in Redaptive motivates me.

Joe: From a global perspective, it is motivating to see how the world has worked to combat COVID. Although we could always do better, I am motivated by all the people around the world who are doing their best to create a better, safer, and healthier global community. From a local perspective, I am constantly motivated and inspired by the entire Redaptive team. Even before we knew the true impact of COVID, the entire team banded together to improve the company. We’re continuing to learn from this pandemic and set the stage for a successful return as the country continues to re-open.


Look out for the next piece in this series where we’ll continue featuring advice, insights, and tips from business leaders on how they stay adaptable and move with change. You can also read our first, second, and third features from this series featuring companies in Kenya and India.

At Shortlist, we’re working hard to make sure individuals and companies have the support they need at this critical time.  We offer help both to companies looking to hire and to those who are seeking outplacement services to support a team that you may be transitioning.  We also have great tools for professionals at any stage of their career development journey. You can learn more about these initiatives and sign up on our platform below ⇓

Business Unusual in a covid-19 world – Part 3

400 267 Brenda Akinyi

In the latest edition of our business unusual series, we feature Nicholas Kasidhi, Head of Talent Engagement, EABL, and  Hussein Kiarie, Business Manager, PULA Advisors.

Nicholas’s core role is to lead end-to-end Talent efforts across East Africa for purposes of future-proofing the business with a consistent pool of top external & internal talent base for succession cover; enabled by strategic sourcing & pipelining, continuous learning, diversity & inclusion and a compelling employer brand positioning.

Hussein has been with PULA for about 1.6 years. He’s a jack of all trades and takes pride in being a generalist. At one point in Pula, he managed Administration, HR, and part of Finance departments within Pula across 6 countries.

They shared their thoughts on how the COVID-19 pandemic has revolutionized how we work:

How has COVID-19 impacted your business or businesses you work with (positively or negatively)?

Hussein Kiarie

Hussein: When I initially wrote this section in April, there were mixed feelings about it though an overall negative feeling but fast forward to June, it proved to be the burning floor that has kept us on our toes. The transition to work from home forced us to find new ways of working, forming new processes, novel ones, simple ones that made us more effective and efficient in meeting and surpassing targets and productivity levels. Being a tech start-up our employees are key to the success of the firm. When the tragedy beckoned they stood up for the challenge and overcame it. Below are highlights of negative and positive impacts of COVID-19


  • We’re forced to be innovative around engaging with clients and partners: e.g. we just did a field insurance training on zoom at almost zero cost. Previously this would involve hiring a venue, catering for lunch and transport
  • Time to reflect on business priorities
  • We were forced to set up systems to allow for remote work which will be invaluable to the company in the long run considering running operations in different countries
  • A general increase in staff motivation and productivity levels as working from home allows for people to be in their comfort and away from distractions such as traffic and self-management of working hours


  • Movement is restricted meaning limiting business development activities and field activities
  • Delays in new hires and capital expenditure given the uncertainty
  • Delays in new funding
  • Additional costs relating to social distancing and working from home.
  • Lack of physical interactions and relationship building among employees

Nicholas Kasidhi

Nick:  Since the first case Covid-19 case was announced, swift measures were put in place to contain the spread of the disease. These measures significantly disrupted our trade, consumers, and employees alike. We are in a VUCA environment, and frequently we carry out a scenario planning exercise in the business, but never in our imagination had we seen such a scenario at play! Our business pre-COVID 19 channel split was 95% on-trade and 5% off-trade. With the closure of on-trade channels, our brands were only available in the off-trade. _ Mainly supermarkets and convenience stores and consumption could only be at home. It also meant that we could only sell spirits and canned beer. In response to this, new “ways of working ” were quickly implemented in line with the global Diageo protocols. With a focus on putting our people’s health and safety first. Adopting global Diageo practices locally has really supported us to deal with this crisis with pace and effectiveness. We have also ensured that we are adhering to all government directives.

Our crisis management team has also been instrumental in supporting the business navigate this very dynamic environment and they have ensured that our people are safe. During this period, we have a significant number of employees working from home, however, we are still running our spirits and canning beer lines, which means that some of our Supply and Commercial teams are on duty. In the midst of all these, our teams have worked together, remained agile and acted with speed to adapt to the changing and complex environment.. mostly dealing with issues we have never had to deal with before. Yet while dealing with this, many of them are also taking care of their families and loved ones back at home.

