5 Questions with Nisha Victor, Sr. Director of Product Management at Shopkick
What was your journey to getting into product management?
While I was studying for my Electrical and Computer Engineering Masters at UT Austin I took an elective business school course, and I realized that I really enjoyed the active discussions about the why and what of decision making and the collaboration opportunities it provided to think of various ways to solve customer problems. I wanted to explore roles that let me do more of that and was starting to research job descriptions that cater to my strengths of strong customer empathy, problem solving and collaboration. Around that time I got an offer from National Instruments to join as an Applications Engineer which was a rotation program; I started off as an Applications Engineer providing technical support to customers and to train them to use NI software and hardware products. Then I could choose to do a rotation with Product Management, Sales or R&D. It seemed like the perfect fit and I started as an AE and then joined the PM team.
What is your greatest achievement to date? Why is it meaningful to you?
When I joined Yahoo, Yahoo Shopping was a declining business and it had very limited resources across product, design, engineering, etc. So I had to quickly build the team up, partnering with engineering, marketing, design, business development, etc. and identify the levers to invest in and grow the business. In 8 months we were able to turn around that declining business to beat our 5 year holiday revenue records.
The reason I cherish this achievement is because I felt that the entire team being as new as it was, came together and was rowing in the same direction towards our goal of turning the business around. We took on each challenge as it came and pushed past it because we all had each others backs which made the team feel more confident about taking risks.
What has been your biggest challenge working in product management?
I love the fact that as a PM you are at the intersection of business, technology and user experience. You are at the center of the machine making sure that everyone is aligned towards a common goal and then ensuring that each part is functioning smoothly, being on the lookout to identify the roadblocks and partnering with the experts in that area to figure out what is needed to unblock the issue. Product Management is an art as it is a science in that you need to be able to influence people from various disciplines and drive them all to move towards the end goal even when the different teams have differing short term agendas.
Who has been your biggest ally during your career? Why?
My biggest ally during my career undoubtedly has been my husband who has encouraged and supported me every step of the way to push myself. I have also been lucky to have had some strong mentors, managers and peers along the way who have taught me things like:
- Start each day prioritizing the top 3 things you want to accomplish that day that will move you closer to accomplishing your goals. It helps you not get lost in the daily noise.
- How you get to the end goal is as important if not more than achieving the end goal. This is especially important in Product Management given how collaborative our work is.
- When things are getting stressful always remember that no child will get hurt if our release slips a day or a week. It’s important to put things in perspective.
What advice do you wish someone had given you when you were starting your product career?
Take on roles and tasks that make you uncomfortable. I used to hesitate to raise my hands to take on a new task or sign up for a new role unless I was 200% sure that I had all the data or all the skills necessary. What I have realized over time is that I don’t need to know everything before I sign up. I can figure things out as I go along and that uneasiness of knowing that I don’t know the solution or how this will play out actually motivates me to work harder, find creative ways to solve problems, and meet with new people who have done something similar.