The Parul Goel Hypothesis: Product Managers Should Prioritize Being Credible Rather Than Impressive

Parul Goel is a Product Leader at PayPal. She currently heads payments for the PayPal Commerce Platform, an enterprise product she helped build from scratch. She is passionate about innovating in the enterprise product space. In her career spanning over fifteen years, Parul has been part of several complex product builds, some have been very successful while others have served as great life lessons. Parul loves to travel and cannot wait to get back to a plane, hopefully on her way to somewhere new and exciting. Parul holds an M.S in Computer Science from Columbia University.

In this episode of the Product Science Podcast, we talk about how credibility is at the core of effective product leadership.

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Resources

Questions We Explore in This Episode

The Parul Goel Hypothesis: Product Managers Should Prioritize Being Credible Rather Than ImpressiveHow did Parul get started in computer science? Why didn’t she major in business administration as she originally planned? What was it like transitioning from a small college to getting a masters at Columbia? Why does she say she didn’t get a great computer science education but instead got a great life education at Columbia? Why did her first boss peg her as a natural product manager?

How did Parul learn core product management skills by working as a business analyst? What are the two main lessons she learned? Why is it so important to read the landscape and identify the key influencers and decision makers at an organization, and how does that translate to product management? What is a story of how Parul overcame a technology challenge with skills she picked up from her time as a business analyst?

What was the transition like from consulting to in-house product management? Why did Parul decide to make a change in her career? What are the advantages and disadvantages of moving into product management from consulting? What experience is valuable and what do you need to pick up along the way?

What was it like working on Paypal’s resolution center rewrite initiative? What were their KPIs, and how did they achieve them? Where did Parul feel her lack of experience in an in-house role most acutely? Why is it so important to identify when something is a technology project versus a people project, and what are the telltale signs? What did this project teach her about being flexible? Why are stakeholders such a key part of creating change to an already established product?

What was the difference building something new for a large company as opposed to working on an established product? Why is understanding the customer’s goal more important than building what they want you to build? Why does Parul prioritize educating the leadership team early, and how does she go about doing that? How do you identify what to work on and invest in when? How do you negotiate that with leadership? How do you recognize that sometimes what you need to ask for is just more time? How do you recognize the most important information you need and how do you get that information more quickly? How do you scale a pilot project up to a full launch?

Quotes From This Episode

When you are working with a mature product, you are a change agent...It's bringing people along that's going to be hard, technology is going to be the easier part. Click To Tweet Earlier in my career, I put in a lot of stock into first impressions. And over time, I have realized what really matters is credibility, which you build over time, by consistency, by following up and following through. Click To Tweet Don't try to build a relationship just because you might need something from that person in future. Build relationships based on your interest in the person, get to know them, what's important to them, and what you can do for them. Click To Tweet

