What do the career path and the day-in-the-life look like for the VP of Product at Privy?
We connected with Alo Mukerji to find out!
Interested in learning more about Privy? Make sure to check out their company page!
Special thanks and photo credit to Ariana Bhargava for taking the awesome photo of her mother in the Masthead!
Where did you grow up? What did your parents do for work?
I grew up in Mansfield, MA — known to most as the home of the Great Woods/Xfinity Center. My mom is an accountant and my dad is an IT/Ops tech executive. They both eventually worked for a tech company that did automated payroll for small, local businesses. I spent my high school summers as an intern there. I personally knew many of the businesses, owners, and even employees that we were serving and that's where my passion for helping SMBs started.
Where did you go to college? What did you study and what were some of your initial jobs out of school?
I went to Columbia University in New York and studied Industrial Engineering with a minor in Economics. I enjoyed every second of it. I went to work for Accenture as a tech consultant just after school and then joined their SAP practice. As the internet bubble hit, I transitioned out of Accenture and worked with several successful startups — first with eRoom Technology (eventually acquired by EMC/Dell) and then Constant Contact.
What has attributed to your success thus far and has helped propel you to the position you have now?
My work is driven by a real, genuine love for small businesses — this has resulted in the relentless customer focus that defines my approach to product development — and I seek out startups and leaders that share these values. Early in my career, I was extremely fortunate to work at growing companies whose CEOs were former product leaders, namely Jeffrey Beir (at eRoom) and Gail Goodman (at Constant Contact). I could not have asked for better role models at this stage in my career. I didn’t realize at that time how much my professional perspectives were shaped by them, specifically the way they approached growth through great customer experiences and believed that a better product leads to efficiencies on everything else — from sales to support.
Another influential piece of my journey were the consulting stints in between product roles, starting with Accenture. Consulting is an invaluable experience to have in that it pushes you to structure and present problems in a convincing and impactful way. This means knowing your audience and being able to cater to the different ways that people digest information. Applying those skills back into product roles accelerated my understanding of analysis and communication and helped me to get to where I am today.
Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as VP of Product at Privy?
This is the fourth time I’ve joined a company at this stage — where the role entails establishing the product practice and scaling for growth. That means first setting a clear product vision and strategy for a thriving product and then defining the people and processes necessary to execute on that vision for scale. At its core, the challenge is assuring that we are making the right product decisions for our customers and for our business. Prioritization is key. I’ll also be working on pricing initiatives and establishing customer feedback programs - areas that I enjoy immensely.
Any tips for someone considering a career in Product Management?
In my eyes, product management is the very best place to be. You learn every possible skill in an organization: from marketing, to sales, to support. However, you have to enjoy the challenge of making trade-offs and establishing a structure for how to do that. You must have a curiosity about everything from customers to the market. We make really tough decisions all day long and the truth is, you can’t always predict the outcome, but you can do a lot of homework, dig into data, and ask intelligent questions to give yourself the best chance of getting it right. The best outcomes almost always come from looking at the problem from the customer’s perspective first. You have to care deeply about that.
Day in the Life
Coffee, tea, or nothing?
Coke, Coke, and more Coke. I love Coke though I am transitioning to Diet Coke (thanks quarantine), regardless, it’s the best caffeine and I prefer it to even water.
What time do you get into the office?
Before quarantine: I so valued getting to drive my teenage daughter to school since it’s one of the few times teens open up — after dropping her, I’d end up getting to work just before 9.
What are three things that motivate you in your role?
Helping small businesses: These are the people and businesses that drive our economy and they are amazing, hard-working people. I love making their lives easier through technology.
Values of the leader: You have to believe wholly in the leader. I have known Ben Jabbawy for 10 years. He’s an entrepreneur in and out. Everything he does is about helping SMBs and he goes above and beyond for his team. I am 100% committed to helping him achieve his aspirations for Privy through product.
The greater team: You are with your team and extended team for most of the day (albeit remotely now). If you love that experience, it’s the best motivation. Genuinely caring about your team’s individual and collective success is so important. The Privy team is fantastic, we motivate each other.
Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?
Remote or otherwise, I am in meetings most of the day. It’s the best part of being in product — you need to be connected to every part of the business where you are learning and reacting through different lenses. And then of course more meetings with engineering to insure you are executing. But the best days are the ones where you get to talk to customers to get their perspective on your products and hear about the impact that your products are having on their businesses.
What time do you head out of the office?
Before quarantine, I took the commuter rail so it was always dependent on that schedule. Somewhere between 5:30 and 6.
Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?
I do log back in on nights and weekends. I really can’t shut down. I don’t like being a bottleneck and try to be on top of it when anyone needs something. Most evenings, I enjoy dinner with my family and then log back in for a bit.
Any productivity hacks?
I try to keep meetings to a minimum on Fridays so I can do uninterrupted work. But it’s good to have at least one day where you are focused on delivering the action items. And though I’m not taking the train right now, I use the morning commute time to think through the day ahead and send myself an email with a checklist. At work, getting out of the office and walking one on ones is very efficient and enjoyable - especially when short on conference room space.
What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?
All quarantine related. 1) Peloton: I don’t have the bike and it’s still a great product and customer experience - turned me into a fitness fanatic, 2) Netflix: keeps me entertained and sane, 3) Facebook and Linkedin: I’m a people person and social networking keeps me connected especially when I can’t see others face to face.
What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?
The products that I’ve worked on have helped thousands of SMBs and the consumers that they serve. They’ve had a genuine impact on people’s lives especially the new product introductions. That’s incredible. I’ve been so lucky to be a part of these stories.
Secondly, I’ve managed several people on my teams that were new to product management. Helping others and seeing them grow in their products careers and then go on to do amazing things is something that I am exceptionally proud of. Partly because in my own path, that’s what many of my role models did for me.
Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?
The founders of startups are just the most admirable, courageous people. I’ve been so lucky to work with some of the best, most product-focused ones because they are driven by an absolute desire to help people. Michael Monteiro and Dimitris Georgakopoulos at Buildium, Steve Fredette at Toast, and Ben (Jabbawy at Privy) - they saw a need and built great, valuable products for the SMB market. I am truly inspired at the risks they took, pivots achieved, and the impact these technologies have had in their respective markets.
As for professional advice, I have two incredible women leaders in my network, Nichole Mace and Diane Swint, that I trust implicitly, admire greatly, and turn to for almost any professional (and personal) advice. We are in similar places in our career trajectories, have similar values, and live in the same town which make it easier to connect. They’ve been my most valuable resource for guidance over many years. Nichole is a fellow product leader and Diane has a broader business view as a GM and CRO. It’s critical to have a strong support group and get the outside perspectives when navigating your path especially in these challenging times.