Trailblazing Women in Product Management: Shilpi Gupta, VP of Product Management at Yoma Bank in Myanmar
For our next installment of the Trailblazing Women in Product Management series, I interviewed Shilpi Gupta, VP of Product Management at Yoma Bank in Myanmar. 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?
I started my career in the technology space. I had a computer engineering background and my first industry experience was as a Software Engineer building financial products from a technology perspective. I stayed in the financial services domain but realized that coding was not what I wanted to do. I was very interested to learn about business aspects and how products got developed. That was a strong driving factor for me to pursue an MBA from IIM Calcutta.
I started my journey in product management as a Product Owner, which is more tactical than strategic. I gained experience and the value of designing great products to bring to the financial services market. That led me into a product management role owning the journey end to end, including the strategy as well.
For the last two and a half years, I have focused on the Myanmar market, where 90 percent of the population is unbanked, which makes it an amazing opportunity, as well as a challenge for me. This job was a leap of faith, but I wanted a role where I could make a difference, both on society as well as on my learnings. We build products that brought drastic changes to the people of Myanmar. We can actually create value for them by making them financially inclusive. There is a lot of satisfaction as well as learning in achieving that.
Any missteps along the way?
When I moved to creating products for an emerging market like Myanmar, I was super excited about what products we could build. We had seen credit cards, digital apps, and banking apps work in developed markets. But to be a good Product Manager, you need to understand the customer. You need to know what kind of customers you are catering to and what they actually need.
That was my misstep. I took successful products and I suggested building them into this new market that wasn’t ready for them. They didn’t need a spend analyzer. They needed a simple solution to send money to their friends. Under-developed countries don’t typically trust banks, so there was a lot of communication needed to build that trust. Luckily, those products were only in the conceptualization phase and not many resources got wasted – but it was a huge learning for me.
What do you like most about product management?
Building products that bring value to the people and can help make them better financially inclusive. Designing things from scratch, listening to customers, and then thinking innovatively to solve customer problems is what drives me in the industry. By launching products, I can actually see a big change in my customer’s life. Customers do give us feedback that our product has actually helped them and made them realize how a bank can serve their needs, can help to manage their financials, and how easy it is to digitally apply for a personal loan for serving the need.
Another aspect is people. Product management touches different disciplines and also gives a chance to work with people all across the world with different cultures, values, etc. As a Product Manager, you have to play many roles, sometimes you must think as a technology person and sometimes as a business person. All these things make it very fulfilling, both personally and professionally.
What do you like least about product management?
I think product management is a mix of bridging the gap between data and your gut analysis. Yes, data gives you a lot of good points, but data is not always correct. While making product decisions, you need to have local customer understanding. You have to understand the market need as well. I believe bridging that gap is sometimes not a clear line for most product managers and is one of those skill sets that comes with experience and I see most people making mistakes over the same.
When you’re hiring, what skills are you looking for?
I look for domain expertise as well as someone who can understand the customer pain points and who keeps the customer at the center of everything. I also look for stakeholder management skills and how they can influence the team by showing the business value or the value around building the product. I’m curious how they will bring synergy in a room full of people who have different viewpoints. How can they convey their vision and ensure that they have the customer’s viewpoint?
What advice do you have for women who are considering getting into product management?
My own journey was from a totally male-dominated workforce to a woman, equal workforce. We were just two women in a 16-member team in India. When I moved to the US, I was the only woman in a 30+member team. Where I work now, we are almost equal in number in the leadership team as well as in our own team.
Women bring a different perspective when we are working on products – we bring customer empathy; we also bring a spark of creativity and innovation in work culture, which is a really important aspect when you are building the product. We can bring ideas that are customer-centric and offer economic power as well. We have seen a lot of products in the market that haven’t considered what women need. Now is the time when women can actually become a part of the journey and can bring that perspective.
Secondly, don’t get discouraged if you don’t know product management, if you are not good in technology, or not a data person. If you have a will to learn and an inquisitive mind, then there are a lot of ways to do the same. Reach out to your network, join online courses, and ask for help within your organization as well.
Do you have a personal motto or phrase that you use in life and at work?
The Customer is King – keep your customer at the center when you are working for your products. If you are not solving a customer pain point, if you are not bringing any value, it’s not going to be successful.
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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