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From Leadership to Entrepreneurship

with Aarti Manwani of Good Luck Ventures
Jun 27, 2018
Back to Podcasts
From Leadership to Entrepreneurship | 100 PM
From Leadership to Entrepreneurship | 100 PM

Aarti: I am Aarti Manwani. I am the founder of Good Luck Ventures.

Suzanne: Welcome, Aarti.

Aarti: Thank you.

Suzanne: I was looking in your background, and I kept having to click the read more, read more, read more. You have a really long resume of experience, actually. You've been doing this a while.

Aarti: Yeah. God, I'm going to age myself.

Suzanne: Well, when did you get started?

Aarti: I was very fortunate. As a part of my master's, I discovered my passion, which was product management. When I was in school, I actually was doing product management, and I believe that was 2006.

Suzanne: So, when you say that you found product management as your passion but you're in school doing your master's, did you know about product management as a thing? I mean how did you first get introduced to the discipline?

Aarti: Yeah, that's actually a great story, and it's a story about being around the right people, the power of mentors and also really saying, "I'm not okay with just status quo."

So, drilling back, I was in school doing my master's in computer engineering at Syracuse University, and I was very fortunate to get an internship at Computer Associates, formerly Concord. While I was there, my internship was in software engineering, and I realized very quickly that after six years of engineering, computer engineering, I wasn't so passionate about coding.

So I reached out to my mentor at the time, which is ... I believe he was the Chief Marketing Officer, and we were talking, "Where do you want to be in five years?" That conversation. And I said, "I don't know where I want to be, but I know that I'm not enjoying coding as much as I should. I really enjoy solving problems. I like what you're doing, I'd probably want to do that."

And he was amazing. He said, "You have technical background, you enjoy problem-solving, you are resourceful. You are sitting in front of me. So why don't we give a shot to product management?" And he said, "You know what, my friend is the head of product management in this company, let me give him a call and see if he would be willing to take you in."

And right that minute he made the call in front of me, and that changed everything. I then was doing dual internship in product management as well as engineering and QA.

Suzanne: So you didn't abandon the engineering right away?

Aarti: No.

Suzanne: Okay.

Aarti: But it was very clear to everybody where my passion went.

Suzanne: Right, right. Excellent. And so what was the first official role then that you worked in as a product manager? Was that at E-Trade?

Aarti: Yes.

So I was still doing my internship at Computer Associates. I had to go back to school to finish one class. While I was finishing my last class, I got a couple of offers. I remember there was an offer from Google in the engineering department, I believe, and E-Trade offered the Associate Product Management position. And so, it wasn't a question anymore. I knew I wanted to be part of product management, and I took it.

Suzanne: Right, and then the rest is history.

Aarti: Yes.

Suzanne: Let's jump ahead just to the present moment. Good Luck Ventures, that's your company?

Aarti: That is my company.

Suzanne: This is your baby, okay. And it's a product consultancy, your goal is to help companies kind of get to product-market fit. What are you doing here at Good Luck Ventures?

Aarti: Sure. So, Good Luck Ventures first. I want to tell you how we came up with the name.

Suzanne: I love the name, by the way.

Aarti: So I was walking on the streets in Soho, New York with one of my advisors, and I said, "What should be the name of my company? I'm starting to do all the ... work with a lot of these other companies, I need to form my own company."

And we started just brainstorming ideas on the streets of New York. And I believe we were influenced by something Asian, and he mentioned actually, he's like, "You know, why not do something like Good Luck?"

And we played around with a few different version, and I like the idea of something positive, I like the idea of like putting that faith in right from the beginning. And I said, "Yes, I love the idea, let's make it Good Luck Ventures." And that's how we came up with the name of the company.

Suzanne: So great. So great, so what then is Good Luck Ventures about?

Aarti: Good Luck Ventures is a growth-focused product management and development company. We work with both startups and bigger enterprises to build products, to test product-market fit, and to help them scale products. What we have realized is we move much faster as a younger company, as a smaller company. We bring a lot of varied skill set, and we are able to challenge and help see a solution much faster than your traditional model.

So what a bigger enterprise might take six months of just doing user research, we might be able to get that result for you in two weeks.

Suzanne: Right.

