Trailblazing Women in Product Management: Monika Murugesan, Vice President of Product Management and Strategy at Schneider Electric
For our next installment of the Women in Product Management Series I interviewed Monika Murugesan, Vice President of Product Management and Strategy at Schneider Electric. To read the entire series on Women in Product Management make sure to sign up for our newsletter.
How did you get into product management?
When I was in college, I did not know what Product Management was. I started my career as an engineer, but something always bothered me. The products I developed were already defined. I wanted to know, why are we building this particular product? Who made the decisions? How did they make the decisions? Why do some products show profitable results, and some don’t? I wanted to know what was happening on the other side of development.
I got my executive MBA and moved into international business operations. I was completely on the business side, but I missed the engineering side. That’s when I decided to lead the Product Management division for the company, a perfect blend—business and technical skills combined. This journey took me over a decade, but everything I did along the journey has helped me with what I’m doing today.
Any missteps along the way?
There are no missteps, only lessons learned. Product Managers don’t know the answers to everything. If you are waiting to know all the answers, you’re never going to build a product—your product is always going to be in the market study and voice-of-the–customer space. It takes personal growth to know you can start moving forward with a little bit of ambiguity. Sometimes it’s more ambiguity, sometimes less. Have the confidence to move forward and figure things out as they come along. Otherwise, perfection is going to be the enemy of your progress.
What do you find most interesting about Product Management?
Your days are never the same. As a Product Manager, you do may be doing business planning in the morning, like business planning and talking to customers in the evening, selling the value of your product. Every day is totally different, which is why the Product Manager role is more fun than any job I’ve ever had.
As a Product Manager, you get to do so many different things in one role, and it is cross-functional. You get to work with Finance, Manufacturing, Quality, Product Development, Sales, Marketing, and the customers. Every function is touched by the Product Management team. And the Product Manager is the one person who gets to see the entire product from A to Z of -from concepting through the development cycle, to launch and end of life.
What do you find the most challenging?
All Product Managers should learn effective time management, especially as they grow in their careers. There’s so much to know about a product—both depth and breadth. You need to know when and how to balance your time and when to shift your focus on the next priority. You need to ask the right questions and know when to delegate. There is no one magic formula. But with time, you will learn to use your time effectively.
What are you looking for when you’re hiring Product Managers for your team?
I look for somebody who’s confident and comfortable working with ambiguity. That’s a key skill. I need someone who can say, this is how much I know, and these are the things I don’t know, but I’m going to move forward with the next step. It is okay to say “I don’t know,” but you need to be able to pivot as you get those answers. And, you must be able to influence without authority. Whether you are entry– level or growing in your career, the ability to influence without authority is always going to be key.
What advice would you give women going into product management?
In the beginning of 2020, because of COVID, many people were reconsidering what they wanted to do with their career. I was coaching women, from the technical and marketing sides of the business who wanted to move into Product Management. They often had a lack of confidence because they didn’t have all the answers, or they didn’t have the experience to check off every single item in the job requirements. I encourage women to build their confidence, thinking about ways they can transfer skills from one experience to another. Don’t wait until you can check every single item! Go for the job, even if you only have 50 – 60% of the requirements. If you don’t try, you’ll never know. Submit your resume and see how things go. You can always develop skills; it’s the willingness to learn that matters.
Any guiding principle?
I like encouraging talent. If you are in a place of leadership, and people are looking up to you, encourage talent and be the wave that lifts others up. It is very important to help others because it helps you, too. Whenever I talk to a new college grad, it gives me a different level of energy. Mentoring is definitely a two-way street. “Look for ways to help others” is a motto I live by.
View the full list of this blog interview series to learn the stories of more women product leaders.
Download the Trailblazing Women in Product Management E-Book
About the Author
Nicole Tieche is Solutions Specialist at 280 Group.
Nicole was born and raised in Michigan; she received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan in French and Creative Writing. 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 how she works with people: building relationships with clients and teammates, learning about them, and supporting them – even in ways they didn’t know they needed.