Transcription

Holly Hester-Reilly: Hi, and welcome to the Product Science Podcast, where we’re helping startup founders and product leaders build high-growth products, teams and companies through real conversations with people who have tried it and aren’t afraid to share lessons learned from their failures along the way. I’m your host, Holly Hester-Riley, founder and CEO of H2R Product Science.
This week on the product science podcast, I’m excited to share a conversation with Parul Goel. Parul is a product leader at PayPal. She currently heads payments for the PayPal Commerce Platform, an enterprise product she helped build from scratch. She is passionate about innovating in the enterprise product space. In her career spanning over 15 years, Parul has been part of several complex product builds, some have been very successful, while others have served as great life lessons. She loves to travel, and cannot wait to get back on plane, hopefully on her way to somewhere new and exciting. Parul holds an MS in Computer Science from Columbia University. Welcome Parul.
Parul Goel: Thank you, Holly. I’m excited to be here.
Holly Hester-Reilly: I’m so excited to have you. So I just said that you have a Master’s in Computer Science. So you must have started off on the tech path earlier on in your career. Can you tell us how you got there?
Parul Goel: Yeah. So my undergraduate degree is also in Computer Science. And while deciding a major, I was leaning towards Business Administration. And I remember I was my freshman year, and I was waiting to sign up for my classes, we had to sign up in-person. And I ended up running into our Dean. It was a very small college. And she asked me, what I was planning to do. And I told her, I’m thinking towards Business Administration. And it was her advice, and she said, “If you are good at math, if you are good at science, do something more specialized. Do mathematics, do Computer Science, you can always go back and get an MBA, you can always get a Master’s in Business Administration.” And so the short conversation got me thinking, and I said, “Okay, I’m going to try a few Computer Science classes.” And then I loved them. So I ended up double majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science, and doing Business Administration as a minor.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Wow. That’s a lot. You must have been really busy as a student.
Parul Goel: It was really fun. I went to a very small college. We had some really great professors. So I felt very engaged, I felt very happy, and it didn’t really feel like coursework.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah, that’s great. I went to a larger university, so I didn’t have so much of the small class feel. That sounds nice. And then you went on to get a Master’s?
Parul Goel: And then I went to get on a Master’s. And some of it was a function of graduating in 2003, when there weren’t a lot of jobs around. And I think I did want to try living in New York City and experience that life. And Colombia was a much harder experience for me, but also a great learning experience. Because Colombia is a large university, the level of education was much higher than my undergrad institution. So it was really a struggle for me. I remember my first Computer Science project, it was writing an essay in French, when you don’t even know the alphabets in French. It was very lost. And so between the first semester and my final semester, I had to work really hard to get the basics right and build my GPA. So I did go from in first semester, my GPA was around two, and then I was able to pull it above three to a respectable number, just by spending all my time in computer lab, but also figuring out what am I good at. And those are the classes I should sign up for.
Holly Hester-Reilly: And that can be really empowering too though, when you encounter something that’s very challenging, and then you come through it doing better than you’d started.
Parul Goel: So I like to say that at Columbia, I don’t think I got a good grade Computer Science education, just because I wasn’t ready for it. But I got a great life education. Because I came out of it feeling like now I can do anything. Like there is no challenge that I can’t go after.
Holly Hester-Reilly: That’s awesome. So what did you do after that?
Parul Goel: So after that, I ended up working as an engineer at a bank, which is very common for people graduating from schools in New York. And within first few months, I realized that engineering isn’t for me. I liked it, but I didn’t really enjoy it very much. I wasn’t very good at it. And it was my manager who suggested, “Oh, why don’t you consider product management? You have good communication skills, you have good technical skills. And you can blend them together and have a great career there.” At the time, though, I decided to get into consulting, because I was trying to move to the west coast. So I joined Capgemini as a business analyst. And then I did that in… I was in consulting for several years, six to seven years, with Capgemini, and then a smaller outfit. And then I ended up joining PayPal.
Holly Hester-Reilly: So tell me about this time in consulting. As in what was it like being a business analyst at a consulting firm?
