A framework for PM skill development | Vikrama Dhiman (Gojek)

A framework for PM skill development | Vikrama Dhiman (Gojek)

Vikrama’s background (00:00:00)

  • Vikrama Dhiman is a well-known product leader in Asia.
  • He currently leads all things product at Gojek, including product management, design, program management, research, and insights.
  • He has previously worked at companies like Directi, Airtel, MakeMyTrip, and WizIQ.
  • Vikrama's framework for product manager career growth consists of three components:
    • What you produce: The artifacts you create, such as product requirement documents (PRDs), product notes, and product strategy documents.
    • What you bring to the table: Your skills, knowledge, and experience.
    • Your operating model: How you work, including your processes, habits, and mindset.
  • Focus on getting stuff out and done.
  • Be able to show your work through artifacts such as PRDs, product notes, and product strategy documents.
  • Not being able to articulate the impact of your work: PMs need to be able to clearly communicate the value and impact of their work to stakeholders.
  • Focusing on things you can't control: PMs should focus on the things they can control, such as their own work and their team's performance, rather than on things they can't control, such as market conditions or competitor actions.
  • Having a negative self-image: PMs need to have a positive self-image and believe in their own abilities. They should not let negative self-talk or imposter syndrome hold them back.

Three common traits among great PMs (00:03:56)

  • Strong product managers excel in two or three of the following three areas:
  • Great PMs consistently deliver high-quality products that solve real user problems.
  • They have a deep understanding of the user and their needs.
  • They are able to clearly articulate the product vision and roadmap.
  • They are able to execute effectively and deliver on time and within budget.
  • Great PMs bring a unique set of skills and experiences to the table.
  • They have a strong understanding of the business and the industry.
  • They are able to think strategically and see the big picture.
  • They are able to influence and persuade others.
  • They are able to build and maintain relationships.
  • Great PMs have a well-defined operating model that allows them to be effective in their role.
  • They are able to manage their time and resources effectively.
  • They are able to set priorities and make decisions.
  • They are able to communicate effectively with stakeholders.
  • They are able to learn and adapt quickly.

The first W: What you produce (00:07:09)

  • At the beginning of your career, focus on producing tangible outputs such as launching products, analyzing experiments, or contributing to go-to-market strategies.
  • As you gain experience, transition to controlling what outputs are necessary to achieve outcomes such as product areas or goals.
  • Continue honing your craft on both outputs and outcomes throughout your career.
  • Execution and delivering results are crucial at the start of your career, while strategic thinking and vision become more important as you grow.
  • Successful product managers can thrive in both impactful and less impactful roles.
  • Good output includes being helpful to the team and manager, shipping things on time, having a clean roadmap, and meeting deadlines.
  • Earning the right to influence strategy and vision comes with time and proven ability.
  • Understand your operating model and work effectively with others, recognizing that you are one part of a larger team.

The second W: What you bring to the table (00:15:40)

  • Impact on impact: showing that you were a useful contributor to having a particular impact.
  • Quality of product artifacts: PRD quality, notes to teams, deriving from strategy, drafting notes, working on experiments, data, and metrics.
  • Importance of producing product artifacts: even if there are people in strategy or design creating their artifacts, PMs need to have a cohesive product strategy, PRD, and work backwards from PRD.
  • Common issues: missing PRD, product notes, product strategy doc, or brief to the design team.
  • Pre-iteration planning and Jira storyboards should not be empty or missing descriptions.

The third W: What’s your operating model? (00:18:58)

  • Communication, collaboration, organizational skills, and community skills are essential for senior-level PMs.
  • Three tenets for working well with stakeholders:
    • Raise difficult issues without being difficult to work with.
    • Bring out important topics without drawing importance to yourself.
    • Be in charge of getting decisions made, not making all the decisions yourself.
  • These tenets are easy to say but hard to embody and display daily.

Three traits that make you a great PM to work with (00:20:36)

  • Raise difficult issues without being difficult to work with.
  • Bring out important topics without drawing importance to yourself.
  • Get decisions made without having to make all the decisions yourself.

How to improve the quality and quantity of your outputs (00:21:49)

  • Pay attention to detail and produce high-quality documents, such as one-pagers, PRDs, roadmaps, and strategy documents.
  • Focus on the depth of your work, not just the breadth.
  • Channel questions, inputs, and direction into strategic choices that shape discussions and direction.

The art of the pushback (00:23:26)

  • Focus on executing and getting things done that are helpful to your team, company, and manager.
  • Produce high-quality artifacts that raise the bar and make people feel confident in your abilities.
  • Ensure decisions are being made and push back on bad ideas in a way that adds value and advances the product.
  • Avoid being seen as an obstacle or hindrance, and instead be someone who adds value and advances the product.
  • Bring the tempo of the conversation to a more logical space, rather than operating on an emotional note.
  • Product managers and product leaders who are able to bring the discussion to a logical space will have more rapid career growth.

Common factors that impede career growth (00:26:55)

  • To achieve faster career growth, product managers should focus on three mindset shifts: controlling what they can, embracing change, and self-perception.
  • At the start of their careers, product managers should focus on their craft, output, and personal growth.
  • As they progress to mid-senior levels, they should maintain a focus on what they can control, such as their work, production, and operating model.
  • To sustain growth, product managers should continuously seek opportunities to increase their rate of change by benchmarking themselves against the best in the industry and identifying areas for improvement.
  • They should also be mindful of how they perceive themselves and avoid limiting their growth by self-imposed labels or beliefs.