(If you’re Working From Home or remotely) What’s your favorite thing about Working From Home or remotely? Least favorite?

Hussein: My favorite thing about working from home is the chance to really have a quite comfortable environment to really zone out in tasks and duties for the day, I can swear my TAT is faster now on the same activities I used to do while at the office.

Least favorite is not getting a chance to interact with my colleagues, socially and intellectually.

Do you think that this will signify a shift to more remote work in the long run?  Why or why not?

Nick: “One challenge for remote workers is setting boundaries between work and their personal life so they can be effective and stay sane.”   A few basic pointers include:  Setting a schedule for the day, Taking regular breaks – set an alarm for every  90 minutes, Protect your off-work time –don’t be tempted to answer phone or emails after hours, Make space for you –separate work from home life –different place, times, clothes can all help, Cultivate relationships –make time to keep socially connected and have some fun, Stretch, drink water, go for a walk….move frequently, Move away from your screen for lunch!

Hussein: Yes I do think this will shift to WFH being a norm in the future of work. Most startups who were already practicing minimum required office attendance per week are realizing that WFH does not necessarily lead to loss of productivity and complete WFH is possible.

For corporates, I think it’s becoming clear that big offices and expensive C-suite get-ups which in a rational sense are purely cost centers are not really necessary and other options exist. It’s been very evident that staffing 100+ employees in multiple floors can be averted to some extent as most of the staff can work remotely with a minimum required office attendance established.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to all sectors but to a significant section.

What motivates you?  Where do you find sources of motivation?

Hussein: I’m motivated by trying to leave a better example to my younger siblings. What hard work, persistence, focus on studies and a go-getter attitude can do in terms of achieving your goals and having a better chance at a fruitful life.

What’s an inspiring or motivating story you’ve seen as a result of COVID?

Nick: ‘Never waste a crisis’ so they say. The most inspiring story I’ve seen during this period is just how fast our enterprising skills showed up in response to the next normal ways of survival. For instance, I’ve recently witnessed the increasing number of car boot sales by the roadside ranging from groceries to cereals and other necessities. An indicator to demonstrate that ‘when the world throws a lemon your way, make lemonade’. Many other examples of innovations in our learning institutions. From ventilators to manufacturers leveraging some of their production lines to produce hand sanitizers in bulk. I have also stated in a recent Business Daily publication that the world of work has already shifted substantially and Covid-19 only brought this reality much closer than most of us may have anticipated with the ‘future of work’. Critical to appreciate that we are operating in a VUCA environment and it’s no longer business as usual. This is an uncertain time. It’s also an unprecedented time and so we have to embrace an agile and resilient mindset to thrive.

Huge thanks to both Nick and Hussein for their valued contribution to this piece. Look out for our next series in the coming weeks. You can also read our first and second series featuring companies in Kenya and India.

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Pride month interview

Pride Month: In Conversation with Praful Baweja, Founder 6 Degrees

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Though the Pride month has ended, we thought it would be great to catch up with a business leader who works tirelessly to level the playing field for the LGBTQ community professionally.

We invited Praful Baweja, Founder, Six Degrees, and Innovation Lead at The Event Studio to share his thoughts on Pride month, what it means to him, what is inspiring and how companies should create a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ community.

Here are the edited excerpts for the interview, you can watch the full interview below.

Shortlist: What exactly does pride mean to you?

Praful: Personally, Pride means being me and not really shying away from celebrating everything that is me. So there are multiple nuances to being who we are, right? So sexuality might be one of the layers. Intellect, ability, class, caste, everything. They’re all that it takes to make up a person. It is about being proud of all that there is to each of us, you know, as we are who we are.
It is embracing, flaunting, celebrating oneself. All of it – celebration comes along with embracing who we are; it’s part of that whole journey.

Shortlist: Can you tell us a little more about the work you do for the LGBTQ community?

Praful: The work I do has two aspects because I am part of the community, so, everything I do reflects for the community as well.

I am a Marcom professional majorly in marketing communication that I have been doing for 18 plus years now, so I am a kind of dinosaur 😊 For about 15 odd years I have been working closely with the organizations in an individual capacity on Mumbai Pride. That was my first interface way back in 2008 when the first Mumbai Pride happened, I could walk as myself. Then almost for ten years, I worked behind the scenes.

