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  • Writer's pictureSugat

Top 5 lessons after working a year at PayPal as a Product Manager

It was like yesterday, I joined PayPal as a Product Manager, and I was excited and nervous at the same time. With the new set of responsibilities and challenges, I was all set to start my journey. Working at PayPal gives you a chance to make an impact on the world by helping billions of people participate in the global economy. You will be challenged every day, as you work with the brightest minds from around the world.

In a snap of a finger, it’s more than a year now working at PayPal and what I really liked about the company is its culture and respect for each other. When I retrospect on how I have grown professionally in the last 1 year, below are the top 5 learnings I had after spending more than a year at PayPal. 1. Stakeholder Management — A stakeholder is anybody who can affect or is affected by the product. Stakeholders can be either internal or external. A few of the stakeholders for a product can be customers, engineering, partners, platform team, business, legal/compliance, and sales/marketing. Being a PM, the most important part is managing the interest of all these stakeholders and at the same time how we can fulfill their requests. How the roadmap of our product, fits into the roadmap of other stakeholders is one of the core things of stakeholder management.

For example, if a stakeholder wants to roll out a feature, which is dependent on your product/platform. How you can work together and include it in your product roadmap, with all the priorities and other initiatives already in place. If you can drive these conversations efficiently, keeping the interest and goals of other stakeholders/partners, it would a victory. After working with numerous stakeholders and escalations in the last 1 year, this has been significant learning for me in my product journey. The key things which helped me were: a. Being transparent about your roadmap with all the stakeholders by reviewing them frequently. b. Setting clear expectations with the stakeholders. c. Try to understand the goal and objective of each stakeholder to get them aligned. d. Stakeholder Mapping and Stakeholder Prioritization framework.

2. Ecosystem Thinking — In this connected world and products, everything is very tightly coupled. The effect on one system can have an impact on other systems in the ecosystem. Ecosystem thinking is all about the ‘Think Big’ concept. Whether you are working on a single feature of a product or working on a product that is supported by platforms, Ecosystem thinking enables us to think out of the box and helps us consider the bigger picture. It also teaches us co-ordination and how to be a good team player. In these connected systems every product has its own upstream or downstream system. Being a PM, you must understand how your feature/product is creating an impact on the entire product ecosystem. At PayPal, the product on which I am working is connected to 5 other products and it fulfills a wider goal for the user in its journey. This helped to be aligned with the PMs of other products and solve the pain point of the common user personas. These PMs became the stakeholders for my product and with the above learnings, I was able to think beyond my product. In such cases, always be very thorough with the roadmap of other products and highlight the core use cases and features where it affects the other products/platforms.

3. Execution to Strategy — When you start your career as a Product Manager, the first few years are well focused on execution, i.e., getting the things done. You are expected to work very closely with the engineering team in shipping the product features and delivering them to the customers. But as you grow and spend a few years being a PM, the role is shifted and becomes strategy-focused. The vision and mission of the Product must be clearly identified, and you must think of the bigger picture. The tactical approach gets slowly shifted to a more strategic nature. Product strategy aligns the organization around a shared vision and keeps everyone focused on the work that matters the most. One of the key milestones for me was to think, about what will be the future of the product, 2 to 3 years down the line. Strategic thinking is all about the list of activities to be done to take the product from point A to B. (Point A/B can be KPIs of the product or the north star metric).

4. Urgent Vs Important — Being a Product Manager, prioritization is one of our key skills. To prioritize and make effective decisions, we must evaluate the effort, impact, goals, dependencies, resources, and many other factors. But one of the most go-to ways is understanding if the task is Urgent or Important. Urgent tasks are tasks that must be dealt with immediately. Important tasks are tasks that contribute to long-term missions and goals. For example, if there is a production bug, which is a P0 priority. It seems to be both important and urgent and thus needs to be fixed immediately. On the other hand, if there is a bug in the Dev environment (which is not breaking anything), it may be important but not urgent, so can be picked up later. This is a great prioritization method that will help you rank your work. This is not only applicable to your product/feature but can be easily applied to your day-to-day activities (such as segmenting all the meetings).

5. Getting Feedback is an art — It’s no secret that collecting user feedback can be highly valuable for improving your product. However, obtaining that feedback can often prove to be a tricky challenge. This is because users are motivated by their own goals and deadlines, so it’s not their responsibility to provide feedback. The life of a PM revolves around the feedback of the users. It becomes a very critical path for the PM to gather feedback that translates to the roadmap for the product. Users can either be internal or external. There are various ways of gathering feedback from the users (Surveys, Emails, User Interviews, Focused groups, social media, In-app/website, and Screen recordings). Not all methods are applicable to every product. In my last organization, I was working on products that have a different set of personas as compared to PayPal where the user personas are completely different. I still remember the initial days, when getting 50 feedbacks in a month was a challenge after numerous efforts. But now we are easily able to achieve 500+ feedback in just 15 days. The thing which helped me to reach this milestone was analyzing the user journey and finding the right touchpoint where the feedback can be triggered.


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