Mastering Persona Building by Amazon fmr Sr PM

This week Product School hosted Nidhi Chaudhary, former Senior Product Manager at Amazon for an #AskMeAnything session. Nidhi discussed the common riffs between engineering and marketing teams and how to manage them. She also touched on product success by building user personas.

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Meet Nidhi Chaudhary

Nidhi Chaudhary is a customer advocate with 12+ years of B2B and B2C experience in product management, leading business strategy, challenging the status quo and prototyping new ideas. She is also an expert in creating and delivering short and long term product roadmaps, leading new user acquisition and retention metrics and hiring and leading new product teams.

During her time as a Senior Product Tech Manager at Amazon and her 13 years of Product experience, she took part in developing various new products, which are seen as a big success in today’s time.

What do you do when the engineering manager disagrees with you or becomes toxic to work with? How would you approach this situation?

Disagreements between a product manager and an engineering lead are more common than you would think. At the end of the day, these two roles are optimizing for two very different metrics (apart from the common ones). Product Managers are optimizing for customer deliverables and Engineering Managers are optimizing for a balanced and healthy tech stack while managing deliverables.

What is the best way to plan a roadmap for a new product? What KPIs are important during the early stages of app development?

In my experience, the best approach is a customer-backward approach. Start with what your customer needs and work backward. Break those needs down into big milestones, zoom in on each milestone and bake details – this forms the roadmap for at least a month or a quarter.

How would you design an app for an illerate farmer that they could use effectively and how would you measure its success or value?

If the targeted audience (illiterate farmer) is able to adapt to the product you have built, it is valuable. To build such a product, I’d start with really understanding the user personas. There is no substitute for personally speaking to as many potential users as possible.

Do you have any recommendations for a Product Manager crossing market sectors?Also, for targeting such roles at a larger company, are there particular portions of the PM skillset a candidate should focus on?

A PM’s core skill is to be agile across market sectors, domains, and product lines. Think about it, once a PM has laid out the roadmap and strategy for a particular market, in most cases, there is only incremental work to do. To be a Class-A PM, you must be comfortable with any market segment (of course there is a learning curve) as long as you are able to apply your core PM skills:

  • Customer advocacy
  • Curiosity to learn
  • Comfort with ambiguity
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When did you know product management was the right career path for you?

I was with a startup back in the early days and was responsible for anything under the sun for my product. As the company grew, it became important for me to choose a domain that I wanted to grow in. Product Management sort of became the obvious choice because of the overall impact one is able to have on customer’s lives and the company’s direction.

 What should we prioritize when the marketing department and product team have a different opinion?

The key is to understand the reason behind separate priorities. At the end of the day, marketing and product are like the 2 wheels on a cart—if they start moving in different directions—the cart will surely fall apart.

What are your favorite ways to learn more about your users?

One of the things I’ve learned is there is no real substitute for talking to your users directly and periodically. A few other indirect ways to do that are through analytics and front teams.

Should you involve other PMs when you are building for feedback early in the process, or would group think become too much and stifle innovation?

Absolutely. More brains/eyes on a problem set are always better than just one. Plus, being collaborative will also help you with your influencing capabilities.

How do you know you have developed a good persona? How many do you create?

I’d say persona building is an ongoing activity. Iteration 1 is never perfect, and neither is Iteration 10. You will need a set of critiques who can look at personas from a fresh lens and give you constructive feedback.

Did you miss this event? Check out our events page to sign up for the next #AskMeAnything session!

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