Aarti: Since we come as an outside resource, and we integrate within the company, for us, it's much easier to question the norm. We are able to question your assumptions, really poke at what is the problem that you're solving. And is it worth solving this problem? Are you completely missing the ball on an underlying issue?

Suzanne: Right. Sounds like your tagline should be "We'll call bullshit on you".

Aarti: I love that.

Suzanne: I know you can't say that about it, but I can say that.

Aarti: I love that.

Suzanne: Well, you know, it's funny listening to you describe the model. It's very akin to the work that I do within my organization at The Development Factory. Less friction, right? Faster to the goal. And there is a time to build team, and there is a time to kind of in-source process and talent, but that time isn't always at the beginning.

I'm curious in your experience, startups it's kind of obvious. The big problem with startups is do they have enough money or not. With existing organizations though, do you think that they're connected with the benefit of bringing in an outside firm like yours? Or do you have to do a lot of kind of educating in that value proposition?

Aarti: That's a really good question. We do help enterprises as well as startups to both scale their teams, as well as scale their products. So, we're not only coming always at the MVP stage. A lot of times where I've actually been personally involved is, they'll say, "Come in, help us solve this problem," and six months later, you're saying, "You need this resource, this is how we are going to scale the product, we are at that stage."

And then you're hand-holding the founders, you're the most trusted partner they have, or one of the most trusted partners they have to continue to grow. There are some places where I would say there was a lot of hand-holding and educating. That's where you have to question, is this the right partner for you?

I personally enjoy working with serial entrepreneurs a lot. Decision making is fast, they're not questioning the value prop too much. The most important thing to them is let's solve the right problem with the right people. There's a lot of trust, there's a lot of responsibility that comes with it, and they are not shy in telling you when you're not meeting the mark.

Suzanne: Right. So what is the construct? Do you bring kind of the whole team? Is it you sort of coming in as a lead consultant, or sort of director-level influencer? How does that typically transact?

Aarti: Sure. Usually it starts with me. A lot of these founders will be like, "We're trying to solve this problem, would you be open to having a conversation, and let us talk you through it?" And so the first few sessions are just pro-bono brainstorming. That's a good time to identify if there is a match in terms of personalities, in terms of vision, and is this an idea you want to get behind? Is this a team you want to get behind? Is this where you want to put your most important currency, which is time?

And a lot of times, very respectfully we have stepped back and we have said, "We really like you, we really like the idea, this is not the time for us." In other cases where we do actually step in, we take a lot of ownership. That's the beauty of what we do.

I will come in and I will say, "All right, in terms of teams, what do we need?" One of the things we are doing with one founder right now, is helping them build a team. So I have pulled in advisors from my own resource book. I have my Rolodex completely open to him, and I'll tell him these are the five people who would be a great CTO candidate, you should talk to them, see if there is a fit.

We wanted to build an MVP. I brought in my offshore teams. I said, "These are three teams. Let's talk to them. I've worked with each one of them before. Here's where I worked with them. This is what we've built. Talk to them, see how you like it."

In bigger enterprises, sometimes they are bringing you as a sole contributor. One of my recent projects was at Boxed, where my job was to take the project from point A to point B. From start to execution, finish line. And over there, I was able to help them hire the right junior talent and then get the project to execution.

Suzanne: You seem to be at a point in your career, you're a product leader, and I know that you obviously you worked your way up to a lot of kind of leadership roles in kind of your history. How did you position yourself? How did you sort of say to companies, "Take notice of me, and this is my skill." Or did you do that, or did it just happen that people liked working with you and then remembered you?

Aarti: Here's what I would say. I remember distinctly. What I always wanted to do was be part of the coolest projects, or the projects that I deemed were cool. Because I have a technical background, it was always easy for me to communicate with technology, to work with them, and I understood their mindset and challenged them. Like you said, called BS a few times.

It was always interesting to say and question back, "Why are we doing this?" I remember, and then here I'm dating myself. Back in the days when APIs were new things. One of our head of business asked me, "What is an API? Why do they keep saying that to build an API it's going to take so long?"

And I said, "Do you remember how Wi-Fi was, like how ... you know, devices talk to each other? APIs is how programs talk to each other."

Suzanne: That's a great, simple definition, by the way.

Aarti: I mean, for a business guy.