After almost a decade-plus of working behind the scenes as a volunteer, bringing things together, I started a professional network 6 Degrees, for LGBTQ++ professionals – a business network, but it’s called a growth network because it is not only a business perspective, there is mental health that is important for people, peer learning that is important for each of us. It is helpful in going forward and growing as a person, as a community. Industry leaders and people who are on top of their game – sharing one hour from them with 40 people who are struggling, would change the course and pivot it around. We have seen it time, and again, that pure skillset and insight into their process goes a long way.

It has been three years since we have been having monthly meetups. We have grown immensely. We have Vividh which is India’s First Diversity job fair in Mumbai. We had a showcase at a seminar where we spoke about how there are openings in the public sector which people with disability can apply – whole reservation and people do not know about how to go about actually a) finding and exploring and, b) utilizing what is available to us. And this information is not easily available outside, so getting those experts onboard.

Shortlist was a part of one of the meetups and great support. Shortlist presented a report and we were privileged to have good partners on board for that.
We have Queeroes where people who work behind the scenes for the LGBT community, majorly allies, and people in the media, are honored. We have been doing that for three years now. This year we partnered with Thailand Tourism who brought, a drag Broadway show from Pattaya.
We have created a first-of-its-kind program – NH7 Weekender, which is as you know, is a very large and popular music festival. We created a program for sexual assault prevention, mental health which we implemented with a set of counselors and with help of Humsafar Trust because their domain knowledge is epic with 25 years plus into the whole spectrum. I know how to design modules and they know how to implement programs on the ground. We got a great response for that.

We will be announcing 6 Degrees in a new format soon. It will not be networking only. It will be a whole lot of – skillshare, having good conversations because sustenance counts not just hiring. So, we will be looking at it from the career perspective and where, who is in their career trajectory, what’s required for a leadership role, what’s required for an intern, what kind of toolbox can be created. We are working on that so a whole lot of new things, as you will see.

Shortlist: You have done so much work for 6 Degrees and behind the scenes with other initiatives. Now, why is this work so important to you?

Praful: I am privileged in my own ways. So many of us are. It is not about being an apologist. It is not about trying to level the playing field etc.

But this dream about you know, understanding where you are and operating optimally from there. There is a whole lot of bullying, trauma around people being who they are. It is taboo in so many ways.

Personally being labeled a criminal for something as basic as exercising my rights as a person, as a human, to select who I can love and who I can express my love to and how I am being in my bedroom, was not great.

A lot of straight people did not know how it affects them as well. There is a taboo speaking about sex and sexuality and thereby about gender, which causes an imbalance in the social spectrum at home.

What is it that we can change? Everybody has their own way of doing it. I had that outlet which was personal. It is something that affects me daily. So, changing that is important.

Shortlist: Who inspires you?

Praful: Let me be vain and say it is me. Self-care is a big part, and I have ignored it for a long time.

There is somebody who takes Pride permissions for 12 years, there is three months plus work that goes in it. Somebody with a meager salary of 20-25,000 and a groundworker at Humsafar Trust who does it beautifully, diligently.

He knows each new officer, old officer that is on duty, how sensitized they are, where they come from, their conscious bias, implicit bias, how to deal with them, which language and what kind of intervention is required.  And this person is effeminate, this person speaks Marathi more than anything else and I feel honored that we could at least show a token of our appreciation and give one of the first three rows to him.

There is this person, then there are parents of LGBT people; my own parents were there at Vividh manning a stall along with my sister. I see them walk, petition, support with donations, produce movies and so much more. It is always a humbling experience. I think what is it that we cannot do if they are doing all of that, right? So, at that age, with their schedules, priorities, and everything.

When I see TikTok and see somebody not privileged and doing their best and being a top of their game, I get inspired. I think I take inspiration from everywhere, but these always remain – workers, parents, me.

Shortlist: What do you think are some of the tangible things which companies can do to create a very inclusive culture for our LGBTQ community and in general?

Praful: Dialogue. Not talking about it, ignoring it, is living under a rock. If you are not inclusive, it’s nobody else’s loss. It is the firm’s loss.

The UN has three policies; they are very simple. One is no discrimination in whatever communication you put out in the world. Two, employees, whatever your employee conversation, your employee interaction should be non-discriminatory, and third is on the vendor front. These are wise, tangible policies. It is clear yet there is a lifetime of work to do.

