Profile
Sheila Hara

Sheila Hara

Sr. Director, Product Management, Barracuda Networks
About
With a robust background spanning over decade and half, Sheila Hara stands out as a Senior Director of Product Management at Barracuda. Her approach, rooted in creativity and collaboration, is driven by data and customer feedback, guiding the stra...more

Content

Sheila Hara
Sheila Hara
Barracuda Sr. Director, Product ManagementMay 1
If your company doesn't currently have a formal product strategy, developing one is a crucial step towards ensuring that your product development efforts are aligned with your business goals. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a product strategy: 1. DEFINE YOUR VISION AND GOALS * Vision: Start by defining a clear, inspiring vision for what you want your product to achieve in the long term. This should align with your company’s overall mission. * Goals: Set specific, measurable goals that support this vision. These should be achievable and clearly communicate what success looks like for your product. 2. UNDERSTAND YOUR MARKET AND CUSTOMERS * Market Research: Conduct thorough market research to understand industry trends, competitor strengths and weaknesses, and potential opportunities or threats. * Customer Insights: Gather deep insights into your customers' needs, behaviors, and preferences. Techniques like surveys, interviews, and user testing can be invaluable here. 3. IDENTIFY THE JOBS TO BE DONE (JTBD) * Determine the core tasks that your customers need to accomplish. Understanding these will guide what features and improvements your product should focus on. 4. DEVELOP PRODUCT ROADMAPS * Roadmapping: Create a product roadmap that outlines the key features and milestones planned for your product. This should detail what will be developed, why it’s important, and approximate timelines. 5. ALIGN WITH STAKEHOLDERS * Engage with key stakeholders across your organization to align expectations and gather diverse insights. This includes leadership, marketing, sales, customer support, and the development teams. 6. SET UP METRICS FOR SUCCESS * Define how you will measure the success of your product strategy. Common metrics include user engagement, customer satisfaction, market share, and revenue growth. 7. ITERATE BASED ON FEEDBACK * Implement a process for continuous feedback and learning. This should involve regular reviews of your strategy based on performance data and direct feedback from users. 8. COMMUNICATE THE STRATEGY * Ensure that everyone involved understands the product strategy. Regular communication and updates will help keep all team members aligned and motivated. 9. REVIEW AND ADAPT * Regularly review your product strategy to ensure it remains relevant and effective. Adapt it based on changing market conditions, customer needs, and business priorities. Developing a product strategy is not a one-time activity but a continuous process that evolves with your business and the market.
...Read More
521 Views
Sheila Hara
Sheila Hara
Barracuda Sr. Director, Product ManagementFebruary 1
In a product management interview, my favorite question came up: "What is the best product you have ever used, and why?" I took a creative approach and presented myself as the product. I detailed my skills, experiences, and the unique value I could bring to the team, framing my abilities and potential contributions in the context of product features and benefits. This approach wasn't just about showcasing my qualifications; it was about demonstrating my ability to think innovatively and market effectively - crucial skills in product management. This self-referential presentation resonated with the interviewers and played a significant role in my successful hiring. Given this was umpteen years ago :)
...Read More
461 Views
Sheila Hara
Sheila Hara
Barracuda Sr. Director, Product ManagementFebruary 1
In the field of product management, there isn't really a "typical" career path. Product management is highly flexible. Some product managers may transition into related fields like marketing, sales, or even corporate strategy. Others might find their niche in a particular stage of product management and choose to specialize rather than move up the ladder. The path can also be nonlinear, with professionals moving between companies, roles, and industries based on opportunities and personal interests. Moreover, the startup ecosystem offers a different trajectory, where roles and responsibilities can be more fluid, and one might rapidly move into higher management roles based on the success and growth of the company. In essence, while there are common steps in the career progression of a product manager, the journey is often unique and tailored to each individual's skills, experiences, and career aspirations. A typical path may look like: 1. Entry-Level Role (Associate Product Manager, Product Analyst, etc.): Many product managers start in entry-level roles, which might be titled Associate Product Manager, Product Analyst, or a similar designation. These roles often involve supporting more senior product managers, conducting market research, gathering customer feedback, and learning the basics of product lifecycle management. 2. Product Manager: After gaining experience and demonstrating skills in product development, strategy, and execution, individuals often move into a Product Manager role. Here, they take on more responsibility, managing entire products or significant features, making strategic decisions, and working closely with cross-functional teams. 3. Senior Product Manager: With continued success and experience, a Product Manager can advance to a Senior Product Manager role. This position typically involves managing more complex products or product lines, mentoring junior team members, and having a greater influence on the strategic direction of the product portfolio. 4. Lead Product Manager or Group Product Manager: Some companies have a role for Lead or Group Product Managers, where professionals manage multiple related products or a team of product managers, ensuring alignment and synergy across products. 5. Director of Product Management: Moving up, the next step might be a Director of Product Management, overseeing a larger portfolio of products and leading a bigger team of product managers. This role involves more strategic planning and less day-to-day product management. 6. VP of Product or Chief Product Officer: At the top of the career ladder, one might become a VP of Product or Chief Product Officer (CPO), responsible for the overall product strategy of an organization, aligning product development with business goals, and often being part of executive leadership.
