Sanjeev is a Product Manager at Superops.ai. He started his career as a customer support at Capgemini, then laid hands on Sales during his stint at Make A Difference, then started evangelizing and marketing Freshservice when he was with Freshworks. Now, took the Product Manager seat at Superops.ai
To put exactly In his words, “I started selling when I was in support, started speaking at conferences when I was in sales and started building products when I was in marketing. The transition was natural“
We wanted to capture his story exclusively because it was something, we also observed, so naturally happened to him. In this convo, he shares how his career transitioned from Support to Product Management, his point of realization that he could be the one, things to have to be the one, the tools he uses everyday in his Product Management seat. So, here the conversation goes.
1) Sanjeev, we know you started your career as a product support specialist. How did it happen? Was it something you picked or it came in your hands?
I had no say in this. My first job was right out of college and they landed me in a support role. Thinking back, it’s one of the best things to have happened. Because, starting your career in support means you immediately understand what the business does. And Product Management is just the intersection of product, business and customers.
2) That’s correct. What’s the most wanted quality that a product support person should have?
Zooming out of the product and looking at the customers’ business problem. A support rep isn’t a product expert, their product knowledge is not worth much if they can’t solve the customers problem. So, a support rep shouldn’t limit themselves to just knowing their product.
3) Hmm.. It’s beyond that. Got it got it.. So, you were then into Product Consulting right? How’s it? What’s the difference?
Yes!! To me, the difference was the storytelling part. For example, as a product consultant my job was to get prospects excited about our solution. And I had to paint a lot of pictures in their heads about how their future would be if they went with our solution. In a nutshell, in support, you’re working with facts. In consulting, you’re working with a lot of what-ifs.
4) And finally, what caused the interest to take up product management role?
Ever since I learnt what product managers do, I’ve always wanted to be a product manager. I like the ambiguous nature of the role. Got to figure out everything from scratch and every day there are many micro decisions to be made. And product managers get to impact people at scale. Versus a customer facing role where the impact is 1:1. But, I do miss the instant gratification of talking to customers.
5) Yes, that would always be fun to look back. Were there any instances you thought you could become a product manager during your stint as Product Consultant?
Yes! Whenever I faced a customer problem, I would start imagining solutions in my head. I would keep thinking, “If I were to solve this, I would’ve done it like this”. I also enjoyed solutioning conversation with product managers and that’s when I realized, I’d like to be a PM
6) How they helped you realize the same?
My time as a product consultant helped me understand customer problems much better. Because we deal with prospects, we talk more about their problems than our product. This meant that I got immersed in customer environments. And I started thinking for them. And that’s when I started thinking that I could sculpt the hero, the product, to solve the problem.
7) So much energy. So, this is something we wanted to clarify. To become a product manager or to be in a product management side, do you think, you should have technical knowledge?
It’s not a pre requisite but any kind of knowledge helps. For example, I like dabbling in code but that doesn’t help me directly in my job. But, that helps me empathize better with engineers. Sometimes, it’s also a curse. It’s better for PMs to be one level away from execution, so that they can keep the focus on the vision.
8) Haha.. Empathy stays on top. How’s the role? What are the responsibilities you have now?
The role is amazing. Especially, at a startup, when you get to build the product from scratch. Currently, my job is to figure out what problems we need to solve for our target segment.
9) Give us a sneak peek of your day as a product manager?
Haha, it’s a bunch of different things. I usually start my day reading about updates from the industry and catching up on industry forums. Then, I identify areas where devs or designers might be blocked and my top priority is to unblock them. Then, I spend time in conversations where we have to iron out the solutions. Towards the end, I spend time watching/reading educational content about the domain or product management or SaaS in general.
10) What are the tools you use everyday?
Notion for organizing work and documenting requirements. Roam Research for personal note taking. Things 3 for task management. Loom for recording videos an sharing.
11) Finally, before we let you go, who was your inspiration to pick this career up?
I don’t have a single inspiration because I got into it very early. Now, I follow Shreyas Doshi and John Cutler on Twitter who share interesting perspectives on product management.
Trust doesn’t come with your title. It is the glue that binds a leader to her/his followers and provides the capacity for organizational and leadership success. As a leader of your organization, it’s essential that you establish trust with your team and continue to nurture that trust, for an increase in productivity, engagement, and accountability.
I have shared a few strategies that could help nurture that trust and develop a stronger connection amongst team members which is a win for everyone.
Trust by default
Human beings have a tendency to reciprocate. We do favors, give gifts to those who have done these things to us in the past.
In the same way, trust is a two-way street. You must extend trust in order to gain trust. You need to have faith in your employees if you want them to trust you. This feeling of trust from leadership empowers the employees to leverage their strength and expertise, nurtures loyalty, and improves retention. So, assign projects and tasks that reflect this trust.
Demonstrate a clear vision
Employees want to feel that they’re a part of something bigger than themselves. They look up to the leaders for vision and mission. And, a true leader will have a compelling vision that entices people to follow.
