Aman Agarwal is a Senior Product Manager at LeaseLock, an InsurTech company in Los Angeles. He has also previously worked as a Product Manager at Blockfolio. Aman transitioned careers from engineering to product in 2014 after he realized that his varied interests in different facets of business and versatile skill set were the perfect blend for a career in product.
Today, Aman helps to reinvent the rental housing transaction through a total elimination of all deposits, bonds, cosigners, and guarantees. He graduated from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science.
“What do you feel is the most important skillset needed to transition from an engineering role to Product?”
For me, the most important thing to do was to not “think like an engineer.” As engineers, we have a tendency to problem-solve, and we often jump into solution mode when presented with a problem, or a request from a user/internal team member. The key is to always be curious, understand why something is painful, and continue to dig deeper till you understand what is really being asked. That shift in mindset is pretty critical in the early stages.
“With a broad range of experience in design and digital marketing plus an MBA, what’s a good strategy for getting my first digital product manager gig?”
You definitely have all the credentials to get a job in Product Management. I think I would start with what sectors or industries you want to work in, then work top-down to figure out what companies would fit the mould. Are you looking to join a startup or do you prefer large enterprises? If it’s a startup, what round of funding do they need for you to feel at your best? I’ve always joined seed/Series A startups, because I like to go through the early growth phase and wear a lot of different hats (comes with my diverse background/interests).
“What do you think a PM should achieve in their first 90 days of a new role?”
It’s somewhat arbitrary and depends on what kind of business/company you’re joining. But the first 90 days in a new role are the most critical to your success at the company. After that 3-month period, you’re not a newbie anymore.
At Day 90 you should understand almost, if not all, of the various facets of the business; the long and short-term strategy of where the company is headed, your team members, and most importantly your customers/users (B2B vs B2C). At that point, you should start be at the starting point of forming your opinions of what you need to be doing on a daily basis to push the vision forward.
“Do you have any course/event/content you think it’s essential for anyone trying to understand better the rental/PropTech industry to get to know?”
What are the main 5 tasks do you do as a PM in your role?
It’s changed for me as a Sr. PM, and there’s no one size fits all here. Depends on the needs of your company/team. For us, since we’re in the Real Estate/InsurTech space, a lot of times we’re creating products in uncharted territories so. In somewhat priority order:
- Focusing on customer satisfaction and making sure our customers are happy with us
- Business Requirements/Supporting internal teams (Engineering/Design/Marketing)
- Reading about the industry and keeping an eye open for any new opportunities that may arise
“Any advice on how to impress as an APM/Junior PM working with a couple senior folks?”
Hope this doesn’t sound too crass but I wouldn’t try and impress anyone. If you’re an APM/Junior PM, you’re likely going to be working in a team of PM’s and other executives. The amount you can learn as a junior is directly correlated to how well you’re listening to your seniors.
Of course there will be times where you really crush something, and your senior will definitely notice that. Don’t let that slow you down at all, and continue to deliver.
“How has your role changed from your transition from a PM to a SPM? What helped you to transition? And, how are you working towards your next promotion?”
The biggest change from a PM to SPM is that the role comes with no guidebook.
You have to be the owner of the business unit. That means defining a clear strategy of where you’re headed, how you’re going to get there, and then rallying everyone to get there. Prior to being in this role, I had a Head of Product leading me to doing those things on the daily, but now I’m responsible for doing that and reporting that to our executives and peers. The buck somewhat stops with you.
“From your experience, what is the best way to grab all existing backlog requests to expose these to the business stakeholders? Just started a new job and wondering what your opinion is.”
We just started using Monday.com, another JIRA alternative. We really like it for their “broadcast” feature, which is a live look into our board, and we utilize that feature to display a “board” of all pending-in-progress, in-review, done requests. I highly suggest checking that out. You could easily display a growing list of backlogged requests and have them stack rank that.
“Have you ever thought prior to starting a role, what will make you successful in the role, and what support you will need. Any idea what you would say?”
If you’re at the point of starting in a new role soon, you’ve hopefully learned enough about the company, it’s goals (and what you’re doing towards them), and your new set of responsibilities. And so before starting a new role, I envision what my life will be like in that role. I think about the various departments I’ll be interfacing with, the various team members that I’ll be working with closely, and I reach out to them prior to joining so that I can get to know them better and get their opinion on how I can work with them to push things forward.
How does your team ensure your, or your direct report’s career development as a Product Manager? Do you utilize score cards, OKRs, quarterly reviews? Any advice to help members grow?
– Quarterly OKR’s (company wide, then break off into teams and form our own that bubble up to the company one).
– 6-monthly reviews, retrospecting on things is as important, if not more, as actually doing them.
So it’s highly recommended that you start out with highly aggressive goals (OKR’s) and then push everyone to their max. Then look back at what was done, and learn from it. As far as your direct report’s personal development, once they start to consistently hit the mark on the things they should be doing, you start giving them a higher degree of responsibility till they exceed their goal and hit the next level. Slow and steady though.
“What are some of the frameworks you use for simple prioritization on features? I have a small team of developers and a product which has grown larger over time. Prioritization is the #1 challenge these days.”
Prioritization is all about focus. Gun to the head, what is the #1 thing the company should be doing right now? On a more granular scale, within the confines of a product, or even a release etc. I like to score features based on all the factors that we deem important to the release. Is this release focused on user satisfaction, or are we focused on optimizing certain KPI’s etc. I’d google prioritization scoring matrix or scoring model for more details.
“Do you have any final advice for aspiring Product Managers?”
My only advice for aspiring PM’s is to be the most “curious” version of yourself. It will help you get a deeper understanding of everything around you. Think deep and fast, but act slow and less often. Analyze everything, experiment a lot. Also you’ll want to channel your inner Steve Jobs “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.”