Suzanne: Yeah, well but that's such a part of the art of product management of course, right is how do you take concepts and then make them accessible and understandable, because you're not going to say, "It's an application programming interface, don't you know?"

Aarti: Yeah.

Suzanne: Yeah. Great. It's how programs talk to each other. Love that.

Aarti: So for me, I think the focus was always on working on exciting problems, that's how I would define it. That's what really mattered to me. If there was an exciting problem, I wanted to be part of the solution. I worked and managed technology teams, so it definitely became a very strong point for me that I was one of the few product people who could code as well as talk to your engineers and could talk business. I think that made me a rare commodity in some ways.

But, tying it back, you have to be ambitious, you have to want things. I am always continuing to grow, I always am on a growth path, and I'm always seeing there's so many things I could do better. That has always been like centered around me that I want to be better, I want to be at the right place at the right time, and that comes through, I want to say, there's a lot of hustle.

Suzanne: Was it a conscious decision for you to go from leadership roles within existing organizations, product leadership roles within those organizations, to kind of the entrepreneurial ... you're in this ... it's sort of an interesting hybrid, because you're at once founder, but you're also very much occupying this space of product leader for hire, so to speak.

Aarti: Yes.

Suzanne: Did you mean to go into the consulting path?

Aarti: No, I actually just wanted to sit and explore my options. I got very fortunate, and I wasn't given that option to explore. I was told, "Well, you just start working, and explore on the side."

Suzanne: Yeah.

Aarti: So, I would say consulting was never a thought through process for me. What I enjoy about my current set-up is that I get to work with multiple teams, multiple ideas, resolving very different problems. And there is a lot of knowledge sharing that happens, just because I have my hands in different things. There's also a segment of me where, if I find a problem, like I was at Pager, I'll go in full-in. I'm full-time, this is a problem I want to solve. This is what I'm passionate about right now, so everything else has to settle.

And then there are projects like I worked on co-living for millennial and it was super exciting for a while, and I was like, "But I can do other things, too."

Suzanne: Right.

Aarti: There are other problems that I can solve.

Suzanne: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Interesting. I like the examples that you give about, to me it's like covert operations, you know, you just like ... you lose sight of yourself, "How long have I been in this company, how deep have I been immersed in this?" Is it hard to say goodbye, or is there kind of an organic like, "Now's the time, and goodbye feels fine." When the engagement ends, I mean.

Aarti: I always love the people, you know. It's always hard to say goodbye to people. It's also interesting to look in the future. So what motivates me is going back to problem solving. So what's the next problem that you're solving? That makes it okay to kind of step away, and in a lot of places, we have built the teams, we have built the products, we have scaled the organization, it's a time for a breather, and that breather comes in the form of a new opportunity.

Suzanne: Yeah. Creating space. In your most recent roles before Good Luck Ventures, you moved into what people call product manager of growth, or the growth side of product.

Aarti: Yeah.

Suzanne: And I'm curious if you can tell us a little bit more about this in your experience, like what does it mean to have growth as product? What does that look like? And how does that change from the more sort of traditional product management focus that you've had in previous roles?

Aarti: So traditional product management, when I thought about it, it goes back to what is the problem that I'm solving? And there was this mantra, "if you build it, they'll come". I'm not sure if it applies all the time. One of the things when you work with startups you learn is, there's so finite amount of resources, and to validate any idea not only do you need the product, but you also need to show adoption. You also need to show that this is a problem that was worth solving, and people are coming around it, and you can keep it at a viable price point.

And that's where I think like, a lot of product people started thinking about growth. And a lot of product people said, "My job is just not to build a product and give it to marketing, because there's only one person in this small team of marketing, and he doesn't know any better."

So you start building growth loops within your product. You say, "Okay, if I am going to build a sign-up flow , what is my acquisition?" You're already thinking about user. You're thinking about friction. You're thinking about user empathy. How does this user behave? What can I do to make this process much easier for him? And also, if you can embed growth principles right there, that is the magic.

So in today's world, I strongly believe a product person should understand the cycles of acquisition, engagement, retention, what are the core principles? Why do they apply? How do they work? And see how they're applied on the marketing side, but also how they can be implemented in your product itself.