Share a vision that will energize employees by providing them with an exciting picture of the future. Get them on board with new initiatives and produce meaningful work.
As a leader make sure they’re well equipped with not just a mission statement, but a breakdown of how that translates to their team goals and objectives.
Simone Weil the philosopher said ” attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. “
It is the simplest and easiest form of leadership. Moreover, it is the foundation of trust. Yet it is underestimated, overlooked, and discounted as a true leadership skill.
The team approaches you because they believe you. Don’t turn them away. Make eye contact, smile, and listen to what they say. You may not solve their problem, but you have already given them your understanding.
Transparency is about communicating information at the right time and making information easily accessible across your teams.
Your employees don’t want to feel like they’re the last to know about big changes. So, keep them up-to-date with developments in real-time—even better, solicit their feedback as you go.
Mistakes are inevitable. Leaders are not immune to failure. However, they have the power to face the failures head-on. They neither avoid nor blame it on the employees.
Acknowledge the problem and work along with the team to find the best way to sort it out, how not to repeat it in the future. Taking responsibility shows that you are just as human as the rest of the team and that there is always room for improvement.
Just as important as owning mistakes is giving credit to the talented and hard-working employees who contribute to each and every win. Your teams come together to turn your vision into a reality, and they deserve to be recognized for their efforts.
Foster a culture of recognition. Make time to shine a light on achievements and encourage your teams to celebrate their wins.
As a leader, you would have accumulated a wealth of knowledge. Knowledge is power in any world, so share some knowledge with others. When you share knowledge, it instills confidence among your team members that they are led by the right person. They know you have worked hard to reach this position.
Teach people what you have learned over the years, so they can develop into leaders themselves. You want to surround yourself with the best people, and that’s easier to do when you share your training and knowledge.
Leaders who keep their promises boost performance, enhance their credibility, inspire and engage stakeholders, and build trust; those who break promises lose credibility and trust.
When you make a promise or commit to do something, stick to it. You’ll be creating a more positive work environment for everyone.
Trust is at the heart of every relationship, and it’s especially crucial in the workplace. In fact, the primary factor affecting employee productivity is based on the trust built between the employee and the leader. Organizations that have high levels of trust have high levels of employee commitment, advocacy, and retention.
Trust doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time.
Having decided to become an Entrepreneur, everyone, including myself, is committed to an idea whole-heartedly for life. What carries you forward through this interesting journey to success is the determination and persistence to bring your idea to life.
A few weeks back, when I am still laying the foundation to be an entrepreneur, a boy, who should be in his teens, at my locality taught me an interesting lesson in entrepreneurship – “Don’t give up and keep going no matter what, you would be much closer to your goal very soon, despite the failures and hardships”
The Covid-19 Pandemic has locked down people all over the world. But, the spirit of life and its challenges have never changed since the pandemic hit us.
The boys were practicing badminton across a tiny lane during these lock-down days. My brother, being a good player, started to coach them. Quite sooner than expected, the boys entered the game mode and formed 2 teams, namely Ruby and Diamond, who were pitched against each other. Ruby Team was dominant over Diamond and kept on winning the game every day. The Diamond team was determined to win a game any day and refused to change pair, even when offered a chance.
One fine day, I pulled the Diamond team players for a conversation and asked them if they had a strategy to win the game over Team Ruby. I have seen them practicing a lot more than Ruby, deploying different tactics to win the game but in vain. They neither wanted to give up nor change the pair.
I was curious to know what kept the Diamond players going without tasting success for long and how it really feels to be on a long losing streak. That is when one of the boys opened up, saying – “We know Ruby is stronger than us, but that doesn’t make us weak. It is just that we haven’t mastered the play. If either of us changes the pair, that will end up demotivating the other partner. However, we are sure that we will taste success one day. All along, we have been maturing ourselves with such failures and we have been rectifying the mistakes. The moment we taste success would mean our game is flawless. We will fight hard until one day we win over Team Ruby”.
I was dumbstruck by the response and was in awe of the boy who gave me this reply. I couldn’t respond or react any more other than wishing them success and left the place without any doubt on their capabilities and determination to win the game one day.
Isn’t that too much of a matured thinking from a boy in his early teens, to have taught me such a hard lesson so easy? How I wish I had learned this lesson earlier at the beginning of my career! This episode created a great impact on me and has taught me one of the greatest lessons in entrepreneurship. For days together, I couldn’t get over this episode and my thoughts were completely wound around how to implement such a lesson in my career.
Perseverance and grit are key ingredients to success not only on the entrepreneurial journey. It is the key to achieving your goals in life. Most entrepreneurs would agree that there is no safety net during the initial days of business. Challenges are aplenty, but, these are tests to your commitment and success. The test of our commitment, risk-taking skills, ability to overcome difficulties and confidence, to stretch our comfort zones, and so on.
We all are capable of achieving success: it falls in place when you have the right commitment, your ability to overcome difficulties with zeal and confidence, the flexibility to expand your comfort zone, perseverance, grit, and determination.