...Read More
445 Views
Sheila Hara
Sheila Hara
Barracuda Sr. Director, Product ManagementFebruary 1
The most surprising aspect of transitioning from a Product Manager to a Director role was the significant shift in the nature of customer feedback I encountered. While I appreciated gaining more context and visibility at the strategic level, I found that my interactions with customers became predominantly centered around escalations and resolving issues. This contrasted with my previous experiences, where I often heard a balance of positive feedback alongside the challenges. Adjusting to this change meant focusing more on problem-solving at a higher level, though it also underscored the importance of maintaining a connection to the broader customer experience, beyond just their pain points.
...Read More
419 Views
Sheila Hara
Sheila Hara
Barracuda Sr. Director, Product ManagementMay 1
Barracuda has a structured approach that blends continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) with Agile methodologies, using specific release timelines. This setup can offer several advantages, especially in managing complex software development and deployment processes effectively. Here’s a breakdown of how this approach might typically work and how it can be optimized: 1. Agile Practices: We organize our development activities into sprints, each lasting about 2 weeks. These sprints include regular sprint planning, daily standups, sprint reviews, and retrospectives to ensure continuous improvement and alignment within the team. 2. Continuous Integration and Delivery: Our CI/CD practices are integral to our development process. Developers commit changes to a shared repository frequently, which triggers automated builds and tests. This helps us maintain a high standard of code quality and ensures that our software can be released at any time. 3. Release Management: While our CI/CD pipeline keeps our software in a releasable state after each integration, the 2 week release pockets allow us to bundle features into coherent releases. This period also provides time for additional testing, final adjustments, and preparation of release documentation and marketing materials. 4. Feedback Loops: We heavily rely on feedback from these iterative processes and user input post-release to refine and improve our products. This feedback is crucial for adapting our processes and product offerings to better meet user needs.
...Read More
416 Views
Sheila Hara
Sheila Hara
Barracuda Sr. Director, Product ManagementMay 1
Here are some key strategies to consider when thinking about defense in relation to your product strategy: 1. INNOVATION AND CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT * Stay Ahead with Innovation: Continuously innovate and improve your products. This could mean enhancing existing features, introducing cutting-edge technology, or creating entirely new product lines that set industry standards. * Fast Iteration: Adopt an agile approach to quickly iterate and refine products based on user feedback and emerging trends, ensuring that your offerings remain superior and relevant. 2. CUSTOMER-CENTRIC APPROACH * Deep Customer Engagement: Strengthen relationships with your customers through regular engagement and by delivering exceptional customer service. Understanding their evolving needs and responding with tailored solutions can increase loyalty and reduce churn. * Customer Feedback Loops: Implement robust mechanisms for collecting and acting on customer feedback to continually enhance product offerings and address customer pain points effectively. 3. EXPAND PRODUCT ECOSYSTEM * Build a Comprehensive Ecosystem: Develop a suite of products and services that complement each other, locking in customers by creating a cohesive experience that’s difficult for competitors to replicate. * Cross-Selling Opportunities: Utilize your existing customer base to cross-sell and up-sell related products, thereby increasing the customer lifetime value and making it harder for competitors to gain a foothold. 4. LEVERAGE DATA AND ANALYTICS * Data-Driven Decisions: Use analytics to understand market trends and customer behavior deeply. Leverage this data to make informed decisions about product development and strategic moves. * Predictive Analytics: Implement tools that can predict customer needs and market shifts, allowing you to proactively adjust your strategy. 5. STRENGTHEN BRAND LOYALTY * Brand Positioning: Clearly communicate your brand’s unique values and the superior benefits of your products. Strong branding can create an emotional connection with customers that’s hard to break. * Community Building: Build and nurture a community around your brand. Engaged communities can act as a significant barrier to competitors, as members are more likely to remain loyal and advocate for your products. 6. PROTECT MARKET SHARE THROUGH STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS AND ALLIANCES * Form Alliances: Create strategic partnerships that can help expand your market reach, integrate complementary technologies, or block competitor advances. * Acquisitions: Consider acquiring potential competitors or technology startups that could disrupt the market, integrating their innovations into your product line. 7. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PROTECTION * Patents and Trademarks: Aggressively protect your intellectual property to prevent competitors from copying your innovations and capitalize on your R&D investments. 8. PRICING STRATEGIES * Competitive Pricing: Use pricing strategies to make entry difficult for new competitors. This might involve lowering prices strategically, offering superior value, or bundling products to enhance customer retention.