Parul Goel: Yeah. So I think that’s the foundation of my product management skills were laid. As a business analyst, there were really two main things I learned. One is the core PM skills, which is working with our client to understand the problem statement, figuring out the different solutions once we could deliver within time and budget, and then the actual execution with the teams, our teams, client teams. The second one was really reading the landscape very quickly, figuring out who are the decision makers, who are the influencers, where can we add value quickly? Because as a consultant, one of your main goals is to get more work, to win the next engagement for your team. So you’re always on the lookout for that. So being able to read the room is super important. And both of these skills have been very helpful for me, even in my career as product management, as a product manager.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. I find that being able to read the room to understand what each of the stakeholders wants and needs, is really helpful in driving success of an internal product as well. Do you have any stories of times when that skill really came in handy for you?
Parul Goel: Yeah. So I’ll tell you about a time when it wasn’t really reading the needs of a particular person on a client side, but the entire, the customer as a whole was super important. So we had this engagement where we were going to be implementing a new technology, the technology in general was a nascent stage. And it was new to us as well. But we were also, from our client perspective, we were the experts. So during the day, we would have these requirements gathering session with the customer, but at night, the entire team would be trying to figure out, okay, so how do we actually implement it with this technology. And this was an area where just active listening was super important, because I knew that I couldn’t learn this technology, the entire technology overnight. But if I was able to decipher what is really important to the customer during these conversations, by listening to them, by asking the right questions, then those were the areas I could focus on and can bring value very quickly.
So it was nerve wracking, but it was also very exciting thing to do. And it brought us together as a team. So something I really enjoyed. This was an engagement I really enjoyed.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. Sometimes being in the high pressure situations can really bring a team together, too.
Parul Goel: Yeah. And I think that was one of the things I loved about consulting is, you have this very clear goal, delivering this value within client time, within budget. And irrespective of what your role is, what your skill set is, you do whatever it takes, and you end up becoming a small family unit while you’re on that engagement.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. Especially if you’re traveling a lot for it, and you’re traveling with those people. Right?
Parul Goel: That’s true. Yes.
Holly Hester-Reilly: So how did you make the transition from consulting to in-house product management?
Parul Goel: Yeah. So I was in consulting for several years. And I really enjoy, like I mentioned, just working in small teams, just gathering data, just learning the breadth of the industry, right? Because I had very different types of engagements, life sciences, e-commerce, technology companies. But then it was the traveling that got too much for me. Because in consulting, I was on the client site, which sometimes mostly I needed to travel for between Monday to Thursday. So building a life in one place was a challenge. In fact, I remember I was traveling to Dallas for about two years straight, Monday to Thursday, every week I would be there, while I was living in California. So I had two different timezones I was living in. I came back on a Thursday, and we went for a movie, like a late night show. And so I was so disoriented, I got into my seat, and then I was looking for a seat belt, like I had mistaken it for a plane seat. So for me, that was a sign that, “Okay, I need to do something different.” And that’s when I decided to look for in-house opportunities.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Was it hard to find someone who is willing to take you in-house?
Parul Goel: Not really. Because consulting, I do encourage students to consider consulting as their first career, because it just teaches you so much. It gives you the bread, it teaches you sales skills, it teaches you, like I mentioned, how to read a room, how to do data collection. So in general, the people from consulting background are seeked out, they are highly valued. I think sometimes the trouble is that you don’t really, you might not have the domain expertise that you need. In my case, a few things happened. Number one, because of consulting, I also had a pretty strong network. So I was referred to PayPal by a coworker of mine in consulting. And the second thing is, because of the business analyst work that I had done for several years, I did have the foundation as a product manager.
But I did interview at PayPal for the program manager position, a program management position. And because during the interview I spoke about my work as business analyst, they ended up making me an offer for a product management position. So there was definitely an element of luck of how I got into product management.
Holly Hester-Reilly: That is great for you, though.
Parul Goel: Yeah.
Holly Hester-Reilly: And it sounded like you already knew that products was a thing that you might want to be doing, even though you were interviewing for program management.