Suzanne: I agree with you, if you understand how to build business, then you'll never be out of work, I say, right? And it is important because a lot of the times, people shy away from sales, they think, "That's sales, that's marketing, that's ... I just want to build stuff." And it's like, "Well yeah, build stuff, but you have to build stuff that's worth building."

Aarti: Exactly.

Suzanne: And that relies heavily on understanding if this is even something that's worth building for sure, and I would echo that sentiment that it's an important skill for product managers to have is understanding the customer journey, understanding funnels, understanding the psychology behind all of those things.

In terms of other skills that a product manager needs to have, you know you spoke earlier about having this technical background, and you've spoken candidly about the fact that that's probably, in part been why people look to your expertise, because you can kind of speak to business, but you can speak to technology. And of course the question that I want to ask, that everyone always asks me is, how technical does a product manager need to be? Do you think that a product manager who has never coded, or doesn't come from that background can be truly valuable within an organization, and if yes, what is the context of that?

Aarti: Sure. I personally think what matters is not that you can open a console and start coding, but having the understanding of how things work. If you are building an AI ML based product, you need to understand machine learning. You need to go on Coursera and take a few courses, or any of those other websites, and then when you talk to your teams, they will see that reflected. Your knowledge base is going to reflect it.

So when we say that you have to be technical, I got fortunate that my background is in engineering, not everybody needs to go back to school and learn how to code. But whatever your core technology is, you need to have a thorough understanding of that. That's one.

Two, for technology teams to respect you, they need to know that you know what you're talking about. The more you understand, and don't be afraid to question that. I've been in a place when I was working on co-living, I knew nothing about real estate. I had to learn everything, and I would look at the founder, and I'd be like, "Would you explain how this worked? Why it worked?"

Real estate was completely out of my context. I don't think I'm going to become a mortgage broker any day soon, but I needed to learn how the math worked, or how different things worked.

That would be my suggestion to somebody who's non-technical, is get an understanding of the underlying technology, if there's a technology component to it, which pretty much there is these days.

Is there a space for somebody who's completely non-technical? Yes, absolutely. You could be somebody who is really good at growth. You don't need to have a tech background to understand growth. You could be somebody really good at user science, like Brent says, right? Our friend Brent from Envision?

Suzanne: Yeah, newly from Envision, yes.

Aarti: Newly from Envision, yeah. Like he said, ... I mean that's a science in itself, and a lot of the times, you ... the most important thing to know is what are you really good at? And amplify those strengths, and say, "I am really good at being the glue between the teams. I am really good at being able to think outside of the box. I'm really good at solving problems." You can do all of that, and be a good product manager.

The way I see product managers, they're like mini CEOs. I know there's a lot of debate, some people think it's fair to call them that, some people think it's not, but I truly believe they work with pretty much each and every department, and they need to have the empathy for every person that they're working with. Trying to understand what this person's goals are, and how can you meet their goals but also achieve the overall company goal.

How can you help them solve the problems that they're solving, whether they're in design or marketing, and still achieve the overall growth of 20% growth, month over month. And you still need to be working at your roadmap, and taking it from everybody that things are not moving fast, and you need to solve this problem, and things like that. So you're pretty much in that central spot, where you have a lot of people looking at you to help them move forward, and you still have a major task of achieving and aligning with the rest of the team and the vision of the company. And you don't have to be technical to solve all that.

Suzanne: Yeah. Do you miss ... I mean, I guess you don't miss coding, because you didn't miss coding when you were actually doing it, but do you continue to kind of dabble back in and try to stay current with new technologies?

Aarti: I would love to get back more into data science. That's one area that I am very much like, I want to write my own queries, I want to do my own Python. I want to do a lot more of that, because I don't have the patience to wait and validate ideas. I'm like, "This is what my synthesis is saying, let me go run some data, let me figure it out, if this is accurate or not." So I do dabble.

Suzanne: Right. Yeah again, that's the hard part certainly for me, and I think anybody, as they move into the leadership roles, especially is you have to leave behind a lot of the tactical. But a lot of the tactical is what caused us to fall in love with the role to begin with, right? So whether that was in the context of sort of user flows, and design, or whether that was in the context of coding or writing queries as you say, and there's a certain point where you can't really justify being that person.

Aarti: Yeah, right.

