Vasudha Mithal

Vasudha MithalShare

Senior Director, Product Management, Headspace Health
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Vasudha Mithal
Vasudha Mithal
Senior Director, Product Management, Headspace HealthAugust 23

My top-3 favorites purely from a product perspective:

  • Google Photos, for very delightful and practical uses of AI
  • Huckleberry, for attempting to solve the problems of new parents in a tech-first way
  • Tesla, for the beautiful combo of hardware and software to create an overall rich user experience

(not factoring in leadership, political, health, or climate impact)

Vasudha Mithal
Vasudha Mithal
Senior Director, Product Management, Headspace HealthAugust 23

This is a mix of both seniority as well as working at a high-growth private company but clarifying R&Rs to ensure teams are built to maximize impact while minimizing management overhead is something I have a much deeper appreciation for now vs. earlier in my career when I focused more on getting a launch across the finish line.

Vasudha Mithal
Vasudha Mithal
Senior Director, Product Management, Headspace HealthAugust 23

Love the proactive thinking and the desire to excel :)

Not sure if the learning curve is any steeper but there are a few things that can support career growth:

  • Master the craft for what is required of you in the current seniority.
  • Get exposure to delegating more work, creating leverage across different teams, and see if you are able to 'let go of the detailed tasks' but still bring a beautiful product to life with your team.
  • Get exposure to market maps, strategy documents, start asking thoughtful questions in various forums with leadership - not to be the loudest voice but more to build the sharpest brain.
  • Invest and re-invest in building relationships with cross-functional partners across the company. Learn how they think about their work.
  • Try unblocking others - what does it take to pinpoint what is holding back someone and how can you help them be successful? What is your personal style as you do that?
Vasudha Mithal
Vasudha Mithal
Senior Director, Product Management, Headspace HealthAugust 23

No matter how many parents I saw before at work, I was nowhere close to realizing the true joys and challenges of working parents. A few things:

  • As you are solving world problems and developing your team at work, you are also growing and nurturing the leaders of tomorrow at home. I now think of my long-term contributions to society vs. a narrow focus entirely hinged around work.
  • Time is a privilege - I've learned more ruthless prioritization and now focus on how to maximize my impact.
  • Develop more empathy not just for parents or caretakers, but for everyone else. I probably have no idea about the challenges they are going through and will not really know them no matter how many happy hours, lunches, virtual water cooler chats, or informal 1:1s I go to.
Vasudha Mithal
Vasudha Mithal
Senior Director, Product Management, Headspace HealthAugust 23
  1. Exemplary people leadership (ability to bring people along)
  2. Strong relationships across various functions (including non-R&D teams) - get done what's needed to solve a problem, and get products launched.
  3. Maturity to know when to switch course for a product line, drive tough decisions, and leverage #1 to bring your team along with you in that decision.
Vasudha Mithal
Vasudha Mithal
Senior Director, Product Management, Headspace HealthAugust 23

This varies so much from company to company but my general lens while moving from PM to SPM:

  • SPMs have had at least one meaningful product launch in their career.
  • SPMs are able to cut across product lines, reach out to multiple PMs to identify dependencies, get buy-ins, and manage timelines for complex launches that touch various parts of a product ecosystem (vs. focusing on one siloed area).
  • SPMs establish a relationship with various stakeholders (including non-R&D folks).
  • SPMs can outline a broader business strategy and define a long-term vision for their areas (vs. PMs focus more on execution or on what's next in the near term).

It is hard for me to define the stages of different SPM levels. Generally speaking, you can either start going deep into one specific product area (to get set up for an IC/Principle PM path) or continue working across various PMs to solve problems (to get set up for a manager/GPM path). In my opinion, as closely as companies can tie this to impact and the craft of execution, the more objective this becomes for promotions.

Vasudha Mithal
Vasudha Mithal
Senior Director, Product Management, Headspace HealthAugust 23

In a startup, the R&R is faintly defined at its best. You naturally get pulled into 1000 different things - that is both fun and a challenge :) A few things that you might find helpful:

  • In the beginning, it is good to get exposed to a variety of different topics. It can be overwhelming for sure.
  • Once you understand the organization's needs, ask yourself "What can I do to make our company successful?" (and I hope your equity motivates you to ask this question each step of the way).
  • The answer to that question will help you in 1) Defining more R&Rs across the company 2) Seek the resources for the stage your company is at (e.g. do you really want to add another project management layer or would rather just do it yourself if communication lines are easy?) and 3) Act like the owner for the areas where you can make the most impact! 

Some tactical things to do:

  • Set a goal/theme for the week - if there is one thing you could accomplish that week, what would it be?
  • Proactive and recurring calendar blocks to get that one thing done.
  • Consider even setting a target for the day-to-day requests that you feel good about - e.g. personal SLAs for when can you get back to an email request.

One thing that I like always coming back to is that day-to-day tasks will never get over. One task will simply get replaced by another. It is so important to have your boundaries, prioritize and create focus time for what will help your company the most.

Vasudha Mithal
Vasudha Mithal
Senior Director, Product Management, Headspace HealthAugust 23

What do you value in your life right now?

  • If it is career growth and you are not getting that, needless to say, it is time for a change.
  • If you want to maximize your impact and you have the tools to deliver your best work/create the most impact, stay.
  • If you are optimizing for pay and external opportunities won't give a decent raise, stay.
  • If you are enjoying a work-life balance and don't want to go through the ramp-up of a new company, stay.
  • What else?

Most likely you'd want at least some if not all of the above. In the end, you have to follow your gut sense and get as many thoughts as possible from trusted mentors. A few things that might help:

  • Always be open to new opportunities. Something might just click.
  • Figure out a way to communicate upward and influence change. Managers with a growth mindset would be looking to learn how to better help their teams and retain the star performers!
Vasudha Mithal
Vasudha Mithal
Senior Director, Product Management, Headspace HealthAugust 23

Generally, where I’ve seen people best succeed in transitioning is when you change one dimension at a time. So, either change your company, role or industry. Trying to move across several things is hard (not impossible). In that context, the best shot is at trying for a product role within your existing company. Build relationships, try to stick around product work (e.g. exploratory analysis to help product teams prioritize, understand usage, measure impact, etc.), and ask mentors to let you drive some work (usually, there is SO MUCH work everywhere that people are happy to get support! There are Data related product roles too (e.g. building data platforms). In the CV, anything you can highlight to indicate prioritization, analytics, strategic work is useful too as that’s pretty central to a product role.

Vasudha Mithal
Vasudha Mithal
Senior Director, Product Management, Headspace HealthAugust 23

A few things:

  • A very deep understanding of the problems they are looking to solve. This gets reflected in how they speak about past experiences (why did you choose to work on a specific problem, what exactly was the need?) as well as any case study (are they asking intelligent questions to understand the need).
  • User-first approach: While solving the problem they identified, are they putting the user at the forefront? Are they clear about who the users are for the problem?
  • Clear communication
  • For more experienced positions and specific for B2B products, are they mature to understand roll-out considerations for a large group of stakeholders? What are the people and processes needed to make a roll-out successful?
Credentials & Highlights
Senior Director, Product Management at Headspace Health
Product Management AMA Contributor