Vidhya Anand on merging creativity with business

Vidhya Anand on merging creativity with business.

Product Manager, Vidhya, has used her background and passion for writing to enhance her business skills. With a background in journalism and writing, her creativity fuels the decisions she makes about each product. There are stories everywhere if you know how to look for them, and Vidhya definitely does.

I am grateful and happy that I’ve had the opportunity to work with some global brands during business school, such as Nike and Kellogg’s.

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We sat down to talk a bit about her role as a Product Manager, her background, and the advice that still serves her today.

Can you explain your job a little and what it entails?

I’m a Product Manager. Being a PM means being hands-on and proactive about the idea and execution of building new products and nurturing existing ones that are well into their lifecycle after kick-off. The work ranges from understanding product-market fit, user journeys and being cognizant of a topical problem we are solving while also thinking of the bottom line. As business-oriented as the role is, it’s also very creatively inclined. For me, it’s important to understand the product’s story, meaning the customer’s story—the real world narrative of what we are creating for real people and its lasting impact or lack thereof.

What drew you to this career?

I started my career as a writer-journalist. Somewhere along the way, while managing media spaces like magazines I realized that I needed the business acumen to understand how the world functioned, what keeps a business thriving, the nuances of revenue streams, distribution channels and market strategy were all things I became hungry to learn more about. It led me to pursue my MBA in the US at the University of Cincinnati. Having the best of both worlds in creative media and business, I realized that beginning on the product management path for my larger career goals would be the best inception point. It’s a role where you learn all aspects of a business, and have visibility into the high-level strategy that drives everything. In my mind, it’s a role that teaches you business and entrepreneurship end-to-end.

Product Management is a role that teaches you business and entrepreneurship end-to-end.

What’s the best part of your job?

The people and the creative stimulation that comes with product strategy. I’m a storyteller at heart and being able to take that skill set and build narratives for our business as we manage products for clients or nurture our own portfolio drives me. I particularly enjoy conversations and ideation sessions where we take an idea, don’t judge it and let it come to us as something far more valuable through the course of a discussion than where we were when we first started talking about it. It’s magical watching something we conceive as ideas and having it turn into a reality right in front of your eyes along with the joy of a team building with you in the process.

Did you have any notable mentors in your career? If so, what advice still sticks with you?

Luckily, many come to think of it. Nisha Murthe, was one of my first bosses. I remember her once telling me something along the lines of “Don’t apologize when you don’t have to. Assess a situation and only say sorry when the situation warrants it.” It made me realize how we, as women, tend to apologize in the work environment (or even otherwise) more often than is required. She told me this many many years ago and it’s had a lasting impact on me.  I think it’s ingrained in our minds as women to be more empathetic and understanding—and those are important traits we should carry as business leaders, but somehow along the way even in moments that require strength and assertiveness, women tend to apologize more—it’s almost a way to soften a statement, a direction or a suggestion that is being made by us. There are so many layers to this. Being able to say “I’m sorry,” is an invaluable human trait, and it shouldn’t be diminished in this context, but I think it’s also important to remember that we only use it when warranted. Essentially, if you stand by something, be unapologetic about it, be assertive.

If you stand by something, be unapologetic about it, be assertive.

Is there anything you’ve learned in your career that you’d like to talk more about?
Being true to your work. I believe that whatever we work on, we put our heart and mind into it. It has to be a 100%, there’s no other way to do it. If you don’t know something—an idea, a concept, an industry, get a bunch of books, and read. Talk to experts, familiarize yourself with something you didn’t once know or was new to you, so much so that it isn't daunting anymore. Truly, dive in and be hungry for knowledge and research. I think intellect and craft slowly but surely follows in the process. Trusting your team can be everything at the end of the day. There is a solution to every problem, we just have to be willing to look inside the box and be comfortable looking outside it.

Proactivity and keeping a result in mind can do wonders for any task at hand. I've also learned that it’s important to always speak your mind, especially as a woman and ask for what you want, communication is key.

Additionally, it’s important not to box ourselves in a certain role. I still continue writing, but realized I also love business and strategy. Embracing and nurturing all the things that drive our passions is important and can be fulfilling.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in the tech industry?

I’m not entirely sure if this is only a tech industry challenge, but I think as women there’s a constant need to do more, to prove your worth or have your voice heard. I also think it’s an ongoing challenge everywhere to have more women in leadership roles. It’s interesting how a lot of the big decisions that are made in many companies’ board meetings have very few women at the helm of those decisions when women are a significant part of a business's consumer group, right? Again, there are so many layers to this, it comes down to how many women are nurtured into leadership roles, or not, how many of them get stuck in middle management, or how when women become mothers without the right support system to keep their careers on track. There is a lot to it. For me personally, as a young woman, and a woman of color, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say there’s always this additional step, this additional effort, this one more thing to do to be heard to be taken seriously. We are definitely better as a society than we were with inclusion and equality a few decades ago, but there is still work to do. All this said, I’m thrilled to see the progress being made every day. On a larger note, there is always enough room for all of us, there’s potential for abundance in everything we do.

What accomplishments are you most proud of, work or otherwise?

There’s always a lot of work to do and a lot of new things to uncover and achieve. It’s consistently about the next thing. That said, I am grateful and happy that I’ve had the opportunity to work with some global brands during business school, such as Nike and Kellogg’s. I have over 40+ published articles and being able to work with, and having interviewed, a rich portfolio of creatives who are writers, poets, cinematographers and actors as part of my journalistic endeavors is something I’m very grateful for. At the end of the day, it’s about the stories, the work, the people, and the connections. I’m also thankful for the rich product management experience I’ve gained and continue to gain every day at Ascendum. I’ve had a lot of great mentorship on our floor, and it is indispensable. Mostly, as a woman from India, moving across continents and being away from home, I’m appreciative of the education that I’ve gained here and working in the US.