Suzanne: So you battle with that a little bit?

Aarti: I do. I ... you'll see me drawing napkin-comps, paper-comps, sitting next to my designers and be like, "Just do this, just two boxes here, two boxes there," ... I think I say it's because you're passionate about solving that problem.

As you said, as a leader, part of being a leader is twofold. First, you have to inspire your team, that they follow your vision. And second, you are still 100% responsible for execution of the task, the idea, to achieve the KPIs that you have committed to. More often than not, I've noticed if the team understands that you're close to the product, if you can sit and QA with them every now and again, if you can do a paper-comp, and you say, "This is how the flow I'm thinking, what do you think?" Or, "Why this design? I'm going to debate with you why this design makes sense or not." Or, "Let's run a query together."

That brings a lot of respect. The question is not to take over, and not to control. It's how you guide them, that's part of leadership.

Suzanne: Yeah.

Aarti: And, so that's a fine balance, that over time I've learned.

Suzanne: I was going to say, you delivered that sentence with a certain amount of temperament that I thought, "Do you struggle with that sometimes?" Not just be like, "Give me that, I'll just code it myself."

Aarti: Yeah.

Suzanne: It's okay, this is ... the first step is admitting it, right?

Aarti: Yes, it actually ... one of my very close advisors identified that, and he said, "It's okay to step back. It's okay to let them sometimes fail, because they have to learn from their own failures. The question is, you have to do a risk assessment. Are they going to burn down the company? Are we going to lose millions of dollars? If that is not the case, if it's a small issue, that is not going to bring catastrophic results, negative results, then let it go."

Suzanne: Yeah.

Aarti: And it's been a few years now since that advice was given to me. I still remember the person who gave the advice to me, and I'm so thankful that they started me on that path.

Suzanne: We do a segment on the show called "Get the Job, Learn the Job, Love the Job". So I think a lot of folks in our audience might be at that stage in their career where they've been in product management three, four, five years, they're top of their game, they're keen to become that next level, whether that's a director level, or an SVP level. What advice would you offer to somebody who wants to break out of a product manager role into a director of product management type of role?

Aarti: Sure, so first thing is, you have to map out what are the skills that you have, and what are the skills that you need to get to the next level? If you believe that you already have all the skills for the next level, you might be overqualified in my opinion.

Suzanne: Yeah yeah, exactly.

Aarti: So, I always say it's okay if you think like you're 30, 40% short, it's okay. And that's a good spot to kind of start thinking of your next role, where you have room to grow because you don't want to jump in a job where you know everything, and then you're bored the second you get there. You want to learn a little bit during that process.

Suzanne: What are the skills and qualities then that you need at that next level that maybe you don't need to have at all, or as honed when you're kind of just working as a product manager within the team construct?

Aarti: Sure. I'm going to lay out a few things that I think are important. First and foremost, ownership. The more senior you get, you own the success, you own the failures, and when it's success, it's the team who's done a great job. When it's a failure, it's all yours.

Suzanne: Right.

Aarti: So, that is one thing I think people need to understand that comes with leadership. Responsibility. And you need to be excited about that, not shrug it, that, "Oh!" You should be like, "I am going to take this, and I'm excited to make this P&L, or I'm excited to launch this by this time, and we're going to learn, and we're going to fly, or we're going to burn in fire, whatever it is, we'll go through it."

Suzanne: Has anybody actually said, "I'm excited to make this P&L"? Have you ever used those words?

Aarti: I'm trying.

Suzanne: More like, "I am moderately okay about making this P&L right now." No, P&Ls can be ... that's a creative exercise.

Aarti: Right.

Suzanne: We joke, but that is I think a good example of the kinds of, at least for me, part of shifting into leadership is learning to love what you once perceived as the boring activities, right? Like a product manager listening would be like, "I don't want to do a P&L", but there's a creativity in that, that when you're ready for it, you're like, "This is kind of fun."

Aarti: And more than P&L, it's the responsibility. That your product, as a product person you are saying, "We are going to build a product, we're just going to get 20% growth x over x." Or, "We're going to see an exponential growth x over x."