...Read More
406 Views
Sheila Hara
Sheila Hara
Barracuda Sr. Director, Product ManagementMay 1
I emphasize the importance of continuous validation in your product strategy, a key principle championed by Marty Cagan. He teaches us that the essence of product management lies in the discovery process. So, let's break down how you can ensure your product strategy is on the right track: 1. Engage in Continuous Discovery: Always be in the mode of testing your assumptions. Use rapid prototyping and conduct experiments to validate your ideas with real users. This approach helps confirm that your strategy addresses genuine user needs and delivers value. 2. Implement Dual-Track Development: This methodology separates the discovery of viable ideas from their delivery. Validate new features or strategic shifts in the discovery track through prototypes and user feedback before they enter the delivery track. This safeguards against investing in features that don't meet user expectations. 3. Test for Product-Market Fit: Use minimum viable products (MVPs) to test your offerings in the real market. This is crucial for understanding whether your product meets a legitimate market need and can stand out among competitors. 4. Focus on Outcomes, Not Outputs: Orient your teams around achieving specific outcomes rather than just delivering features. This shift ensures that every effort is geared towards enhancing customer satisfaction and driving business success. 5. Regularly Gather Customer Feedback: Maintain a close connection with your customers through surveys, interviews, and usability tests. This feedback is invaluable for validating whether your product direction aligns with their needs and expectations. 6. Monitor Key Metrics and KPIs: Define and track key performance indicators that align with your strategic goals. Metrics related to user engagement, retention, and satisfaction are vital for assessing the effectiveness of your strategy. 7. Embrace Iterative Learning: Adopt a mindset of continuous improvement. Iterate based on feedback and market changes to refine your strategy, ensuring it remains relevant and effective.
...Read More
403 Views
Sheila Hara
Sheila Hara
Barracuda Sr. Director, Product ManagementMay 1
Here’s how we approach this balance at Barracuda, taking inspiration from Cagan’s principles: 1. Deep Customer Understanding: We prioritize deep customer insights through continuous interaction and feedback. Understanding customer needs and pain points helps us identify features that will not only retain customers but also attract new ones because they address real problems effectively. 2. Focus on Value Creation: We invest in features that provide significant value to our customers, which naturally aids in retention. Simultaneously, we also look for opportunities where innovation can create a competitive edge. This often involves leveraging technology in new ways or enhancing user experiences to distinguish our offerings from competitors. 3. Empowered Product Teams: Following Cagan’s advice, we empower our product teams to make decisions that balance short-term needs with long-term visions. Teams are encouraged to experiment and iterate, allowing us to quickly adapt to changes in customer preferences and market dynamics. 4. Strategic Resource Allocation: We strategically allocate resources to ensure that investments are made not just in scaling and optimizing existing successful features (which aids retention), but also in exploring new areas that could become significant differentiators. 5. Iterative Development and Release: By using Agile methodologies, we can iterate rapidly based on user feedback and changing market conditions. This allows us to refine our offerings continuously, which helps in maintaining a competitive stance and enhancing customer satisfaction. 6. Monitoring and Metrics: We rigorously track success metrics not only for user engagement and retention but also for how well new features are received. This dual focus helps ensure that our investments are appropriately balanced and effective in achieving both differentiation and retention.
