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Vamica Butola | July 9, 2019 | 6 min read
Women in Tech – Chapter 2

I have been a part of the Zomato family for a little more than four years now, and it’s definitely been one hell of a journey. I began my career in the Content team, and I am now a part of the Product team. Yes, that happens here. Interest and ability are given shape, into super opportunities that can change your life.

Currently, I am involved in a project with Feeding India; an organization which focuses on solving for hunger and food waste with Zomato. In order to scale this across different locations (volunteers and partners), we are working towards bringing people who wish to donate, who want to volunteer, and the hungry – seamlessly onto a single platform.

I have been a part of this team for about seven months now, and have worked on one more project before this. Even though I have not had any prior experience in Product, I got an opportunity to work in this space by frequently taking part in the internal bug bounty programs – where zomans are encouraged to discover and report bugs in the latest Zomato app.

Such programs changed my perspective in relation to how I would view and use our apps and gradually helped me comprehend the entire ecosystem of product design and development. My enthusiasm for sending bugs didn’t die. I am sure I would have annoyed a few people with my enthusiasm. Few people even suggested that I should be in the QA team, but it turned out to be a stepping stone to Product.

Most people in Product don’t start their careers as Product Managers – it’s a goal they work towards. And here I am working towards mine – one day at a time.

Getting started at Product Management

Getting a chance to work in the Product team seemed unreal at that time. Most people would give an arm and a leg for a chance like this. I was nervous that it would require me to interact with some of the smartest people in the organization, who have had a lot of experience in Product unlike me, but this was an opportunity to learn and I could not let this slide. In hindsight, I have had many learnings, big and small, about Product Management; each learning also acted as a feedback loop for me to develop personal skills, which will always add value to whatever I do.

My learnings so far –

Understand what is the problem you’re trying to solve for, before jumping to solutions

While the end goal is to design a product, we get so lost in ideas that we seem to lose track of the problem we are trying to solve. When I started working on the mocks for an app, I had so many ideas in my head and started making flowcharts and mocks one after another. When I sat down to explain my work to a designer, I realised that in the excitement of implementing the solution, I lost track of why I was doing it in the first place; and also ended up spending a lot more time than required. We are very quick with coming up with solutions – solutions make us feel good. But defining the problem statement you’re trying to solve makes your intent very clear. I use this approach in my personal life as well and it always helps to get more clarity.

Suggesting multiple ways of implementing a product is a bad idea

It’s all about having one solution, which according to you will be the best way to execute the product, and having complete clarity of why it’s the best method. I remember sharing a document with Deepi, writing down my ideas about implementing Zomaland in the Zomato app – I failed to put my point forward while trying to think of multiple solutions. Lesson: it was a moment of realisation that improving my writing skills will help communicate my ideas better.

Start with paper, and practice

Digital tools like Invision or Sketch seem more interesting to start prototyping your ideas and unleash your creative side. It took me a whole day just to ideate and make wireframes for four screens on Invision, which didn’t even make it to the final design. This was clearly a waste of time and I would never be able to make designs for the whole app by this speed. From that moment onward, I started to carry A4 size sheets in my bag and used them when I needed to put down my ideas/thoughts at any time. Paper prototyping is quick and intuitive. It takes lesser amount of time and effort as compared to digital tools. It’s easier to get rid of them and move on without getting too attached to it.

No work is above or beneath you

Product management is a broad role, this often means that you are required to step up and do whatever work is required to help your team ship the product, even if it’s not a part of your job description. There were times when the team I was a part of needed someone to extract data for business analysis, and someone who could send out the marketing communications. There was no point of getting another person just for this, plus we had no time to wait. I figured I could additionally take care of any requirements for data or marketing for the time being. I realised that a little extra effort from my end helped my team in a huge way through this project.

Learning never stops for anyone in the Zomato Product Team. One of the most insightful sessions for me was the Product Bootcamp at the farmhouse with Deepi, where in 24 hours we exponentially grew our skills. People were having candid discussions about real-time product experiences, in addition to the several articles we were given to read at our own pace. After the Product Bootcamp, we were also trained by the design team to design our own mocks on Figma. Everyone got to design their own restaurant page using the common toolkit. Who would have thought that you could get to pause your routine work and learn new things at work together?! It gives me great joy when I look at the designs I have made for my current project, from scratch.

Disclaimer: I did take help from the design team to polish my design as it’s impossible to get to that level of perfection so soon.

What makes me want to get my best self to work

It’s a great feeling to work in a company where everyone is always striving to learn more every day and people who are willing to learn are supported in all ways in the organisation. That’s how someone like me, with a background in Civil engineering and having zero experience in Product, is part of this great Product team. I love the fact that I get to enhance my knowledge and skills at work, at my own will and based on my own interest, which makes me want to come to work each and every day. At Zomato, we believe that you don’t inspire people by the designation you hold, what inspires people is your attitude towards problem-solving and diligence even when no one is watching.

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