And if it's not happening, you can't just step away and say, "Well, I built a product, now it's your problem." When I said P&L, that's where I mean, like you need to take the KPIs and be excited about it, not in terms of ... there's always a little bit of a fear factor, there's a little bit of like, "Am I going to be able to make it? Are we going to be able to make it as a team, and am I going to let everybody down?" But more importantly, you have to say, "This is a problem I was waiting to solve. I can't wait to put my hands in it, and I can't stop thinking about it. In the shower, in the night, I am texting people at all times."

That's when you know you're in it. And I have been in that place. If you work with startups, you will see founders are emailing you at 1 pm and 1 am, at 2 am. And very interestingly, you're responding to them on the spot.

Suzanne: Right, everyone's awake. Everyone's jacked up about the ideas.

Aarti: Yes. That's what I meant. Like you have to be excited about it.

Second important thing I really think is, you have to understand what you're trying to solve, and why you're trying to solve. At every step of the way, engineering is going to question you.

Suzanne: They're going to want all of the details, exactly laid out.

Aarti: And figured out completely.

Suzanne: Spoken from the perspective of an engineer.

Aarti: Exactly. You need to tell them are you going to use a rest API, are you going to use React, or not, and why. All that stuff.

But jokes apart, you have to be careful to really ask the important questions of both the founders, of the business heads, of the problem set, of your team also. Why do you think we are solving this? What is the exact outcome that we are going to term as a success? A lot of the times, you will learn that what you thought would be the outcome is not the outcome. You learn something very new, very interesting, and over that period you'll pivot to whatever.

But there has to be clarity, and as a leader, it's your job to have that clarity, and then bring it to your team. So the goals are very clear. The success metric is very clear. That's when the third thing happens, is what you have to do is align them. After all the questions are asked, after all the heads are shaken, you have to say, "We agree, this is the plan, we go at it."

And problems will come, we'll figure it out. Fires are going to happen, we'll deal with it. But you have to kind of have that mindset. Suzanne: What about hard lessons learned? Where either have you personally kind of failed ... you know, failed is such a loaded word, I know, but in practice, the job is harder than the books make it sound, right? Than these conversations make it sound. I think sometimes people can listen in and go, "Oh, that's great. Got it." And take a note, and then you go to actually apply it, and you're like, "Wait a minute, there's a gap here between capturing the knowledge in my mind and actually assimilating it."

So, what are some of the pitfalls that you've seen either in your own career or watching and grooming other product managers to kind of come up through the ranks?

Aarti: That's actually a really good question, and one of my advisors and I ... advisors/mentors and I were talking about this just today. I believe it's important for people to change jobs and industries if possible. I would say don't stay in one company and one problem set for too long. It's good to have industry knowledge, but try something different. The growth that comes with it is so ... I mean, your growth curve is so steep, it's amazing how much you're going to grow in those two years, versus what you would have grown in the same path the last five years. It's just exponentially different, I would say.

I personally went from working for big enterprise in financial industry to a startup in healthcare. The common factor was they were both regulated industries. So I knew how to walk the gray line. But my growth was amazing, and I wish I had done sooner. So my one piece of advice is don't be scared to challenge yourself. Don't be scared to accept opportunities which are outside of your comfort zone. It's super important. That's how you grow.

And yes, every other minute you are going to feel like you're going to sink. This is like too much. But if you ride the wave, it's all going to be worth it. If you look at some of the most interesting entrepreneurs, you will see there is an underlying theme to their knowledge base, but also they're tackling different industries at all different times.

We were talking about the PayPal founders, the LinkedIn founders. You go from payments to LinkedIn. It's a completely different spectrum, but it's still aligned in some ways. It's still around community.

For me, I find that one team has been solving problems of access, but outside of that, I played a lot with the industry. So what I mean by saying solving problems of access is, when I was in financial industry, I was building tools for active traders, for long-term investors, building communities of traders over there. I was focused on how to get the best information out there to an average trader and investor who's putting their long hard earned money in your hands, who does not have access to a hedge fund manager. How do you reach to that guy and build a product for them?

At Pager, we said you don't have to be a millionaire to get a doctor to come to your home. How do we solve that problem? Healthcare is a big issue, and how do we make access to healthcare easier, better and faster? And then at Landit, again, it was how do we bring the best opportunities, the best options, the best coaching to women everywhere? That was important to us. You didn't have to be an SVP or an executive in a fortune 500 to have access to a coach. You could very well buy a coaching session just by going to Landit, and they're probably some of the best coaches you're going to find around yourself. So for me, that underlying theme has been how to build products which provide better access at a fair value point.

