FinTech Female Fridays: Ratika Gandhi, Program Manager, Mongo DB
Updated: Apr 3, 2020
What are some practices you employ as a PM at MongoDB in order to ensure your company builds superior products every day?
As a Program Manager at MongoDB, I focus on ensuring the teams are building features that are aligned with the product roadmap and are approved by all stakeholders. I am also working on 3-5 year roadmaps for some of our larger initiatives to enhance our user experience. I am working on creating a process that helps generate ideas from across the organization by brainstorming on solutions for our biggest challenges and translating the output of the brainstorming into an actionable plan.
To improve efficiencies, I work with my team to maintain and create new processes as we scale, automate processes to reduce manual intervention and oversights, and focus on maintaining one source of truth for all our work. There is a strong culture of writing things down at MongoDB that I simply love and helps with maintaining a source of truth.
What were some of the difficulties you faced in transitioning from a large and established organization like Bank of America to a smaller company like MongoDB?
I learned a great deal from my time at Bank of America. I was privileged to work with some of the best people and was given opportunities to run large projects for our business. I wanted to work for a leaner organization with a strong tech product and MongoDB fit right in. MongoDB has built a culture that encourages you to voice your opinions and ask questions until you see things clearly. The company empowers you to ideate, experiment and push yourself out of your comfort zone. I spent the first few weeks listening and observing everyone around me, asking a lot of questions, reading up on our business and history.
I was open with my manager about the mindset shift I was experiencing such as less top down directive, more access to executives, very high transparency in decision making, high ambiguity, more appetite for experimentation. I realized that these values are deeply imbibed in everyone who works there and they are doing some of the best work of their career (I did not hesitate to reach out to people from the very beginning). This new mindset is second nature to me and watching its success in all of our endeavors encouraged me to learn, grow and adapt to this new normal.
Can you speak a little bit about the human element in today’s automated world? Do you view it as a contributing factor to building more successful products?
The people who work on building a product bring their life experiences and inherent biases in how they design the product. It is important that we understand and respect this human element we all bring to the table as we build products for our customers even in this data driven world. Hence, I recommend engaging your internal and external stakeholders early on in the project cycle to mitigate all biases.
There are many different ways in which we communicate with each other throughout the organization that determine the future of your product. Creating a strong communication structure for your organization is crucial to building products that are not only loved by your customers but also loved by people within your organization. If you use the motivation and biases of your internal and external stakeholders to inform your product’s design, it will go a long way in determining the success of your product.
From your experience as a PM, what are some effective strategies to bridge the communication and collaboration gaps between business and technology stakeholders?
The key to success as a PM is in developing a deep understanding of the business you are in and the products your customers use. As a PM, you are uniquely positioned to act as a liaison between business and technology. I am a believer in open conversations between all the stakeholders and if you understand the business itself, you can help drive the conversation by leveraging your tech background.
It is important to set expectations of a cadence at which you will communicate with your stakeholders. Block time on everyone’s calendar so that they know when they expect to discuss about a project. Often, people avoid meeting their stakeholders if they have missed a milestone or priorities have shifted but it is imperative that you show up to that status meeting and provide an honest explanation for why you are running behind or what caused a design change. Maintaining a transparent relationship goes a long way in building trust with your business and technology stakeholders. Finally, receiving feedback from your business stakeholders greatly helps tech teams to stay focused and build a product that is closer to the product envisioned by your business stakeholders.
What have you learned from NYC FinTech Women and the board? What makes you excited about this organization?
I was new to the city and was interested in building a network in FinTech having spent 5 years of my career in that space. I attended a meetup for NYC FinTech Women and asked to volunteer. NYC has been very different ever since because of the network and exposure this organization provides. I enjoyed learning about startups in the FinTech ecosystem in NYC and meeting people at our events.
All the board members are an incredible source of inspiration not only in their respective professions but also in their drive for building this organization and making it worthwhile for our members. I started as a volunteer for our Technology team and now I also work on our Talent strategy. The board empowered me to take on more responsibility and has always made me feel included even when I was very new. The leadership team truly embodied our motto of supporting, empowering and sponsoring me as I learned my way through it. Personally, I look forward to scaling our jobs portal and leveraging data to enhance member experiences.
As the technology co-chair & Head of Talent of NYC Fintech Women what do you think the importance of women organizations and networks is in empowering women?
I believe all organizations that provide quality content and focus on creating an inclusive environment for their members are important for your personal growth. Women organizations provide all women a safe space to discuss common experiences without the fear of being judged. It gives everyone an opportunity to open up about their ambitions and fears with someone who has likely experienced the world just as you have. If an organization is able to carefully curate content, promote ideation, create a cohesive network with a wide range of experiences and set goals for members to connect with each other.
At one of our events earlier this year - ‘Group mentoring session on How to manage a successful career’, I enjoyed listening to how some of our members have created their own personal board of directors and that inspired me to do the same. All of us have a set of people we look up to or reach out to when we make important decisions in life. The session helped me identify mine and also set a goal of adding 2 more people to my board to work with me as I navigate the challenges that come my way.
What are you doing during this time of coronavirus to stay sane for your work and socially level headed?
I try to cap the amount of time I spend reading and talking about Covid-19. The information is so ubiquitous that it is very easy to get absorbed in it all day (I have been guilty of it in the last few weeks!). I have set up goals for the next few weeks - improve my knowledge of the markets and learn more about startups that make investment decisions easier, dig deeper into personal finance best practices and startups in that domain, milestones for my talk at MongoDB World and enhancing the jobs portal of NYC FinTech women. In addition to these, I have a list of books I want to read and my mom’s recipes that I want to become perfect at.
It is an unexpected opportunity to stay with my family and I am determined to make the most of it. Besides work which takes up most of my time, I divide my time between quality family time and #quarantinegoals. To remain sane, I get 15-30 minutes of exercise every day. Laughter is an important KPI of my life and I get my daily dose of it by talking to people that I can laugh easily with.
Reach out to Ratika on LinkedIn.