Parul Goel: Yes. And it reminded me of what my first manager had said that I would be a good product manager, given the blend of technical and communication skills. And I was like, “Oh, she was right.” Maybe I should have given it a try a while ago.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. So when you got started at PayPal, what did you start on?
Parul Goel: So I was hired into PayPal to lead this large initiative called Resolution Center Rewrite. It was a voice of customer initiative. And resolution center is PayPal’s dispute and chargeback management portal. And it’s an experience that had been largely ignored, largely uncared for, and it became a customer pain point. It showed up again and again in customer feedback. And so PayPal was now investing in this product and looking at what we can do to improve customer experience. So that was my role. For my first three, three-and-a-half years at PayPal, I led this huge initiative, where we do rewrote not just the experience, but also the policies, the process to make the entire thing very efficient and customer friendly.
And it’s one of the most fulfilling achievements of my life. It’s just something I’m very proud of because not only we improved customer satisfaction, we also lowered losses, we also lowered operational costs for PayPal.
Holly Hester-Reilly: That’s great. How did you achieve that? What were some of the main techniques you used along the way?
Parul Goel: So Resolution Center was, I learned a lot from that initiative. Even though the results were great, the journey itself was somewhat challenging. And some of it was because of my lack of experience in an in-house role, because as a consultant, you go, you do your thing, and you’re out. Now, here, I was trying to de-invent a product that had been around for a decade that several people at PayPal were used to, some of them had actually built the original resolution center. So I had approached this as a technology project, like, “Oh, this is what we’re going to do.” It was more of a people project. When I realized, when you are working with a mature product, you are a change agent. So technology is going to be easier. It’s bringing people along, that’s going to be hard. And that was the case with me. We spent months just debating about what problems to solve for, because we couldn’t really align on that.
And one of the major learnings I had at the time was that, as a product manager, I had to be flexible. Sure, maybe we will solve for number two, the second most important problem first, maybe third most important first. But it’s better to solve those problems than just continuing to talk about what to solve for. So being flexible was something that was important. I think stakeholder management was another skill that I learned in that role. I had a large group of stakeholders, and I realized that I really need to learn what’s important to them, and get them in my corner. Otherwise, I would not be able to make progress. So it’s like, like I said, I had gone into it thinking that this is a technology project, but very quickly, I had to take a huge step back and say, “Okay, how am I going to get this done?” Because it’s not a technology project. It’s a lot more complex than that.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. And I think you’re absolutely right that when you’re rewriting something that’s been around for a little while, that you are a change agent. And people, you’ll inevitably be working with people who were part of building the first one. And then that can be a people challenge.
Parul Goel: Yeah.
Holly Hester-Reilly: What were some of the techniques you used to overcome the people challenge part of it? How did you build those relationships?
Parul Goel: So I realized that different things that are important to different people. For somebody, you give them a bulletproof plan, and they’re like, “Alright, I’m good.” In my case, one of my stakeholders really valued credibility. And I was new to PayPal, I was new to resolution center. And to me, it seemed like one of her main concerns was that you don’t know resolution center, you don’t know Pay Pal, how are you going to change it? And so a lot of my suggestions, a lot of my plans with her were ran into a lot of resistance. And there was merit to her criticism. I did not know resolution center. So what I had to do was spend a lot of time learning about resolution center, like the way it works today. Not just the customer experience, but how did our agents, our customer agents interact with it. Once I was able to demonstrate that, I have competency in this area, I know resolution center, then I was able to build credibility with her, then our dynamic changed significantly. But it did require me to put significant amount of time and effort in developing my domain expertise. And actually, it was, because I did that I made that investment, I was among the top few people at PayPal, who really knew our dispute process. And that actually landed me my next role at PayPal.
So I’ll tell you this, Holly, as a early career professional, I put in a lot of stock into first impressions. How do I make a good first impression? And over time, I have realized what really matters is credibility, which you build over time, which you build by consistency, by following up and following through. And so over time, I have changed my mind, like I need to be credible, more than impressive.
Holly Hester-Reilly: I love that. And I think as a product leader, it’s so important that it’s one of the ways that I help people make difficult decisions is to think about how it’ll impact their credibility in the future. Like, you have to say no to the thing you can’t do. Because if you say yes, and then you can’t do it, it’s not going to look good.
