Trailblazing Women in Product Management: Mayanka Sheoran, Vice President, Digital Product Management, Global Investment Management Firm
For our next installment of our Women in Product Management Series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mayanka Sheoran, Vice President, Digital Product Management at a global investment management firm.
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- Mayanka Sheoran is VP of Digital Product Management with a Major Global Investment Management Firm.
- Mayanka got started in tech at McKinsey, working on a variety of digital products to accomplish unique goals, before moving into data and AI at other companies.
- “My biggest learning when it comes to Product Management is that it’s really about people and learning human psychology.”
- The world is changing quickly between the financial crisis, AI, and more, and it’s important for product managers to stay on top of it all.
- “Failure is inevitable. Anything you build will never be perfect. Getting a product right is a very complex process, and you have to fail a couple of times before you get to the ideal state. Even then, there is no such thing as ideal.”
- “That really is my motto. I also always say, “action over perfection” and I mean that for me and my teams.”
Nicole: Mayanka, thank you so much for your time contributing to this series. Our goal is to attract more women to Product Management as a career. We have seen more women get involved, and it’s exciting to see the impact women are having in Product Management.
Mayanka: Absolutely, let’s do it!
Great, then I would love to start with what led you to Product Management?
I got into Product Management when I discovered I was spending hours and hours building products that weren’t being used. I’m a technologist, and I’ve always been fascinated by technology. I studied computer science. But what was different about my career was that I ended up as a technologist at McKinsey. We were scaling our digital practice in Bangalore, and it seemed like a bizarre choice at first. I didn’t feel like I belonged there, but that’s what shaped my entire career. I was working in digital transformations with different clients every 6 months across all sorts of industries like banking, insurance, telecom, public sector. Sometimes we built digital products for them. Sometimes we migrated their infrastructure to the cloud. Sometimes we trained and upskilled their employees. It was a different problem to solve every single time. What I realized after several engagements is that a lot of the products we built weren’t being used as much as we would have liked or the way that we intended. We put in all that hard work conducting discovery research, designing, prototyping, building a product, but then the impact wasn’t far reaching. That taught me that technology is not the answer in itself. Application is everything, and the application of technology is the most important thing there is today. That is when I decided to get into Product Management. Then I spent time shaping products at startups in the space of data and AI. That was such an interesting space to be in, especially when COVID hit, because it changed everything for banking, the way you could open accounts, verify identities online and just carry out business remotely. That’s really what got me into Product Management.
That’s fascinating. I love that idea. It’s not just the technology. People think technology is the answer for everything, but not if it is not applied well.
Right! If it’s not applied well, I truly believe it’s nothing. We’ve seen that to be true with so many things—with cryptocurrency, with NFTs, with Metaverse. Technology is not the answer in itself, it’s what you can do with technology. That is the trickier part, and I’m still figuring that part out.
That leads to our next topic, and I’m sure there is a lot you could share about lessons that you’ve learned in your Product Management career.
My biggest learning when it comes to Product Management is that it’s really about people and learning human psychology. It’s not just about technology, and it’s not even about understanding business or the markets or even about being an expert in your domain. When you’re young, you’re learning the technology. You’re so fascinated by it that you think that technology is really the answer. But unless you truly understand human beings and human psychology, you’re not going to be great at your job. Because at the end of the day, Product Management is about building products for people. That means you need to know how people behave, what they need versus what they think they need, and be able to put yourself in their shoes. I don’t think that we talk enough about how psychology is such an important part of our job, especially as a Product Manager and definitely as a product leader. By understanding human psychology, you would know your stakeholders better, you would know your teams better, you would know your customers better.
Yes, whatever product you sell, it’s for a person! Your customers are always people.
Yes, and every so often, we lose sight of that. But really, that’s all that matters.
What is it that you like the most about Product Management since you’ve made this switch in your career?
This is my favorite question. I know that it can feel overwhelming for some people, but for me, I love that that my job is different every day. I have never met a Product Manager who has gotten bored of what they do. There is a plethora of skills that you need to learn and build on which keeps it very interesting. On some days, my focus is heads down, thinking of a problem I’m trying to solve, coming up with a solution. On other days, I’m deep into learning a new technology or staying on top of the markets. And still on other days, I’m busy with people, managing stakeholders and teams. It’s different every single day. It can be maddening sometimes, but it suits me. Even in my personal life, I love trying new and different things. That is what I like the most about Product Management, no two days look the same.
