Part 4: The Gangsta Vision Movement
This article is the last part of a four-part series on Creating a Roadmap for your Product Management Career in my publication Gangsta Vision here on Medium.
Get your copy of Gangsta Vision from the Amazon Kindle Store.
Product management ideals
What is your product management philosophy?
You might find that to be a strange question to answer. You might be wondering what product management has to do with philosophy? Philosophy is a set of ideals, standards, or beliefs used to describe behavior and thought.
It is customary that senior product leaders debate the ideals and standards attributed to the best products and product-led companies.
We can evolve the craft by focusing on debating and sharpening the resulting frameworks.
In my book Gangsta Vision, I argue that product management is going through a renaissance. Instead of an obsession with metrics, product managers find success by focusing on outcomes.
The best product leaders channel cooperation rather than the ruthless competition by using true ownership.
As senior product managers propagate the philosophy of Gangsta Vision by uplifting others, they create a movement that has the potential to transform the craft.
When I analyzed the stories of successful product management leaders, the Gangsta Vision philosophy emerged. Interview after interview, I found myself sharpening this thinking and breaking it down into a set of tools that any product manager can utilize to unleash their true potential.
The early feedback from the book was that this philosophy resonated with those out of product management, and I can’t wait to hear your feedback.
What I didn’t end up including in the book were many own philosophical journeys. So I’d like to share that with you.
My early philosophy
Do you remember your experience communing to work?
I’m sorry to put you through that. Commuting to work feels like a vistage from a lifetime ago!
Despite reduced tolls for high occupancy and electric vehicles, most cars you might see on your commute have only a single occupant. This inefficiency consumes more petroleum and gridlocks the highway, resulting in unwanted traffic.
In my early 20s, I could not handle this waste. I wondered if we could all live a life of minimalism; perhaps we could reduce our carbon footprints and make it better for society.
I was embracing a utilitarian philosophy that promotes the majority’s happiness, which would, in turn, promote personal satisfaction.
There had to be a better way. So, despite the drawbacks of being inconvenient and unreliable, I forced myself to use public transportation. I had to invest in the activities for the greater good.
Unfortunately, in sprawling cities in California, I concluded that most car owners decide that it’s in their best interest to get their own car.
I was unwilling to accept defeat. Therefore I refused to buy a car, but I still needed a better way to commute, so I purchased a used motorcycle.
Over the next few months, I exposed myself to optimized initiatives for the greater good. For example, one of my closest friends volunteered at the Metta Center for Nonviolence. He infected me with the idea that if more people could pass their generosity forward, we could provide everyone with a better standard of living.
Many of the volunteers at the Metta Center participated in a program called Karma Kitchen. Karma Kitchen had a simple idea. Once a month, a restaurant would open its doors to everyone. They could order anything from the menu, and their bill would be $0.00. After that, they would pay whatever they felt was reasonable. The proceeds would go to purchase ingredients for the following month’s meals. So if the food is good today, it is because there was a lot of generosity last month.
Despite the gluttony of Cal football players, the system still worked. Quite well, actually. It reinforced my hope that a focus on the greater good works.
Finding my joy
I had been convinced that by focusing on the happiness of the greater good, I would find my joy.
And it worked until I had my own family. When you are in a position to decide to do something for society over your family, you start to see things a bit differently.
During my college years, I wondered about the meaning of life and what role I played in this world. I only had to think about myself, so it was pretty simple.
When you have to weigh the needs of others (your partner, children, parents, siblings, and so on), it becomes harder to make big life decisions.
Sometimes these decisions put you at odds. Do you pursue your dreams or provide your family with stability?
There are, of course, the stories of the lucky ones, those who happenstance found a dream job that pays the bills. I share some of these stories in my book.
The journey here is possible for the rest of us; it just takes more time and intention.
One of the best ways to make this progress is to intentionally allocate time through hobbies, volunteer work, or moonlighting on your purpose.
In Gangsta Vision, I touch on my long and winding journey to find my purpose through the practice of existentialism — the philosophical belief we are each responsible for creating purpose or meaning in our own lives.
By harnessing this mindset and using tools such as the Master Plan, I was able to find the intersection of purpose and value to craft a future for myself and my family.
By sharing the pitfalls and mistakes I made, my hope is for my readers to shortcut this journey and spend more of their precious time on growth and evolution rather than direction.
The crossroads where Gangsta Vision was born
Gangsta Vision, in my opinion, is formed where existentialism and utilitarianism meet.
Through the practice of empathy, the best product managers hone into the mind space occupied by our target persona.
How do you do that?
Imagine the user is a fast food restaurant worker whom we will refer to as Greg. Picture Greg in your mind. What are the things he needs to take care of before he comes to work? How long is his workday? What kind of tasks does he do during work? Is he on his feet? Does he get breaks? What does he do after his workday ends? What do his weekends and holidays look like?
You may meet real people and interview them or read about the experiences they have shared online. Lean into this. Use your curiosity to build a richer profile of Greg. Through this exercise, you will be able to empathize with what it might feel live a day in Greg’s shoes.
When designing a financial wellness app, a fitness tracker, or a word puzzle app that you believe will make one’s life better, ask yourself: “Will Greg have the time to use it?”
Through building empathy, we can detect and identify the products that delight our target personas, in this case, our dear friend Greg.
We tap into a user’s existentialism (in this case, Greg’s), to find what levers we have available to use to drive their delight.
This is how products start, but not how they evolve. They will need to grow and positively impact as many people throughout their lifecycle. At first, the product will affect those most similar to Greg. Eventually, over time, those with a lessening similarity to Greg.
Through the philosophy of utilitarianism, as our products mature and evolve, we weigh the value of our features that impact most of the current and future users as we prioritize them for product development. In our product management practice, we commit to this to build the best products that transform and offer a new, better way to interact with each other.
My early readers shared with me how Gangsta Vision was able to transform their product management career and, in some cases, even their perspective in life. I am honored that I could give back to the community in this way.
If the book impacted you positively, I humbly request that you share a written review on Amazon. If you haven’t gotten a copy yet, please purchase it at Amazon.
I look forward to your participation in the Gangsta Vision movement by spreading this message.
In my book Gangsta Vision: Recipes to break into product management leadership, I address how, through several tactics such as Force Multipliers, you can reclaim “thinking time,” which you can use to create a roadmap for your career. Through real stories, tools, and the Gangsta Vision philosophy, I will help you find a way to break through your barriers and into senior leadership. The book will be available for purchase in May 2022. To learn more, visit www.gangstavision.com.
About the author:
Dilip Ramachandran is an entrepreneur who builds teams and ships software products in marketing and financial technology. He has many years of experience working with successful enterprises like Walmart, Experian, Marqeta, and Bond. As a pioneer of the “Chief Product Therapist” concept, he has assisted organizations in realizing world-class developer platforms and finding their product-market fit. Dilip is CEO of Nimi, an organization that advises high-growth FinTech startups and matches them with experts in Sri Lanka.
His book Gangsta Vision was inspired by his own experience and the challenges he faced when trying to break into senior leadership.
Dilip is an electrical engineering graduate from the University of Pennsylvania. He and his partner Alla, daughter Ariadna, and furry son (papillon-sheltie rescue) Wiley reside in Oakland, California.