Parul Goel: Yeah. It’s hard to come back from that. If you do it enough times, it’s hard to come back from that.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. If you do it, it happens. It happens sometimes. But if you become the person who’s able to credibly say what will and will not be doable, and what can get done and when it’ll get done, that is so valuable for a product person.
Parul Goel: Yeah.
Holly Hester-Reilly: What is that next role that you moved into?
Parul Goel: So this was about five years ago, PayPal was investing in building a new payment product targeted towards marketplaces. And this was because we had just fled from eBay. And now we could offer our services to other marketplaces, eBay’s competitors, and one importantly, they were not willing to integrate with us. So this whole new opportunity had opened up to us. And so Pay Pal was capitalizing on it by building this new product. And they were looking for somebody who knew the disputes and chargeback area well, which is why I was recommended for this role. I ended up joining the team. And for the first five years, we build this product, we piloted it, we scaled it, and now we have over 200 successful partner integrations on this product. So again, something I’m very proud of.
Holly Hester-Reilly: That’s fantastic. Tell me more about how it started, especially if you’re coming from this experience of rebuilding an existing product at a company with tons of users, and all of this feedback and all this usage data, and then you started building something new for that company. What was that like for you?
Parul Goel: It was a very different experience, Holly, like you mentioned that in case of resolution center, we had customers, we had tons of data. But when you’re building something new, you’re starting from scratch, you have nothing. So we did a lot of industry research, we did a lot of market research. We did competitive analysis. We were a late entrant. So at least we had other parties who had been there who had built similar products. So we had that advantage, we had that going for us. But we also focused on what we did know? What were PayPal’s areas of trends, which was that we had serviced eBay for over a decade. So we didn’t know what global marketplaces mean, and where we can add value. So that became our starting point. So figure out the bigger picture, figure out where we can add value. And then obviously, how do you build on that to meet your business goals?
Holly Hester-Reilly: And how did you do that early discovery work, where if you needed to figure out what that picture looked like, what were some of the techniques you were using? And what was that like?
Parul Goel: Yeah. So a lot of it was, like I said, just identifying the big picture of who else is out there, where’s the industry heading? Getting more specifics, from our integration with eBay, what had worked, what could we do better. And then finally, where we ended up getting a pilot partner, somebody who was willing to co-build with us and integrate with our product. And that ended up giving us a lot of early direction. Because now we had this very specific goal, we are going to support this large partner in their payments. But it was a double edged sword. On one hand, it helped us with prioritization. On the other hand, this partner also had some custom requirements. And this was going to be, we just building the version of our product. We wanted it to be a generic product, we could quickly turn it out and give to other customers. So some of the early decisions that we had to make was, yes, we have this very, super important pilot customer, but do we want to do custom build for that?
So there were some early debates where we had to internally, but then also, we had to go back and tell the customer, “These are the things we are able to do. These are the things where we won’t be able to give you exactly what you’re asking for.”
Holly Hester-Reilly: That’s something that I see a lot of earlier career product people struggle with, with being able to say no. Especially with enterprise product management, you have to say no to customer request sometimes in order to keep that general picture in mind. Is there anything that you learned along the way that made that more doable for you?
Parul Goel: So because we were in the early phases of building the product, I ended up getting a seat at the table with the customer conversations directly, which doesn’t happen, which normally wouldn’t happen. But also because I would be busy building. But a few things happened. One is, I was able to hear directly from customers what they were looking for. And so instead of just being having a solution prescribed to me or build this, I actually got a good understanding of what were they looking to do, what was their goal? So what that did was, even though I wasn’t able to give them the solution they wanted, I was able to offer alternatives. And that makes saying no, a lot easier when you say no, and I’m still able to give you this.
The second thing that helped me again, confidence, I was educating my leadership team internally, which is going to them, painting this a very clear picture of, these are the asks we can meet, these are the assets we cannot meet, and here’s why. And just knowing that I have the air cover from my leadership, also gave me the confidence to go back and negotiate, and be able to say no.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah, that helps. Did you encounter pushback from your leadership about planning to say no?