These three will always remain your back-end- as suppliers, your employees, and then finally the world. If all three are inclusive at whatever level, you will move from diversity to inclusion to belonging, you will do that journey.

However, whether you want to be an ally, whether you want to be a person who doesn’t like labels, and says, okay all identities are not there, all hierarchies are not there, we treat everybody as just the professional tag that they are. Yet, are you pushing things under the carpet, or are you practicing it? These are the parameters with which you can actually gauge.

Praful shared more things about his 20-year picture, what he loves to read, and do in his free time. Watch the complete interview below.

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Why LGBTQIA inclusion matters

Here’s why companies should care about LGBTQIA inclusion

1994 1569 Mita Mandawker

Given that it’s June, an annual celebration of Pride, we have seen the social space abuzz with conversations around LGBTQIA equality, inclusion, and policies. We’ve also seen rainbow logos. We’ve also seen some policies changing and some companies leaning into inclusivity. During Pride, we’re reminded that as employers, it is our responsibility to make our workplaces inclusive, accepting, and welcoming.

As Pride month comes to a close, we are asking an important question: what happens during the next 11 months of the year? As we put our rainbow flags away, and change our logos back to their regular colors, what we do next is what will make the longest lasting impact.

First, let’s look at why it’s important to care about LGBTQIA inclusion all year, not just during Pride.

The numbers show that LGBTQIA employees don’t have an easy time at work. 19% of LGBT workers have experienced verbal bullying from their colleagues and customers. 13% of LGBT workers do not feel confident reporting homophobic bullying in their workplace. 42% of trans people who are not living permanently in their preferred gender role say that they are prevented from doing so because they feel it will threaten their employment status.

Over the years, the situation has improved for the LGBTQIA staff in some key ways.

  • 91% of Fortune 500 companies have introduced non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation.
  • 67% have voluntarily extended health and insurance benefits to all LGBTQIA families.

Despite coming a long way in the last few decades, there’s still a lot of work to be done to create a psychologically safe, inclusive, and accepting work environment for LGBTQIA employees.

Zooming out, let’s take a look at the economics of inclusivity.

Do you know how much the US economy would add per year if American companies improved their ability to retain LGBTQIA staff with inclusive policies? If you guessed $9 billion, you’re right.

According to the World Bank, how much would India add to its economic output if it addressed discrimination against LGBTQIA people? Did you guess $32 billion? Correct.

Last one, and then we’ll move on. What’s the aggregate spending power of this LGBTQIA consumer base ? Does your answer include “Trillion”? If not, guess again. The spending power of the LGBTQIA consumer base was estimated to be US$3.6 trillion per annum in 2018. Trillion, with a “T.”

Changes to policies, practices and workplaces add up to billions and trillions of dollars of impact, not to mention making your employees feel like whole people when they come to work.

In fact, the impact of inclusion is so broad that almost every measure of a company’s success improves with inclusivity: client perception, retention, talent pool, brand recognition, market share, legal costs, etc. Below, we’ve compiled more information on each of these, as there’s a wealth of data to show that inclusivity is good for business.

With the world becoming more accepting and understanding of the LGBTQIA community, companies are expected to be more inclusive and create a safe, tolerant environment where your LGBTQIA staff can be themselves and thrive at work.

So, what can companies do to be more inclusive?  Where do you start?

Commit to do the work.

Being an LGBTQIA-inclusive employer is not an overnight process; it takes time and consistent commitment.

Here a few things you could start with as you begin your journey towards inclusion:

Think and act ‘glocally’

It is an employer’s responsibility towards their staff to look after their welfare, be fair and accepting to all. Look at the policies and actions taken globally by employers. Find out what would work best in your local context considering the laws to make the workplace more inclusive and adopt the best practices.

 Assess your policies

Take stock of your current workplace policies and see if they are conducive to people being open and receptive to others. Check with your LGBTQIA staff if they feel safe, disclosing their sexual identity at work, and are not being bullied. Put measures in place to make sure your work environment is safe for your employees and continually review them to make them better.

Visible LGBTQIA role models

Have visible role models in your organization; they send a powerful message that you walk the talk when it comes to inclusion in your own staff. These role models serve as allies who also educate the workforce on the differences and how to behave with people different than themselves.