Vikrama’s personal reflections (00:33:39)

  • Vikrama Dhiman shares his experience of realizing his shortcomings when he joined Gojek and saw the work of others, emphasizing the importance of constant learning and humility.
  • He suggests reframing self-perception to focus on learning and growth rather than being the best, highlighting the significance of mindfulness and adaptability in different cultural contexts.
  • Vikrama advises product managers to channel feedback into specific growth areas and not be discouraged by others' success.
  • It is important to focus on improving one skill at a time, prioritizing those with the most significant impact on performance and addressing significant weaknesses first.
  • Avoid taking on too many skills simultaneously to prevent feeling overwhelmed.

Choosing which skill(s) to focus on developing (00:39:33)

  • Be open to feedback and focus on improving specific skills, such as data and tech, design and research, or strategy.
  • Leverage existing skills and fill knowledge gaps to ease the transition into product management, especially early in one's career.
  • Koda is an all-in-one platform that combines documents, spreadsheets, and apps to enhance productivity and collaboration.
  • Koda offers extensive planning capabilities, including setting and measuring OKRs, mapping dependencies, creating progress visualizations, and identifying risks.
  • Koda provides hundreds of pre-tested templates for various purposes, such as roadmap strategy, decision-making, and product requirement documents (PRDs).
  • High-growth companies like Pinterest, Figma, and Qualtrics use Koda to strategize, plan, and track goals effectively.
  • Startups can sign up at coda.io/Lenny for a limited-time offer of $1,000 in credit to experience Koda's capabilities firsthand.

The ambiguity of the PM role (00:46:28)

  • Product management lacks a precise definition and varies across companies and teams, leading to confusion among stakeholders about product managers' roles and responsibilities.
  • Product management combines art and science, with frameworks and methods available to enhance skills.
  • Product managers should concentrate on their contributions and outputs, collaborating with diverse disciplines like data, design, technology, and strategy.
  • Product managers don't necessarily have unique skills but have the time and role to coordinate and unify teams.
  • The focus should be on the role rather than the title or function to clarify expectations and responsibilities.
  • The role of a product manager can vary depending on the domain or level of specialization, and playing different roles in different teams enhances their skills and capabilities.
  • This variety of roles contributes to the development of well-rounded product managers.

Introduction (00:00:00)

  • Vikrama Dhiman introduces himself as the Head of Product at Gojek.
  • He discusses the importance of product management skills and how they can be developed.
  • Technical Skills:
    • Understanding of software development, data analysis, and design.
    • Ability to work with engineers and designers to build products.
  • Business Skills:
    • Understanding of market dynamics, customer needs, and revenue models.
    • Ability to make data-driven decisions and create a product roadmap.
  • Leadership Skills:
    • Ability to motivate and inspire a team, manage stakeholders, and communicate effectively.
    • Ability to create a positive work environment and foster a culture of innovation.
  • Interpersonal Skills:
    • Ability to build relationships with customers, colleagues, and stakeholders.
    • Ability to listen actively, empathize, and resolve conflicts.
  • On-the-Job Training:
    • Gaining experience by working on real-world projects.
    • Learning from mentors and colleagues.
  • Formal Education:
    • Taking courses, attending workshops, or pursuing a degree in product management.
    • Gaining theoretical knowledge and practical skills.
  • Self-Directed Learning:
    • Reading books, articles, and blogs about product management.
    • Attending conferences and webinars.
    • Staying up-to-date with the latest trends and developments.
  • Networking:
    • Connecting with other product managers and industry professionals.
    • Sharing knowledge and experiences, and getting feedback.
  • Vikrama Dhiman emphasizes the importance of continuous learning and skill development for product managers.
  • He encourages product managers to be proactive in their development and to seek out opportunities to grow and improve.

The 8 axis for PM growth (00:51:47)

  • Data: Ability to define basic metrics and understand how they impact orders, users, or revenue. At the highest level, PMs can start their own data startup.
  • Design and research: Ability to identify problems from a user perspective and tie them to business goals.
  • Technology: Understanding of tech concepts like HTTP, API, and the ability to write technology design documents.
  • Strategy: Ability to define how to climb the mountain once it has been defined by someone else. This includes defining user segments, their needs, and the order in which to work on product features.
  • PMs are community enablers who bring people together towards a common goal.
  • Community aspect is crucial for remote or distributed teams.
  • PMs should focus on bringing and channeling the community aspect.

Contrarian corner: Why intent alone is not enough (00:56:57)

  • Intent is not enough for effective communication and collaboration.
  • Actions, behavior, and communication style also play a crucial role in conveying one's true self.
  • Many people, especially younger professionals, resonate with this idea.
  • Putting in effort and working hard is essential for personal and professional growth.
  • The idea of complete workaholism vs. lack of seriousness about growth creates a false dichotomy.
  • There is a strong correlation between the hours invested in work and success.
  • Promoting hard work should not be considered politically incorrect.

Lightning round (00:59:30)

  • Vikrama Dhiman, a PM at Gojek, recommends the books "Small Data" by Martin Lindstrom, "Originals" by Adam Grant, and "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman.
  • His favorite recent movie is Miss Congeniality, and his favorite TV show is Schitt's Creek.
  • When hiring product managers, Dhiman focuses on candidates who can abstract product goals, understand users, and reason backward to find solutions.
  • He values candidates who are passionate about solving problems rather than just working on features.
  • Dhiman suggests exploring short video apps like Drama Box and Short Meals for Chinese TV series dubbed into English in a TikTok-style format.
  • He encourages people to pursue their passions regardless of age or circumstances.
  • Dhiman recommends visiting a hawker center in Singapore to experience diverse cuisine.
  • He can be reached on LinkedIn or Twitter and is open to connecting with passionate individuals, offering support, connections, or a listening ear.

Overwhelmed by Endless Content?