How technology can revitalize your business

Pravin Kumar, VP of Product Management, TriNet GroupWhat was your career path to your current position?

My product management career was not a straight line. I followed my interest and explored different opportunities that led to my current position today. I started as a developer and was a development manager for 14 years. I then transitioned to product manager roles. I then took on positions in product marketing and strategy consulting before coming back to product management. My experience in these adjacent fields allowed me to get a broad perspective which in turn makes me a better a product manager

Can you share your approach to leadership?

The best way to become a good leader is to practice. It is not easy to learn this skill in a class room, but it takes mindful practice to become an inspiring and authentic leader. To lead a creative team of product managers, developers and UX designers, it is important to inspire them with a common vision, while balancing their objectives with that of the organization. It is also important to give timely and actionable feedback. A key lesson for me is to be as transparent as possible and to co-create a common purpose. This wins the team’s trust, and motivates them to come together to achieve and exceed our goals.

What are the key trends that have helped you in your career growth?

The three main trends that have helped me advance my career are in design, technology infrastructure and globalization of talent.

In the area of design, building easy-to-use technology solutions has been my passion throughout my career. Technology advances have made this more feasible today than it was before.

Stay curious, and commit to be a lifelong learner

I started off building some of the early GUI applications. In those days, technology was very difficult to buy, implement and use. Despite the challenges, companies implemented those systems because they were essential to run their business. Today, companies will not buy and implement technology if it cannot be easily adopted by the organization. This is a result of the consumer technology market. Everyone is familiar with apps on their mobile devices. These apps are easy to buy and use. This mindset influences the enterprise as well. So, my passion and commitment to creating easy to use products are more valued now than ever before.

Secondly, technologies such as infrastructure services (e.g. Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure) have enabled businesses to rapidly design and build applications. These services have improved developer productivity to such a large extent, that teams can now quickly identify problems, form hypotheses and test them within hours and days, not months and quarters.

And finally, globalization has allowed teams to find resources around the world allowing businesses to scale and grow rapidly. These trends have had a positive impact on my career and have allowed me to focus on the strategic aspects of product management rather than the tactical.

How do you keep your skills current?

I constantly read, talk to other leaders and try to understand the state of the art—not just in technology—but also in management and leadership. The best way is to stay curious and be open to new ideas. Of course, not all ideas will be successful right away and they need to be iterated on. That’s part of the learning process. I believe strongly in a growth mindset.

Do you face resource constraints and if so, how do you manage them?

Most organizations that are growing face resource constraints at some point or the other. The key to managing this is prioritization. When your product addresses a genuine market need, there is usually a demand to do more features – from customers as well as internal stakeholders. As a product manager, my job is to have a deep understanding of the market and customer needs, so as to help rank these features on an impact vs. cost scale. An objective cost-benefit framework ensures that the organization uses their scarce resources in a responsible way. However, prioritization is an art and a science, and judgement, experience and leadership play an important role.

Do you have any advice for the aspiring product manager?

My advice to product managers is don’t get discouraged by failures. Embrace iteration, and commit to learning from your success and failures. With this approach, you can only get better no matter the outcome.