Making the Product Management Transition with Walmart’s Sr. PM
This week, Product School’s #AskMeAnything session welcomed Walmart’s Senior Product Manager, Rekha Venkatakrishnan!
Rekha is a Software Engineer/Architect turned Product Manager. She has over 14 years of experience across product design, product management, strategy, and engineering. Curious about how Product Managers have broken into and mastered their roles? Then join our Product Management Slack Community and ask them!
Rekha Venkatakrishnan is a results-oriented product leader with high energy, strategic thinking, data-driven approach, and creative qualities. She has a lot of experience building both B2C and B2B products using the latest technology stack and managing large complex cross-functional teams. Currently, she was the Senior Product Manager at Walmart, and now, she is the Staff Product Manager at Walmart Labs. She is also a believer of building simple and delightful products with a seamless experience that helps win both customer and business.
The Product Management Role
How are your product teams structured? Who do you report to, who do they report to?
Every organization has a different structure as you know – multi-tier in most of the cases. This is the case for myself. I report to the Product Management Director who eventually rolls up under the VP of product.
How does a typical day look for you at work?
In general, the product roles varies by the organization – It is usually a mix of product strategy plus management plus technology plus data.
Have you ever come across product managers who are responsible for content as well as the platform that delivers it?
In my experience, usually, they are two different folks doing it. One manages the experience and the other is offering services that could integrate with content to deliver a best in class platform.
Product Management Skills
How do you measure your website conversion rate and what do you do to improve it?
Every time we roll out a feature, we ensure there is a clear CTA (Call to Action) defined, run a/b tests that help us understand the customer entry/exit points and further measure the behavior.
Can you please suggest books to learn about the eCommerce domain?
In my opinion, the best way to learn about eCommerce is to register yourself as a user on several sites and play around. I promise it is more fun and intuitive and puts you on the spot to learn about e-commerce. Also, it depends on what area you would like to spend the time on and especially tag around that.
What is the difference between a B2B MVP and B2C MVP?
MVP (most viable product), in either case, is up to the Product Manager depending on the domain on how they would like to position it. I could go from a single feature all the way to several features in the package that could make my customer run their business and be the king in the market. At the end of the day, build products for your customers that will develop your business.
Would you share what it means to have a strong brand as a Product Manager and an example of what you look for at Walmart Labs?
In my opinion, a person who knows what they are building or killing, why they are doing it, for whom, and how they do that without impacting the customers and business. There are several teams and the expectation could vary by the team.
Do you suggest taking a course/getting an advanced degree in user experience design?
Product Management and user experience do overlap however, they are not totally the same. It would be up to an individual on what direction you would like to pursue ahead. You can always take courses, however, if and how you use them in your work is up to you. The best way to learn would be to use open source design tools and build something that could sit on your resume.
Breaking Into Product Management
How did your role as a tech analyst at Infosys help you transition into product management?
I always made it a point to understand my customer landscape and challenges they face and started brainstorming on how we can go about building products that could solve them. It was definitely a shift in the mindset from being a developer to an analyst to a Product Manager.
I don’t qualify for APM programs because I am not a new grad, also, I don’t have any PM experience. How can I make that transition into PM if my current company doesn’t allow it?
Just hang in there! I am sure things will work out well. It is always best to transition into product within the same company. Try to get a mentor in the product area and perform job shadow. It helps you learn all about what you want to do and allows you to ask the right questions. Outside the company, there may not be a direct starting point, however, roles like Product Analyst can put you on that path to be a Product Manager – obviously with added criteria.
According to you, what are the primary attributes to keep in mind when interviewing for Product Manager positions at Walmart? In your opinion, what is the typical distribution of tactical vs strategic work focus?
Primary attributes – Backup your product with an essence of data and be able to interpret that. Always focus your key wins and be ready to explain why someone should choose your product when there could be many in the industry.
I’m curious for an undergrad who has no prior experience, what skills are being looked for when applying to a product managing position
In my opinion, it is about an individual’s interest in building a product that is solving a problem and has a value proposition. Knowing the what and why is a skill that you develop. Support your thesis with data. A domain is something that anyone could learn. Try for product internship, it’s a good place to start.
Do you have any suggestion for Software Engineers looking to transition to a Product Management role early on? Is the path of taking university courses recommended or using learnings from Software Engineering could be applied to transition to the Product Manager role?
Honestly, doing courses most of the time does not come handy – at least when I was in that stage it didn’t help me. Try to talk to product folks in your company, get a mentor, try to shadow a Product Manager and seek for a role.
For people who are trying to break into a product role, do you have any advice on how to land an interview for a PM position or Associate PM position? Or would it be best to apply for a position that they have experience in then internally pivot to a product role?
Few things that I learned – Keep your resume simple stating why someone should hire you as a Product Manager, highlight key wins, add a flavor of data if applicable. It can be as simple as one to two pages.
Hi Rekha, any advice for people transitioning from strategy+CPG? I know Walmart values both, and get calls from recruiters about PM roles… but feel intimidated by not already having the tech/engineering background. How would you prep for interviews (+then actually being effective at the work itself!) as a Walmart PM?
Don’t feel that way! All of us have those moments. It’s not always true that you require a tech background. As long as you have the product skills and know the art, you will learn the tech as you hit the ground. One thing you could always do, there are so many tech/open source forums where you can just brush up your basics.
Any final advice?
As a Product Manager, listen to your customer and make sure the product would fit the market and add value to anyone. Then find ways to sustain it.