Parul Goel: Yeah. There were areas where my perspective was that, sure, some customer might use it, but it’s not going to be part of MVP. So it’s something we should defer. But there were times when our leadership were more open to building that. And then sure, we ended up building some of those things. But then again, they were the smaller items. I think where we agreed on, the areas we agreed upon were things that nobody would use in near future, and things that were really large build. I think that it was very easy to agree on that. Yes, we are… That’s something that in our early stages of product where our goal is to really go validate our product, get more customers, these are not the things we can afford to invest in. So those were the ones sorts of easier conversations. The more murky ones, sometimes they agreed sometimes they were like, “No. Actually we are willing to do it.” And that was also good to know before going into those conversations.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Did you ever have any experiences where maybe you built something that you thought afterwards, “We shouldn’t have done that,” or that, that was too much?
Parul Goel: I have had experience. With this product, there was a capability that we built. And the learning wasn’t that we shouldn’t have built that. The learning was that there are several variations of how this would work. We should have spent more time learning about those variations. And maybe we should have built a different one as the MVP. I don’t think we picked the most common one as the MVP. So this was a failure on my part, to do some more customer research before prioritizing. And thankfully, it was a reversible mistake. So we couldn’t, we could go back and build it. But yes, there was an opportunity, there was a time cost to making that wrong decision.
Holly Hester-Reilly: So what was your big takeaway from that experience?
Parul Goel: By making it… So, especially in enterprise space, you have customers who tell you, they really want this. And it’s easy to give into that pressure and say, “Okay, I am going to build.” But as a product manager, as product managers, we are responsible for building the right thing. So it is my responsibility to say, “Yes, I am looking at building it. But I need this time to do my research.” I think making product decisions just to meet a deadline, and there are times when that’s what the need is, but that can’t be the norm. You do need time to validate the problem statement, do brainstorming around solutions, and then pick the right one. And I realized that, it is my job to fight for that time, it is my job to say, “This is what I need before I can build it.” Otherwise, I will waste everybody’s time and maybe not building the right thing. So it gave me the confidence to go back and say, “I need more time.”
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. And that can be hard, right? Like, sometimes we feel so much pressure to say, “Yeah, we can make it happen fast,” because everybody always wants things faster. Right?
Parul Goel: Yeah.
Holly Hester-Reilly: So it sounds like for you, you really learned through the experiences of going through those pains of what happens that it’s worth it to go and ask for this time, or to be firmer in what you need, or what can’t be done.
Parul Goel: I think the other thing that has helped me is getting really good at discovery. Because if I were to say, “I need more time,” versus if I were to go and say, “I need more time, and this is what I plan to do in this time. These are the customer interviews. This is the industry research,” the second presents a much more compelling case. So in real world, the truth is, the discovery time does shrink. So how do you get the most important information quickly? I think that’s something else that over time I have learned to get good at.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah, absolutely. And doing the product discovery is one of my favorite things. So I always love hearing people say that’s important. It’s so important. It makes everything easier. So tell me more about this experience with building the payments platform. You’ve been a part of this team for, you said five years. Zoomed out, what is that journey looks like? How long did it take to get the first thing out in the pilot customers hands? What were some of the milestones along the way?
Parul Goel: Yeah. I’m trying to remember. I want to say, getting the pilot out, took nine months. And I think the team was working on it a few months before I joined. So maybe closer to a year. This was… My gosh, I don’t even remember the time, to be very honest. So we did the pilot, then our goal was, “Okay, we know that our product works for the one customer, but is it really a generic product?” Then for the next year, our goal was really validation. How do we again continue to build our core functionality, and also validate that we are able to integrate with other customers? So what we put on the back burner was scalability. What we put on the back burner was efficiency. It was really just validation, does the core functionality work? So we had, again, a small number of integrations. But is our product able to deliver value? So that was the second year.