Don’t just do one thing, and don’t stop.

Individually, start with any or all of the strategies mentioned. As a company, look at your policies and commit to change the ones that are not inclusive based on sexuality and gender. Have networking events, trainings to address the bias and discrimination and struggles faced by the LGBTQIA community all year long. There are many resources out there (a google search for “LGBTQIA company resources” returns dozens of them), and you can also take a look at these free trainings by LinkedIn for your staff to foster more inclusivity and belonging in your workplace.

Companies who do the work all year round will be the harbinger of powerful societal change, reap the benefits of inclusion, enjoy a positive perception of the market, and enjoy brand loyalty from one of the most loyal customers.


The detailed case for how inclusion is good for business. Here’s are some reasons why:

Positive client perception

Diverse, inclusive companies enjoy an enhanced public image. Clients are keen to partner with companies that are non-discriminatory and inclusive. Millennials who are touted to be 75% of the global workforce by 2025 and form a chunk of consumers are inclined towards companies who are more embracing of their LGBTQIA staff, making them employers and brands of choice.

Reduced legal costs

Companies that care about the inclusion of their LGBTQIA staff observe a drop in their legal costs as the discrimination suits against employers reduce. It also translates in lower health insurance spends on employees as employees’ health improves working in a good environment, reducing stress.

Higher retention

LGBTQIA employees who feel comfortable being out with their colleagues, tend to stay on longer with the company compared to those who feel stifled by the office environment. This reduces hiring and training costs associated with hiring and onboarding new employees. Employee engagement is also said to suffer by 30% when work environments are now accepting of the LGBTQIA staff.

Bigger talent pool

Companies who embrace diversity, especially with LGBTQIA staff, open themselves to the large, talent-rich demographic, increasing their competitive advantage. The diverse team is more innovative and happier.

Brand loyalty

LGBTQIA people tend to be loyal customers. 87% would switch the brand, which is known for providing equal workplace benefits. 23% of LGBTQIA consumers already switched to companies who were more supportive of their cause disregarding the cost and convenience of using the brand.

Higher market share

There has been a sharp increase in the number of same-sex households over the past years along with the increase in their buying power. Inclusive companies will get a share of this pie if they work on being more open and receiving of their staff.

Lastly and most importantly, a diverse and inclusive workplace fosters creativity, leads to innovation, and brings a multitude of ideas thanks to their staff.


Are you hiring and wondering how to make sure your team is diverse and inclusive? Shortlist can help, we offer a wide range of recruitment solutions that help companies build great, diverse teams.

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product management

10 tips to help you rock product management

500 333 Brenda Akinyi

Product Management encompasses a wide range of responsibilities and means different things to different organizations. It involves understanding your customers’ current and potential needs then creating a product that solves these problems.

In our first Product Management series, we hosted a webinar featuring industry leaders in the field. Rachel Steinberg (ex-CPO @ Shortlist), Ravijot Chugh (co-founder, ex-Head of Product @ upGrad), and Deepak Singh (Group PM @ Flipkart)  shared insights they have garnered throughout their journeys on what it takes to be a kick-ass Product Manager.

Here are their top 10 tips on how you can rock Product Management:

Think of your product as a little person:

Your goal is to have your users have an ongoing relationship with your product, so think about it as an actual person. Consider what your product’s “personality” is and stay true to your “character” in every aspect of your product.

Takeaway: If you’re building a comfort food delivery app, you want your product to ooze “home cooking” and perhaps be a little grandma-like. Having a 404 page with gibberish code (no matter how funny) would be totally out of character for grandma 😉. Stuck on how to go about it, check out Rachel’s blog on making your product tiny humans.

Product management is a dialogue:

If your product is a person, getting your users to the right place is a matter of dialogue – and you’re the scriptwriter. Make it easy for your users to understand what your product is saying (use “text and animations” as body language cues) and don’t forget to LISTEN!

Takeaway: If you’re a Product Manager for a fitness app, don’t ask a returning user if they like to stay healthy or exercise – instead, listen if that’s something they do often by understanding their activity. It would be a bit like a gym trainer asking a regular client whether they like to lift weights when that’s what they’ve been doing for ages! LISTEN.

