Landing a job is easy, but getting one that transforms your vision beyond what you imagine is always a story worth telling & talking out loud.
The journey that I, Aarat Bhatnagar, stumbled upon from being a student of Data Science at IIT, Madras, to being a product manager in PayU has been more than eventful. Though it has not been long since I embarked upon this journey, the story would reflect upon how an undergrad from MIT, Manipal started interning at PayU for their Innovation Track and became an Associate Product Manager within a record period.
Having a degree in Mechatronics, my immediate job prospects were in the fields of automation and robotics. My internship experience too was limited to manufacturing and automation organizations like Eicher, L&T, Bharat Forge, JCB, Jaguar-Land Rover, Shridhan Automation, Eaton, and so on. While these experiences honed and enriched my learning, I was embarking on a completely new domain of FinTech with my first product-based role. FinTech, being a fast-growing modern industry with innovations first mindset checked all boxes for me.
I leveraged the guidance of my mentors to help me understand all that the job entails which, in turn, kindled my entrepreneurial spirit to build products. Though I was still wrapping my head around the nuances associated with the job title, the excitement of being part of a team that will build new financial products made me apply for the same.
After applying for the job, when most companies take up weeks and months to get back to you, PayU surprisingly contacted me within a few days. The professionalism they displayed with their warm undertones and the efficiency level kept me hinged during the rest of the interview process. Post the screening, the hiring for the role of PM included the following rounds:
Case Study Round
The case study round comprised of 3 sections – Design Questions, Product Management Questions, and Guesstimates. I was given questions for which I had to find solutions using creative thinking and problem solving within 7-8 hours. The assignment I was given required the analysis of content from different disciplines felt quite satisfying.
Product Thinking and Discussion Round
After the two preliminary rounds, I had to attend an interview with Saurabh Kumar, Associate Director-Products, now also my current manager, which felt like an insightful discussion more than an interview. Here, we focused on the how and why referring to the ways and reasons of the case study I did in the previous round.
The leadership meet was one of the best parts of the hiring process. I was interviewed by Naveen Athresh who is one of the Top-100 Leaders of Forbes India and Sr. Director, Product, Merchant Experience, IXD, and Process Design at PayU. His statement regarding how one should think in fundamentals always by understanding the customers and their user problems before looking for problem solutions has stayed with me ever since. He continues to be my guru and inspires me to reach my goals.
For the final round, I had to meet Mr. Denzil in HR where he asked me about my interests and briefed me on the work culture of the company. The hiring process took a total duration of around a month after which I received an offer letter & goodies from the company for the internship. I was super pumped to embark on this new chapter of my life!
From Innovation track to a Full-Time Product Manager
Watching an idea turn into reality over time and witnessing the process first-hand is as real as things can get within the corporate world. The role of a Product Manager gives this satisfaction.
At the start, we were given extensive training to set us up for success. This period was a whole new experience, I learned about concepts like user and market research, design thinking, A/B testing, etc. It was fascinating how each design or process decision that is made has an impact that is enough to bring behavioural changes in customers.
Post this training, I was given the opportunity to own a product Idea and build It from scratch with a talented team. We were given complete ownership to lead and deliver. During my tenure, I learned that a laser-sharp focus on metrics is extremely important for this role. Backing up things with data is one of the best lessons I have taken from this journey. It is fascinating to see how the data-driven thought process is extended to all the decisions made by the company relating to product sub-areas.
One touching episode during my tenure was when I contracted dengue and was hospitalized for a week. It was heart-warming to see how the mentors and HR provided all necessary support even beyond work. Their employee-centric approach has, personally, made me devoted to giving my best to the company.
Looking back, the journey I took while transitioning from one field to another, however drastic, was made easier because it was PayU. Now, as I continue to hone in the realm of product management and work full-time in the Merchant Experience Team owning a couple of initiatives, I realize that the fast pace at which I grew, was due to the culture, flexibility, and empathetic nature of the work environment PayU provides. I can confidently state that transitioning to a product-based role has been worth it. The journey was challenging, and yet the most fulfilling one I undertook.
The biggest piece of advice that this journey has provided me is to take risks and never let go of learning opportunities out of fear and apprehension.
Thanks for reading!
Wish you all the best in your product journey!