The third year was really scales. Okay, now we know we can offer our platform to 10 partners, it works. Can we do it for 100 partners? Because that takes a very different thinking. Because now maybe you can give White Glove treatment to 10 partners, but you can’t give it to 100 partners. So then as we made the product strategy that we were focusing was on scalability. How do we make the integration a lot shorter, a lot automated, so that our integration time was not 200 days, but most like a week? So that was the third year.
And then in parallel, what we were focusing on, I think this was… Okay, so now we are at par with competition. How do we actually differentiate ourselves? How do we actually take the next step, and really leave the competition behind? So that really was the journey. We use these terms, right to be, right to play, and right to win. So towards the later part of our journey, we are now focusing more on right to win. What does it take to actually win in this space, rather than just play in it?
Holly Hester-Reilly: That’s awesome. I think that’s so helpful. Because a lot of times I talk to people who are maybe doing their first time building a new product from scratch, and they just don’t have a sense of what the timelines are going to look like. Everybody thinks it’s going to be faster than it is.
Parul Goel: Yes. Absolutely.
Holly Hester-Reilly: I’m also curious. So I’ve never product managed a payment system. And first, for whatever reason, it seems to be an area that I’ve come across a lot as something where people say, you need the domain expertise to do this. And I’m curious if you have any thoughts on what it is about payments that makes that true, or is that true.
Parul Goel: I do think there is some truth to that. It is a highly regulated field, it is a highly specialized field. So it does help to have domain expertise. I guess I would say it’s similar to somebody who works in cloud, that it does help to do have those core capabilities. But it’s also something that is easily learned. Nothing that you can’t really gain with a few years of experience. I do think it’s the being able to focus on customers, being able to build bridges internally and externally, really the core product management skills, I think they are more important than domain expertise. I think at PayPal, we have a huge team who is the payment experts, like we’ve got a large team who is payment expert. So I have access to experts, if I need that expertise. What I bring to the table is these other things, where I can go talk to the customers, and figure out what they want, and go back to the team, and say, “Okay, this is what we need to build.”
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah.
Parul Goel: So don’t let… My suggestion would be, don’t let lack of expertise, don’t let it keep you from trying.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Absolutely. And I think that’s true across all the domains. Like, I know, from my own experience, I got a product management job in ad tech, when I didn’t have any ad tech experience, and some people were skeptical. But I just put my nose to the grindstone on learning it, and came out with flying colors. So I’m curious, if you have any final thoughts of advice for product leaders or aspiring product leaders. Especially, it sounds like you’ve got a lot of experience with building relationships and alignment and making things happen inside a company. What do you say to people who are trying to get better at that?
Parul Goel: So something I learned, I would say the hard way is, don’t think of trying your… So number one is, any team product, especially product management, but I think this is true of most professions, relationships matter. And how you build these relationships, how you maintain these relationships, also matter. So don’t bring a transactional perspective to these relationships. Don’t try to build a relationship just because you might need something from that person in future. I feel like maybe in my early career, that’s how I approach relationship building. And I will tell you from my personal experience, that’s absolutely the wrong approach. Build relationships based on your interest in the person, get to know them, what’s important to them, what can you do for them. And follow up. It’s easy to get access to somebody you want to get to know. But the hard part is after that. After that initial conversation, send them a thank-you note, or send them something where you can add value, or follow up a few months later.
But relationship building takes time. It takes interest. And it takes willingness to do something for the other person, rather than asking for something. And I think there’s… So which is why they say that the sooner you start building your networks, the sooner you start establishing these relationships, the more benefit you get out of them down the line. But think of relationships as something you value, rather than what you will get out of it.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Parul, it’s been really fantastic to have this conversation with you. Thank you so much. How can people find you if they want to learn more?
Parul Goel: I am very active on LinkedIn. And that’s the best way to reach me. I think if you search by Parul Goel, I am usually among the top 10 results.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Okay, awesome. And we’ll have that link in the show notes as well.
Parul Goel: Thank you.
Holly Hester-Reilly: All right. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
Parul Goel: Thank you, Holly.
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