But, I've gone through different industries. I would say find that one theme, whatever that might be for you. And then play with it.

Suzanne: Yeah, I mean I love that it ... for me that actually sounds more like a principle or a core value, really that it's ... the technology, your agnostic about it. The industry, you're agnostic about it. The impact that you want to create might be another way for people listening in to be thinking about that is, "How do I want to create impact, or how do I want to influence in the world?" And access is a great one, and certainly very topical, kind of where we're at right now.

Aarti: Yeah, it's a great way to put it.

Suzanne: What about just why you love this job? Like if you were going to go and pull people in off the street and say, "You've got to be a product manager, and I'm going to tell you why." Why?

Aarti: What is more amazing than solving problems? If you can have a hand in getting better healthcare for somebody else, if you can have a hand in somebody utilizing their hard earned money and sending the kid to college, and having a solid retirement fund. Or you can have a person grow and be valued and feel good in their career, what could be better than that?

I mean, I'd love to say ... I don't want to build a photo-sharing app. I want to solve problems. I want to create an impact. And there are a lot of ways to create impact. For me, working side-by-side around amazing founders, amazing leaders and solving those problems that matter is the way I've chosen.

Suzanne: What about recommended resources, any books, blogs, podcasts, other leaders that you know have been influential in your path that you'd like to share with our community?

Aarti: Absolutely. Definitely listen to this podcast.

Suzanne: I did not pay her to say that, people.

Aarti: But there's no other place where you're going to get so many product people talking about how to build products, so I think that's actually, it's a valuable resource. And I haven't come across anything else, which is so concentrated around solving problems, so I think this is wonderful.

I like Masters of Scale a lot, cannot recommend it enough. Talk to the people around you. I take two or three Ubers or Vias or Lifts during the day. I'm always talking to the drivers. I'm the one who's asking them, "Why did you choose this job? What were you doing before this? Why? What's the calculation? What's the math?" It's amazing how much people open up.

It's also amazing to see things through different people's lights. I'd say, stay close to your customer, and your customer could be an Uber driver or somebody who's bringing you a food delivery, or whatever your context is, stay very close to the customer, and don't be shy of asking questions, it's important.

You asked me if there was any advisors that have been influential for me. I mentioned one of my early advisors who got me into product manager, Dayton. He is forever somebody I would be thankful for to push me in in product management. Dharmendra, “DM”, from Marie-Lou & D, he's been a personal advisor. He's a serial entrepreneur, and he's often challenged me, so it's important to have those advisors who say, "I don't think you're utilizing your potential enough."

Suzanne: You need people to call bullshit on you.

Aarti: Yes.

And you know, I would say it's also very, very important to kind of connect yourself with your peers. This is something that I wasn't doing so much, which I am now actively doing, is I'm a product manager. I want to talk to every other product manager in New York. I want to hear their stories, their struggles, what they are dealing with. I want to have a drink with them. And they are going to teach you a lot of what you need to know, and they're going to empathize with you and understand you like nobody else.

Suzanne: Yep, and we need more community, right? That's been, for me, one of the greatest blessings of doing this show is getting to meet great people, getting to travel to different cities and also watch different communities kind of starting to emerge, because product management isn't new, but I think there is a new or renewed interest in the role, and still a lot of gaps in how we can all find each other and connect.

Aarti, last question for you, is there a personal or professional mantra that you use to kind of guide who you are in the world, or how you operate, or a favorite sound bite that people would say, "Oh, Aarti, she says that all the time."

Aarti: I'm not sure if I say this all the time, but it's definitely something that lifts me up, which is, "You can do it."

Suzanne: I love that. Hey everyone, you can do it. Aarti Manwani, Good Luck Ventures. Good luck, with Good Luck Ventures.

Aarti: Thank you so much.

Suzanne: We're all excited for you, and thank you for being a part of our show.

Aarti: It's been a pleasure.

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Good Luck Ventures

Good Luck Ventures is a growth-focused product management, development and design company. Clients include Box, Inc., Colivo, Inc., and Landit.
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