Like you said, since technology is always changing, even if that’s all that you focused on, that is a lot of change to focus on.
Yes, the world is changing so quickly. COVID changed so much in the world, and we had to pivot quickly. With AI, the world is going to look very different in the next couple of years. Now the financial crisis is changing people’s perceptions of their wallets and their money. Product Managers must stay on top of all this. I find that the most thrilling part though, you get to be close to the business needs, your clients and to technology, especially now as every company is a software company. Every company is a technology company today.
That is so true. And I like how you said, this all might be overwhelming to some, but it’s your favorite aspect of Product Management. However, there probably is something that is challenging for you. What do you find most challenging about Product Management?
I think the most challenging part has always been making peace with the fact that you are going to fail. Failure is inevitable. Anything you build will never be perfect. Getting a product right is a very complex process, and you have to fail a couple of times before you get to the ideal state. Even then, there is no such thing as ideal. There are going to be bugs along the way. Sometimes, like we just discussed, the world has moved on. It’s just inevitable that you’re going to fail sometimes. It’s important not to put that pressure on yourself to be right, but that has been the hardest part for me. It’s hard not to take these failures personally. It’s one thing to grow from them, but it’s really another thing to not take it personally, and truly make peace with it.
It’s important to remember it’s not a reflection of you.
Yes, we must remember that. I love reiterating with my teams that perfection does not exist in today’s world. No point chasing it.
I can picture that like a plaque on the wall: Perfection does not exist. Is that your motto?
That really is my motto. I also always say, “action over perfection” and I mean that for me and my teams. I grew up as an extremely ambitious child. I felt the pressure to excel all the time. But when you feel that pressure, you sometimes lose out on opportunities to act. I had to constantly remind myself to not force perfection. Even if you’re going to fail, the only thing that matters is that you try, even if it’s imperfect. Overthinking and trying to be perfect is going to slow you down and you’ll miss opportunities along the way.
I love that reminder: don’t miss out on the opportunities. I want to go back to your career, Mayanka. What do you think are important skills for Product Managers?
I think product managers need to have hybrid skills. What I mean by that is people who understand technology, but also understand the needs of the business and the world as it is today. It’s not black and white anymore. Like I said, every company is a technology company. The second one is the willingness to change. With everything we’ve spoken about today, if you’re not willing to adopt a new point of view, a new technology, a new mindset, then you’re going to miss out. That agility is super important in Product Management
Do you have any advice specifically for women who might be considering entering Product Management?
There is one thing that I want to stress and that is to not get intimidated. You don’t need all the skills to enter the field. Your job will teach you most things. Take that leap of faith, and do not underestimate yourself because women are great at product management. They are good at multitasking and prioritizing. Women also have empathy, and I cannot say enough how important empathy is as a Product Manager. You will need to extend that empathy to your clients, to your stakeholders, and to your teams. You’re constantly interacting with different people, and empathy really takes you a long way.
I also encourage women to check out the Women In Product community. They are a non-profit organization with chapters all over the world. I’ve personally found them extremely helpful. They’ve been so supportive and so kind. If you need some advice, or support, or you’re at a crossroad in your career, if you’re just starting out, or you’re hiring for your team, whatever the case may be, the Women In Product community has just been absolutely supportive and kind. We are here for you. People have extended kindness and empathy to me, and I do my part. Don’t be intimidated, instead join us!
Thank you so much for your time, Mayanka. Thank you for sharing your relevant experience with us. It was so rich in such a short amount of time. I especially appreciated the insight that every company is a technology company. That’s just the world we live in today.
To read the entire series on Women in Product Management make sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Nicole Tieche – Client Relations Specialist at 280 Group
Nicole was born and raised in Michigan; she received her Bachelor of Arts in French and Creative Writing from the University of Michigan.
After Nicole spent time studying and traveling through Europe, she moved out to California and discovered advertising was a great way to use her creative skills. Not as a writer but as an Account Executive. Nicole is most creative in working with people: building relationships with clients and teammates, learning about them, and supporting them – even in ways they didn’t know they needed.