Friday, May 25, 2012

The Love Triangle and Visualizing a Vacation



Early in my career  - I realized that there are really two groups which yank a Product Manager's (PM)  chain - Engineering and (or) Sales. I remember sitting for 14 hours in a meeting debugging a "memory leak" issue for a Japanese Customer...Sales walked away shaking their heads saying - Customer will terminate the contract M-san (killing me softly, if you please) and Engineering giving me a " you are crazy" stare and the comment - You should have pushed back harder...fast forward 2 months we (Engineering Dude and me) are drinking sake bombs with the very sales team which threatened a contract termination the issue got fixed 4 weeks later than promised (but the customer got the patch on time...thank god for my 4 weeks buffer)...and the customer provided us with a strong reference which helped us win multiple other deals.. Here are the lessons I learnt from that exercise -
  1.  A PM is never in control but it's ok to pretend to be in control
  2. Two relationships in the product world impact a PM profoundly - your relationship with the guy that sells your product and the guy who builds your product...
  3. There is usually a mismatch between what is being delivered ( by Engineering) and what is being demanded (by Sales). A PM pretends to have a magic wand which magically makes all things map and match (yeah! right!) -- Jokes apart, it is a balancing act to ensure that Sales is able to sell what Engineering builds.
  4. However, despite all the chaos -- there  needs to be a  hunger, a passion and a need to be that someone who drives the team to  build and create something that solves a key customer need (a product manager) vs. someone who acts as the caretaker for release planning by simply gathering up defects, urgent enhancement requests, leftovers from the previous versions (a product janitor)
  5. Reality however is if we get caught up in the mundane  day-to-day tactics we sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture...the constant squabbles between Sales and Engineering with the PM playing mediator brings forth an "unloved child" (of course the product or service)
In the words of Steve Jobs " You need a very product-oriented culture… Lots of companies have great engineers and smart sales people. …..there needs to be some gravitational force that pulls it all together" 
My spin on that is I believe the product manager is that gravitational pull -- the person who understands what Sales and customers are telling them and being able to translate them into tangible requirements for Engineering...when this is achieved it is no longer an unholy love triangle but an unbeatable triad (hey...no negative connotations here!)
Leaving work aside for a minute...as I sat today staring at the computer - eyes burning, back aching, the neck spasms threatening to come back, the rumbles in the tummy reminding me that there was a dinner to be cooked. I see the Facebook update from friends galore on trips to Bahamas, Hawaii, India ...you get the drift. There is no vacation in my short-term planning horizon, so I close my eyes and visualize Alaska....my wonderful cruise from last August...the smell of the sea, the sumptuous 7 course meals, the whales and dolphins cavorting by the ship, the bear cub and creek seething with Salmon, the serene Mendenhall Glacier, the awe-inspiring fjords...when I open my eyes I feel refreshed and ready to cook dinner...I could use a real vacation real soon though!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

From a mother to a mother...

When my son's homework on mother's day came in with the following brochure below, feels like an apt thing to re-post in my son's birthday week...
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my first reaction was -- oh! no...when am I going to get the time to climb this Mt. Everest (with the daily grind and constant deadline that life has become). Yet, the more I looked at this brochure the more I felt like this is a topic close to my heart...K2 is the person who made me change in ways that seem dramatic even to me :
Picture this - the week before I learnt about K2, I was on a plane travelling to 4 continents ( New Zealand -SFO-London-Mumbai-Singapore-SFO), life for me was portfolio reviews, customer meetings, really nice dinners after customer meetings, nice dinners with K1 in the weekend and of course counting the career rungs climbed and the number left to climb, breakfast skipped, dinner out sourced, no 401 K....you get the picture...I loved my life and yet that year, I knew I was ready to be a "mother"...what exactly that meant I didn't know.
K2 was overdue two days -- all I remember of my pregnancy was how easy he made it for me -- I worked till the last day and K2 graciously waited till the weekend morning to announce his presence...I won't say K2's  entry was an easy one -- it was damnably one of the hardest things I have had to do in my life (and as usual K2 preferred doing things in reverse...in this case feet first)...for the first time in my life I felt out of control and I was ok with it. When I held my little boy I oscillated between sheer panic and sheer exhilaration...the acceptance that life as I knew it had changed came months later.
K2 : You put things into balance in my life, you made me acknowledge what was really important and you make my life more complete...
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My hope for you is that you enjoy and cherish every moment of life because everything fades beyond the  fact that you live once...be that kite that flies freely and fearlessly in the sky and I will try not to be afraid of the great heights and be the anchor that you can always come back to...you taught me what "unconditional love" and being a mother really means and for that I Thank You!

Friday, May 4, 2012

You say Goodbye and I say Hello...

It has been an odd sort of a couple months : my blog had been stagnating and I had been bugging A to give me ideas on how to redesign and bring joie de vivre back to this passion of mine. He told me to talk to the hand till I persisted in using Blogger and that I needed to move to Wordpress. I resisted (like I resist most change)...then I researched intensely and finally made the decision to say Goodbye to Blogger and Hello to WordPress... Reality is that Wordpress has moved way past Blogger in terms of innovation, widgets, design and usability. I look forward to this new journey and I hope you will join me in it...How apt is the song by Beatles: Find me at Wordpress @ http://randomponderingsofaworkingmom.wordpress.com/