Head of Product
Product & Agile DeliveryView profile
As part of the series ‘People In Product’ we had a chat with Niyati Joshi, Head of Product at B4B Payments, a globally recognised and trusted provider of card issuing and embedded payment services. We talk about her career, it’s challenges and the future of the product space.
We gather stories, career journeys, as well as advice and wisdom, all to give you a glimpse into the experiences and perspectives of individuals working in the Product world, and help you gain a deeper understanding of this exciting industry.
Niyati: I’ve been in product management for about 8 years, and to be completely honest, I fell into it. Back then, product management wasn’t as widely discussed as it is now, with companies embracing a product-led approach. After graduating with a degree in economics, I joined Microsoft as a Business Analyst, where I gained valuable experience in market research and business analysis. It was a great learning curve, but I wanted to find my own path and add value to a company using my skills.
It was during my time as a Business Analyst that I started becoming product owner/manager for Yell.com. That’s when I truly discovered product management as a discipline on its own. From there, I focused on product management in the financial services sector, which became the foundation of my career.
Seeking to gain end-to-end product management experience, I joined a London-based startup. Working in a startup environment allowed me to immerse myself in various aspects of product management, including growth, acceleration, commercialization, negotiation, go-to-market strategies, and making informed decisions about what to build.
Throughout my journey, I continuously expanded my domain knowledge in both product management and financial services. I embraced opportunities to take on leadership roles, working cross-functionally across geographies and teams.
I would like to say that it was all really consciously planned, but it really wasn’t. It was guided by recognizing my strengths and aligning them with data-driven, outcome-oriented roles. It’s been a journey of exploring the right opportunities.
Niyati: I don’t have a specific favourite product that I’ve worked on. For me, it’s more about the problems I was solving at the time and how the product fit into that context. One project that stands out is when I worked with a cross-border payments company during the introduction of PSD2 regulations. It was a challenge to balance regulatory requirements with optimal customer experience while achieving the business objective of conversion. This experience taught me a lot about finding the right balance and understanding what works and what doesn’t.
I also enjoyed working directly with end consumers, whether it was launching an app or gathering feedback during the product development process. Rapid prototyping and iterating based on user feedback is something I have really enjoyed, and I’ve done a lot of that at Yell.com. Additionally, I had the opportunity to work with start-ups and help them establish their product functions, which allowed me to explore different domains and build strategies.
So, rather than having a favourite product, it’s the problem-solving aspect and the role of product management in addressing those challenges that I find fulfilling.
Niyati: There are four key skills that I believe are crucial for success in product management. First and foremost is customer empathy. It’s important to understand who you are building for and what problems you are trying to solve. This becomes particularly challenging when dealing with B2B products, but having a consumer-first mindset is essential.
Secondly, effective communication. Being able to clearly articulate your ideas and objectives, while avoiding jargon that may alienate users, is crucial. In my product roles, I have often served as a translator, ensuring that everyone on the team understands what is happening and why.
The third skill is a combination of curiosity and initiative. It’s not just about having the skill, but also having the value of being curious about the problems you are trying to solve and taking the initiative to explore potential solutions. I’ve personally found that being curious and proactive has opened doors and led to more opportunities in my career. When hiring, I look for candidates who can demonstrate their initiative in overcoming challenges.
Lastly, strong interpersonal skills are essential. Building relationships and collaborating effectively across the organization is key to successfully bringing a product to market. A successful product requires the cooperation of various stakeholders, and being able to work with different people towards a shared objective is crucial.
To summarize, the top four skills for product management success are customer empathy, communication, curiosity and initiative, and interpersonal skills. These skills, combined with industry-specific knowledge are essential. Ultimately, success in product management depends on the right mindset and attitude to continuously learn and adapt.
Niyati: When I started my career in product management, it wasn’t a widely recognized or respected field. This presented a challenge as I had to learn on the job and navigate the industry without clear guidelines or established best practices. However, the landscape is improving, and it’s important for us to analyse successful product-led companies to understand their strategies and outcomes. By breaking down these barriers and showcasing the value of product management, we can foster a better understanding of the discipline.
Another challenge I faced was the lack of a strong product management community. Finding mentors and resources to learn from was not easy at the time. However, there has been progress in this area, with organizations such as ‘Women in Product’ and ‘Mentors in Product’ providing valuable support and knowledge sharing opportunities. Having a community where professionals can exchange best practices and insights is crucial for career development.
Diversity and inclusion are also challenges that companies across the board face, including the need to promote more women and underrepresented groups in the workplace.
Over time, I have learned how to navigate these challenges and leverage the support offered by different organizations.
Niyati: One of my key hard skills is being data-driven, which stems from my background as an analyst. This skill has enabled me to make informed decisions and understand the impact of my actions on both customers and the business as a whole. I recognize the importance of effective communication in product management, as it involves collaborating with various teams and influencing their work. Product management has the potential to drive significant changes within a company, and being able to communicate effectively is crucial in achieving successful outcomes.
I have also learned that as a product manager, I am a decision-maker. Whether at different levels or within specific domains, product managers are responsible for making numerous micro decisions that contribute to larger milestones. While not having ultimate authority like a CEO, it is important to empower product managers with a clear strategy and the autonomy to make decisions within their domain. This understanding has underscored the significance of communication and interpersonal skills in my role. Building relationships and finding ways to deliver results without relying solely on authority has been essential in my approach to working with teams and stakeholders.
Niyati: When hiring for my team, I value a combination of hard skills and soft skills. When people come in, I want them to add value to the team, so normally I look at prior product experience, so the ability to contribute immediately and hit the ground running. Domain knowledge is also valuable, although not necessarily a requirement. It can provide a helpful foundation for understanding the industry or market we operate in.
In terms of soft skills, I like clear articulation. I look for candidates who can effectively communicate their problem-solving abilities, experiences working with others, and the reasoning behind their chosen solutions. If they can effectively communicate these during the interview with myself, it indicates their ability to engage with stakeholders in a similar manner.
Niyati: Personally, I would like to see more discussion and resources on how to effectively transition non-product-led companies to become more product-oriented. While there are many books and articles focusing on being outcome-focused in product leadership, I believe there is a need for practical guidance on introducing and implementing product practices within organizations that are not already product-led.
I think it’s important to have more dialogue in which product professionals can drive change and establish product-oriented cultures, we can empower more individuals to take on these transformational roles within their organizations. This would ultimately contribute to the growth and success of product management in a wider range of companies.