Esha Shukla is a product manager at WhatsApp (owned by Meta Platforms), the private, cross-platform centralized instant messaging and voice-over-IP service connecting billions of users across the world. Here’s how she got her job in product.
Why did the role of product management appeal to you?
The most gratifying part of being a product manager for me is the same reason I absolutely love this profession. Seeing the real-world impact of solving a problem for users, and getting their positive feedback on how the feature, or product you built improved their life. I experienced this last year.
I’m currently a product manager on WhatsApp, but for the last 2 years, I’ve focused on building features to help women (particularly those in emerging markets such as India) feel safe and in control of their experience on the Facebook app. Our team launched a feature last year in India called profile lock. This is a privacy toggle that allows you to share your past and future content with friends only, tension-free! We received a ton of positive press coverage. But most importantly, when our user research team talked to users that had utilized our feature, we got quotes that showed how they felt safer and more comfortable sharing their happy moments with friends and family without worrying about strangers accessing them.
How did you get into the product management field?
Product management has become a hot profession in the tech world today. Back when I started, however, there wasn’t a lot of awareness of this role and no direct path that could land you there. I was always fascinated by technology, so I did my undergrad in Computer Science. However, during my junior year, I realized that my skill sets and interests weren’t aligned with the traditional software engineering role.
I started to look for options that would help me leverage my technical background, but allow me to explore different fields. I stumbled upon the Master of Engineering Management Degree at Duke University. This degree allowed me to take different courses in project management, product management, and tech consulting. Doing so meant that I could explore all options before deciding on a career path to pursue.
What is your educational background and, if relevant, how did this help you to get this role?
While I was studying, I did my summer internship at Citibank. This is where I discovered the product manager role. I interned on a product development team as an analyst. The team was building software for processing payments. I loved how I got to collaborate with different functions such as product design, engineering, and data science. I was lucky enough to be offered a full-time job, and this is what kick-started my product management career!
For new and aspiring product managers who want to learn how to sharpen their product management skills, you might find these 5 product principles I talked about on the Product Experience podcast helpful!
Tips on landing a role in product
I’ve come to see that the product management role is glamorized a lot recently in the tech space. This role is quite demanding and requires a high level of patience and grit. It definitely has its ups and downs each day. Make sure you talk to real-life product managers about what parts of the job they love, and most importantly – what parts they’ve come to deal with that are challenging. This will help you holistically evaluate if this is the right role for you long-term!
How did you get your job in product?
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Discover how others have forged their product paths in our How I got my job content series.