Ruthless prioritization is your superpower:

In any situation with more requirements than available resources (which, let’s face it, is one faced by nearly every product team ever), doing the right things and avoiding distractions is your biggest superpower. As a Product Manager, the table you don’t sit at is more important than the table you sit at. Opportunities are everywhere and you need to be careful to not get lost in unnecessary tasks.

Takeaway: If you have 3 engineers and 1 designer at your disposal and you’re tasked with growth and engagement, don’t waste your resources worrying about improving your overflow menu or contact us flow. Instead, focus all your time on building things that increase your number of users and ensure your users keep coming back, such as your content and reminder notifications.

Take feedback – you’ll get lots of it:

You’ll always get feedback from people in your company and your users. It’s very easy to get defensive and become immune to this feedback – don’t fall into that trap. While you will sometimes have people who think they know your product better than you, It’s important that you learn to filter through the noise and pick out what information is important to you and your users.

Takeaway: You’ll always hear from people about how a certain feature should work – rather than thinking your user is an idiot who doesn’t know how to use your product, be empathetic, understand their mindset, and find the signals from the noise.

Never say “I don’t know tech”:

You’ll be surprised how often Product Managers say this. Don’t fall into this trap, whether you’re speaking with your engineers, leadership team, or in an interview – it’s the quickest way of losing the other person’s respect. On the flip side, don’t pretend you know things that you’re not familiar with, either. No one expects you to be a coder but you are expected to know how to speak to your engineers and problem solve. Interview tip: If you don’t know, don’t have a hands-off attitude to things you don’t know. Show that you are willing to learn

Takeaway: If you don’t know something about the tech stack or architecture your engineering team is working with, acknowledge that you haven’t worked with that specific kind of technology before, sit with your engineers to understand it better, and maybe even ask for time to go do your own research before coming back to engage in the conversation

Manage products, not projects:

It’s about context, not control. Your job as a Product Manager is to set the product vision and then unclog problems for your team, rather than simply managing timelines and workflows. It’s your job to do whatever it takes to make the team capable of delivering on time. Your role is to figure out what is blocking your team from achieving your goals.

Takeaway: Whenever you’re launching a new product or feature, ensure your team is clear on what and why they need to build something. Then get out of their way and let them deliver. Avoid focusing your time in daily catch-ups on whether a specific task was done or not. Instead, understand what is blocking your team from doing it and try to unblock. Book recommendation to help you get started; Good PM/Bad PM – Ben Horowitz

Listen to customer needs, not requests:

As Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said, “faster horses”. Take your customer feedback and de-construct if to get to the root of the problem (their need).

Takeaway: Always talk to your customers, but don’t necessarily build the solutions they ask for. Figure out what they’re saying implicitly and solve the problem.

In product management, measure outcomes, not activities:

Many Product Managers fall into the trap of measuring things like meetings, features shipped, and other input measures. These are, of course, not the true measure of success for your product.

Takeaway: Focus on the things that matter most for your business. What metric are you trying to get to? Does that mean user growth? Retention? More efficient/cheaper customer acquisition? It depends on the outcomes you need your business to achieve.

You get what you write:

When speaking, it’s easy to jump from Point A to C in a narrative because you expect the listener to follow along. When you’re writing, taking shortcuts is not nearly as persuasive. Build a writing habit. This not only helps you structure your thinking but also builds organizational knowledge for why something was or was not done. Writing makes everyone accountable as you articulate your flow and the next steps better.

Takeaway: DO THE WORK ahead of time to structure and clarify your thinking in writing. Moreover, make it crisp and clear because no one wants to read a lot. Book recommendation: High Output Management – Andy Grove

Give credit, always!

In the words of Reid Hoffman (founder of LinkedIn) – “Make everyone a hero of their own story.” This builds psychological safety and helps your team perform.

Takeaway:  As a PM, there is no faster way to lose your team than when you take credit for achievements but share blame for things that go wrong. Use more of  ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ when sharing success stories. But when taking accountability, take it all upon yourself.

Bonus section

Interview tips for aspiring Product Managers:

Do your basic homework on:

  • What does the company do?
  • How do you fit into the organization?
  • Why should they hire you?/ What do you bring to the table?
  • What is the role is about? Do you know the details?

More interview prep tips? Check out our Interview series.

You can listen to the full webinar recording on our youtube channel, and check out more reading recommendations from the team below:

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