...Read More
400 Views
Sheila Hara
Sheila Hara
Barracuda Sr. Director, Product ManagementFebruary 1
If you're a non-IT professional looking to start a career in product management, it's important to recognize and leverage your transferable skills. Many skills that you might have developed in other roles can be extremely valuable in a PM position, even if they don't seem directly related at first glance. For example, let's say in your first job, your boss asked who managed the finances in your household. This question, while seemingly unrelated, actually taps into a key aspect of product management: resource and budget management. Managing household finances requires careful planning, prioritization, and strategic thinking – all of which are critical in overseeing product development budgets and resources. Another important aspect of product management is the ability to remain calm and think on your feet in stressful situations. Imagine during an interview for a PM role, your laptop fails to boot up for a presentation. If you had emailed the presentation to your boss beforehand and also carried it on a USB, this preparedness would demonstrate your foresight and meticulous planning. Additionally, staying composed and quickly adapting to the situation would showcase your problem-solving skills and ability to manage unforeseen challenges – a common occurrence in product management. Both the above stories are mine from my first job interview for an associate product manager. I was an engineer at that point, moving to product management. These examples highlight several transferable skills that are invaluable for a PM role, especially at the middle management level: 1. Strategic Planning and Budget Management: Skills gained from managing personal or household finances can translate into effectively overseeing product budgets and resources. 2. Problem-Solving and Risk Management: The ability to anticipate potential issues, prepare contingency plans, and address problems as they arise is crucial in product development. 3. Adaptability and Composure: Being flexible and maintaining your poise under pressure are important traits for managing the uncertainties and fast-paced nature of product management. 4. Communication Skills: Your ability to convey your ideas clearly and effectively, as shown by being prepared in the interview, is essential for collaborating with teams and stakeholders. 5. Leadership and Team Coordination: Any experience in leading or coordinating efforts, even in non-work settings, can be a strong foundation for team management in a PM role.
...Read More
399 Views
Sheila Hara
Sheila Hara
Barracuda Sr. Director, Product ManagementMay 1
Market trends play a crucial role in shaping product strategy. They provide essential insights into shifting consumer preferences, emerging technologies, and competitive dynamics. Here’s how understanding market trends can significantly influence the strategic decisions we make at Barracuda: 1. Identifying Opportunities and Threats: By keeping a close eye on market trends, we can identify emerging opportunities that might be ripe for innovation and also recognize potential threats before they become problematic. This proactive approach allows us to adjust our strategy to either capitalize on these opportunities or mitigate risks effectively. 2. Guiding Product Development: Trends can inform what features we prioritize in our development roadmap. If a trend indicates a growing customer demand for a particular functionality or integration, we can prioritize these developments to stay competitive and relevant. 3. Influencing Go-to-Market Strategy: Market trends help us tailor our marketing strategies. For example, if there's a rising trend towards ML, we might highlight the efficient aspects of our products using ML in our marketing campaigns. 4. Resource Allocation: Understanding which trends are just passing fads and which are here to stay can help us allocate our resources more wisely—investing more in long-term trends and less in those that are likely to be short-lived. 5. Competitive Advantage: By staying ahead of trends, we can position our products and services as leading-edge solutions in the market. This can be a significant differentiator, especially in industries that are fast-paced and highly competitive. 6. Customer Retention and Acquisition: Aligning our product offerings with market trends can improve customer satisfaction by ensuring that our products meet current and future needs. This alignment not only helps retain existing customers but also attracts new ones who are seeking the latest solutions. Market trends are not just indicators of where the market is today, but predictors of where it might go tomorrow. At Barracuda, we integrate these insights into our product strategy to ensure we're not only responsive to current market conditions but also ahead of future developments. This approach helps us maintain a competitive edge and align our offerings more closely with customer expectations.
...Read More
396 Views
Credentials & Highlights
Sr. Director, Product Management at Barracuda
Top 10 Product Management Contributor
Knows About Product Management 30/60/90 Day Plan, Product Management Skills, Product Management C...more