Catch a unique glimpse into the mind of Milan, the man leading product at Xpressbees, LinkedIn Top Voice & a seasoned leader with 14 yrs in the industry.
Your “Practical Product Guy” is shedding light on:
- the intricacies of the product management landscape,
- valuable advice for aspiring product leaders,
- and core principles for every leader to build a name across industries.
Milan's influence in the product space is highly respected. His multifaceted expertise spans investment mentoring, founder experiences, and a deep understanding of product dynamics, making him a sought-after professional.
Walking the talk, most recently Milan was welcomed at IIT Jodhpur as an Industry Stalwart to share insights with MBA students.
Exclusive Interview with Mr. Milan Dhingra, Head of Product (B2B & B2C ), XpressBees
Part 1: Milan on contributing to the community & guiding other professionals
I have seen that you are a very dynamic member of the Sparklehood group. Also, you keep on contributing in varied ways, so what inspires you to give to the community?
It is the learning that I have got. Many people have contributed to whatever little success I have achieved in my professional career.
There have been senior people in the industry who were kind enough to help me, guide me, and mentor me during my journey. I wish to do the same for the larger community, and Sparklehood gives me a ready platform and many people who are prepared to absorb what I have to say, so why not? Let me help.
Were there instances when someone in the community reached out to you for specific advice or suggestions?
A lot of young people from the polo group have reached out to me seeking my input on how do they shape up their move into product management and how to build the path of growth. That's one thing.
Another scenario is people have reached out to me, trying to understand what kind of product strategy they should take in building their journey if they want to start their enterprise.
Other people have reached out to me to understand how logistics can help them grow their business and how to set up a logistics arm for themselves.
So, a lot of outreach has happened.
There has been a lot of interaction, even beyond what we see in the WhatsApp groups.
Yeah. It's easy to drop a note. If I cannot answer on the day, I will ensure that I will answer within a day or so. There are a lot of messages that come into my inbox. I am bad at reverting on the fly, but I ensure I catch up with all the messages during the day.
Do you believe that your dynamism and your active contribution in all the different industries has helped you gain more credibility - people trust you more - they come up to you - they share opportunities, or they even ask for advice.
I would like to believe so. Yes.
More than that - because I have transferred across multiple industries mainly doing the same work, it has given me a lot of practical exposure on how things work. That is beyond the theoretical knowledge that you would get from doing your MBA or doing product courses online.
Also, having done a startup in the past and having failed at it, I get to learn 1000 ways of how things fail. I believe all these things and my transfer to the corporate world have contributed to my dynamic nature.
And calling a spade a spade, rather than sugarcoating stuff, I believe that approach hits the right note with a few people. Those people reach out to me for my advice, and I'm more than happy to give.
Part 2: Advice on Career Growth for Aspiring Product Leaders
What advice would you give to somebody 5 years younger than you who wants to grow in the product domain?
Have the right intent.Don't do the job for the heck of doing the job right.
Whichever organization you're part of, whichever team you're part of, the intent is to do the right thing and back it with data. Be diligent enough, do your own research, have your own data points. And if you have an opinion backed by data, push that through to the maximum extent possible.
If you have data and intent, you can easily convince anybody.
If you have conviction, you can tell a better story.
If you have the right intent, you will be listened to.
So, these are the three key things that everybody needs to follow to desire the growth they want in their career. The industry will not matter.
Speaking of product domain, as a product guy, you will always be at the center of things. So you will have your operations, technology, and business coming to you from all fronts, and there will be a lot of chaos.
It's very easy to succumb to the pressure and just deliver on stuff that is transactional in nature because you are so bound and clogged by it; it's tough to step back take a look at it from the outside-in perspective. Right?
Sometimes, if the people have a question on your intent, they don't just give you the due time that you need to put your point forward. But if you know that you're there with the right intent, they will give you the time and mind space to listen to you. And that holds true across all levels. Be it you're APM and then your customer is your SPM, be it you're SPM then your customer is a group product manager or your product leader, but if you're a product leader, then your customer is management. But the basic principle remains the same.
Wow! Ok, this was a learning experience for me as well.
When you want to tell your own story, how does Milan decide what is the story he wants to tell and how does he tell it?
There is a lot left to be told in the story. There is hardly a starting page, Neha.
But yeah, the story that I would like to be told about me is that "Hey, for whatever time of length we worked with Milan he left with a positive impact. We have fond memories of working with Milan. He left a positive impact in our life and positive impact at the organization and if we get a chance to work again definitely we would jump at that opportunity.”
That is the story I would love to write about myself, wherever it ends, though it's just a starting page, Neha.
People come and go - I manage a team of 20-odd people today, so churn is imminent. But if people decide to leave you, they leave for the right reason. They don't leave for the wrong reason.
Can you help us visualize what are these right reasons & wrong reasons?
The right reasons are a better career opportunity, moving out of the country, and being caught in a knot. The wrong reasons are - I don't have enough visibility, I'm not heard of, and the culture is terrible.
Part 3: How do we not succumb to pressure? A practical take!
Right, and talking about the conviction, see, it is relatively easy to talk about not succumbing to external pressures, but in those times, apart from a conviction from self, what is something else you can hold on to, to keep your conviction intact?
This is a chicken and egg question, Neha, honestly.
If there is a bit of insecurity in your work, with your role, conviction will always come into question.
What is the culture that you work in, the team that you work with, the relationship that you have with your peers, and the relationship that you have with your reporting manager or the leadership - these should ensure that you feel secure and confident to work in. Conviction is just an output.
I will give a real example - any product manager is worth its salt. When you launch a product, there is hardly a use case with a product launch on Day 1 meeting 100% success.
You get X amount of things coming to your plate from all directions - this is not working; this is not intended to be - and so on.
The issue quantum will be less, the noise is higher. You are getting bogged down with questions and queries, and deep into the night, you feel alone.
How do you hold your fort?
Because there will always be that pressure to roll it back.
That is the true test of conviction any product manager would feel in their life.
How do I stand up?
How do I feel motivated?
How do I not just give up and say: “Roll back the product, I will look at it later.”
The only thing holding someone true to their position is:
- The support of the leader who is available on the call telling them everything will happen
- The ability to clear out noise from facts
- The right intent
Is there an actual issue with the rollout? If the problem is significant - there is a huge negative impact on the business, then take it on the chin and roll it back.
You should have that understanding.
Everybody will appreciate your maturity.
But if you are convinced that it is more noise than actual negative impact - If you are not going to roll it back, then you go back with data and ask them: “Tell me why you need to roll it back.”
And then stand your ground.
People will like your perseverance.
And that's how conviction gets built over time.
Nobody likes a rollback.
That's the reality of the world.
Part 4: About Sparklehood & How to reach out to seek mentorship?
This is something that will help so many Product Managers into their space. They will see this is how a challenging situation needs to be faced.
I will end with one question: If you had to define Sparklehood in one word, what would that word be?
A highly engaging community with people from varied backgrounds. And an opportunity to listen, discuss, learn, and grow together.
If there is one thing that a person in the polo group can do to instantly build their credibility as a professional, what should they do?
Reach out genuinely, asking for help and mentorship. Do not just reach out if a senior person in the market is listening to you - Don't just turn that conversation into "I want a job.”
Don't approach it with a motive to leverage it and try to monetize it. That's not going to go down with a mentor. Reach out with a rationale to seek the right mentorship; right guidance.
That is true. Thank you so much. I took 30 minutes of your time. It will help on a lot of fronts.
Good, I was able to help you.
Special Credits to Milan for being utmost kind & cooperative for this interview & all the support throughout the process.