How I managed a product that sent 1 Billion Messages

I learned more about our customer when we shipped the product

I did customer development before starting to build the product. I spoke to people I know who are using similar services. I spoke to potential clients, etc. But that’s only a good start. Most of the RoadMap I wrote Initially is only 50% done. The remaining 50% is still relevant(I feel) but the reason it isn’t touched is that our customers taught us what is more important to them while they used our product. This feedback is far more relevant than the ones we got from customer development. I put that 50% aside and went with the customer’s needs(read it as listening to the market).

Learning to prioritize

There are tons of requests that come from customers. The outreach/Growth team tries their best to accommodate the maximum number of clients. From a product point of view, I thought — okay, if we build this feature, another major customer is going to add to our list.

Communicating clearly

When I got a new team, I know my intention of saying anything but in the Initial months, there is a communication and expectation gap. I feel when you get into a new team, the first thing to build is trust, the next thing is to convey your intentions clearly(over communication helps here). It initially looked like I was pushing them on unrealistic deadlines(which is true) and did not care if they can manage it(which is not true). I had to learn how they work, think and how they manage/prioritize the work.

Trusting myself, all the time, every time

It’s easy to lose myself with self-doubt, especially when I am learning many things on the job with a scaling product, team and everyone’s learning levels. There were few silly screw-ups and few bad screw-ups. They happened because either I didn’t know if I should be looking at them or they happen because I overlooked them and decided to deal it with later.

Trusting the team but asking questions in detail (Details Matter)

Initially, I was getting into so many details with our tech team but at one point I realized I should not be managing them with too many details. Then I stopped being so deep and only started looking at deadlines.

Fix as soon as you know what got screwed up

In the Initial months, our tech team would try to complete the deadlines. If we get any Issues from clients, I would report/convey it to my team and ask them to work on it. But it used to take a day or two generally to complete while our clients heat us up with chats and emails. It wasn’t so damaging when we hardly had few clients. But as we grew, stakes started to grow up.

Upgrading my skill

Being a Product Manager is being a generalist. Meaning, as we grow it’s my job to learn about scaling, being updated about the market, learning to work with growing clients, growing team, growing expectations of growth itself, growing vision, growing product. Every stage is different. This is one thing that runs in the background all the time(mostly on the job).

Plan for scale

We Initially did not optimize for image requests(optimizing size, etc,.) and a lot of other things. When we hardly had few clients, it wasn’t worth it to work on these details. What the heck right? Our system seems to handle growth for the next few months. It seemed logical to roll out more features and attract more customers or build features for customers and try to impress them so they would start using us.

I seem to have a 3-year road map(direction)

What Initially we thought will take 6 months, now looks like 3 years for two reasons 1) we accounted only for features but did not count the issues we would find, requirements of customers we would build and amount of research and time that is needed to build the product for scale 2) Now the scope of the tool has expended much beyond our Initial planning a much bigger vision. Actually, I only have 2 years’ direction in mind but let’s add another year anyways.

I know nothing

(Did you ever watch GoT? :) ) As Aristotle said, ‘the more you know, the less you know’. The more I am trying to learn. The less I feel I know. As Charlie Munger said more long term advantage people tend to be less stupid for as long as possible. Though he might have said in the context of Investments. The more I learn on Product Building, I feel the less I know. One of the main things I try to do is be less stupid by asking a lot of questions and building processes so we can avoid the same mistakes and hopefully guess the new break downs and be on a lookout for it.

Our Team

This is our current team while we hit our 1st 1Bn Messages

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Manoj Surya

Manoj Surya

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I write about everything I learnt to become better at life , endurance, health, books, reading and building products