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Developing your Strengths to be a Product Manager

Payal Bagga is a Senior Product Manager with the Tanzu Observability team and has been with VMware since 2018. A Computer Science and Engineering graduate, she moved to Texas from India to complete her Master’s Degree in Management Information Systems, and then completed an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley. In this article, she shares her career journey, overcoming her shyness, and top tips for anyone considering a Product Manager role.

Starting out

I did my undergraduate studies in India in Computer Science and Engineering and started my career as a Software Engineer. Soon I realized my weakness – I was a shy girl, afraid to speak up even when she knew she had the right ideas. To push myself, I applied for a Master’s program in the US and a few months later, I found myself with 3 large suitcases in a foreign country alone – nervous and excited at the same time. I joined a Technology Consulting firm after completing my Masters and 2 years later in 2018, found an amazing opportunity at VMware as a Technical Program Manager.

For this role at VMware, I knew two key skills would make me successful – my engineering background and my interest in managing relationships. One of the best ways to establish relationships with the cross-functional teams was to take that extra step and have coffees, lunches, or just casual 1:1 chats, especially in the early days of my role. This role pushed me further beyond my comfort zone and I was not the shy girl from India anymore.

Pivoting into Product Management

One of the advantages of being in VMware is that everyone wants you to grow and succeed as an employee. Three years into Program Management, I wanted to explore opportunities in Product Management, and with the support of my manager – I was able to do a lateral move as a Product Manager for Tanzu Observability and got promoted within a year!

Skills for Product Management

In the past two years, I have loved every part of my role as a Product Manager. Every day, I get to talk to cross-functional team members and have a tangible impact on our customers and engineering teams.

If you’re considering a Product Management role, here are my insights into some of the key skills:

  • As a Product Manager, you have to lead without authority, instead trust and relationship building is the key here. I have found that the easiest way to build trust is to effectively communicate – and listening is a key element of it!
  • Customer empathy – Product Managers solve problems for customers and what better way to do that than to imagine yourself in your customers’ shoes. Use the product yourself as a user, talk to customers, read up on the support tickets, talk to the Technical Account Managers, and truly get immersed in the customers’ personas.
  • Prioritization – Product Managers are in a unique position to influence the product features and hence it becomes important to learn how to prioritize customer requests and engineering expectations. Several factors can help with prioritization – customer impact, the scope of the feature, engineering efforts, and our confidence in these estimates.
  • Leverage data – learning how to collect qualitative and quantitative feedback will make you stand out as Product Manager. This is an often overlooked key skill to be a successful Product Manager.
  • Staying up to date – keeping up with the competitive landscape and staying up to date on the latest technological trends can go a long way as we think about product strategy.

Being a Product Manager is a rewarding job where you get to learn something new every day. For anyone looking to grow in their current roles or pivot into a different role, the teams at VMware are very supportive and encouraging – so never hesitate to speak up.


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