Trailblazing Women in Product Management: Arati Sohoni, Director of Product Management at Walmart
For our next installment of the Women in Product Management Series, I interviewed Arati Sohoni, Director of Product Management at Walmart. View the full list of this blog interview series to learn the stories of more women product leaders.
How did you get into product management?
My transition into product management was very interesting. I was working at a healthcare startup that was doing electronic prescriptions. This was back when we used to carry a piece of paper from the doctor and go to the pharmacy. I was working as a developer on that product and I kept asking all these questions about who is using it and how do they use it.
My manager at the time asked me if I wanted to shadow the Product Manager for six months as a trial and also find the answers to my questions. We agreed that if I didn’t like it, I could go back to programming. She gave me a way to try it without feeling like there was no turning back. I moved to product management and for six months I was doing a bit of both. I loved the product management experience, so I transitioned into Product, managing the product I was actually working on.
What do you like most about product management?
The thing that I like most is working with so many different people from so many different areas. Especially when I compare it to when I was a developer. My world view as a developer was limited. As a Product Manager, I get to engage with legal, marketing, and sales to understand their perspectives. Honestly, they all have very valid perspectives. I can see with their kind of lens and have a holistic conversation about why option A, B, or C is the best. I find it fun to learn multiple perspectives, but yet influence the decision so that I can get what I believe is right for the end-user or the customer.
What do you find most difficult or what do you like least?
I think as a developer, there are a lot of quick wins. There is a high feeling that you get as a developer when you build something and you see it run. You feel really good about it. Or you fix a really hard-to-find bug and you get a thrill about that. But as a Product Manager, it’s like a marathon. You build it, you release it, you see it out in the wild, and you tweak it. It’s never perfect. It takes longer to feel really good about it.
When you’re hiring, what are you typically looking for?
One part of hiring is based on product management skills alone. Based on what I need on the team, there may be a specific skill that I need. Overall, the most important thing that I look for is if they can be good influencers. They also have to have the ability to push the boundaries. I need them to be collaborative, but not so adaptable that they are adjusting to everybody and we end up with a product that is not meeting the needs of the user. That is the push and pull that I’m always trying to see. Can they collaborate and still be able to bring their point of view, stick with it, and challenge the status quo.
What advice do you give women who are thinking about going into product management?
I see a lot of parallels in my life with product management. You have to work with a lot of different people and manage a lot of different things. Product management has a lot of project management, whether you like it or not. There are a lot of aspects – juggling different things, and you should play to your strengths. I feel that a lot of women have those strengths of being able to manage different projects, work with different people, and have empathy for the end-user. Don’t hide those strengths. Bring them up and let people see that.
Any motto or saying that you live by?
It’s not a motto, but one thing that I’ve learned over the years is to always question the decisions if you don’t agree with them. This is something I tell my team as well. Don’t just do it because somebody asked you to. Always ask the ‘why’ behind it, and then it’s okay to disagree and commit. It’s okay to say, ‘I don’t think this is the right thing, but if that’s the decision, I’ll commit to it and I’ll move it forward.’ It feels much better and more authentic when you’ve done that versus just saying you’re going to go with it, and you don’t really know why you’re doing it – you won’t feel as involved or motivated enough. Ask for the ‘why’ and commit.
Download the Trailblazing Women in Product Management E-Book
View the full list of this blog interview series to learn the stories of more women product leaders.
About the Author
Director of Solutions
Mira (she introduces herself as half of a Mira-cle) is your 280 Group concierge. She helps clients navigate our training and consulting solutions, and also oversees our contingent-search recruiting practice. As a certified life and systems coach, Mira is great at listening – not just to our customers, but to our entire 280 Group team. She has a wicked sense of humor and a song for every occasion. Click on our chat button to say “Hi” to her!
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