What is it like to work in Janio’s product team? To Karthik Rajeswaran, Head of Product, it is about building a team culture of trust, communication, and collaboration. Fostering human connection and leading with empathy creates a space where everyone in the team can grow and contribute. We interviewed him to find out about the Product team and his experience working at Janio Singapore.
GET TO KNOW JANIO’S PRODUCT TEAM
What is the culture you want to promote within the team?
We aim to thrive in a culture of high performance and high creativity. Everyone in the team is encouraged to have a high degree of independence and autonomy, which comes with the expectation that each member takes initiative, remains constantly curious, and is able to collaborate effectively.
But it’s important to remain creative, and creativity comes from having an environment where you can explore and express your ideas freely, and be prepared to evolve them in the process of delivering value.
What can someone expect when they become part of the team?
The product team at Janio is the bridge between the value we deliver to our customers and our ability to leverage technology to do so. As a new member of the team, you’ll spend your initial period getting to know the people at Janio, better understanding our customers’ needs and of course, our current challenges in addressing them. From then on, it’ll likely be a case of owning a specific product or problem area, establishing goals, and working towards achieving them.
What are the key traits of a product manager and what is a good fit for Janio?
The simplest way I can describe it is that a product manager has to be able to think like a business owner, a customer and an investor all at once.
Thinking like a business owner requires a great level of self-responsibility. You need the ability to quickly and effectively prioritise, and deal with changes in requirements and/or personnel.
Thinking like a customer needs a deep understanding of what a customer’s true needs are, and how best to solve those needs.
Thinking like an investor means that you have to evaluate where best to allocate your, and your team’s energy to produce the best outcomes and outputs based on your available knowledge and resources.
LEADERSHIP TRUST AND TEAM CULTURE
How do you cultivate leadership trust and communication to work effectively as a team?
It’s an ongoing process, but first impressions go a long way. During onboarding, I aim to focus predominantly on getting to know a person’s life journey, what led them to where they are now, and what their core motivations and interests are. I make sure to share the same about myself too.
This exchange helps in the long run as it gives you both a mutual understanding and a level of trust. Beyond that, it’s making sure to pay attention and keep checking in on how someone is doing, bearing in mind their context.
Why does leading with empathy play a crucial role in building a trusting environment to progress and grow within Janio?
I believe that forming a human understanding is the basis of any effective relationship, including professional ones. The key is being able to empathise with someone, that is putting yourself in that person’s shoes and understanding things from their perspective.
In Janio, we work closely with different departments across multiple countries and cultures. Leading with empathy is crucial to understanding each other and being able to solve problems together, particularly as a product manager (PM).
How do you maintain strong bonds with your team, and why is it essential to create space for those bonds?
Once again, it’s about keeping the human relationship at the centre. We have rituals as a team, including regular one-on-ones (1:1s) with each individual as well as a weekly session with the entire team. We begin every interaction with a discussion on how each person is feeling, if there are any ups and downs they might be experiencing and how engaged they feel with the current project they’re working on.
We also have activities such as team lunches, games sessions and more. These haven’t been as regular as we’d like, given the pandemic. But now that restrictions have eased, we’ll definitely be doing more of these going forward.
As a manager, you play a key role in ensuring your team’s health and well-being. How do you look out for your team and spot signs of mental weariness and fatigue?
I believe it’s important to lead by example, so first and foremost I have to look after my health and wellbeing and be open to sharing when I’m facing certain challenges. I protect my key habits, including exercise, eating healthily and getting enough sleep, and encourage others to cultivate and follow what works for them.
Individuals show signs of fatigue and stress in different ways, which is why it’s important to get to know them beyond the surface. If I can spot something, then I proactively initiate a discussion around this and work with the individual to establish how best to support them in resting and re-energising.
Our regular check-ins also provide an avenue to bring up some of the challenges they may be facing, and it’s my responsibility to ensure that they always feel comfortable opening up and expressing themselves.
CONSTANT OPPORTUNITIES FOR LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT
How do you ensure there are constant opportunities for learning and development for everyone in the team?
As an organisation, we’ve recently implemented initiatives to better identify each person’s strengths and areas for improvement. Within the product team, we align these to each person’s goals and how they want to develop. In addition to that, we aim to identify relevant development opportunities.
Recent examples include providing courses on critical thinking and improved communication, and identifying mentoring opportunities within the company. This is an area where we’re still learning and developing (excuse the pun) and want to provide more structured ways for the product team to grow.
What growth opportunities are available within the product team?
The very nature of product work, as well as the industry that Janio operates in, means there are constant opportunities to learn and address different types of problems. Within the product team itself, growth opportunities have historically been driven by taking on different products or problem areas, which ideally increase in scope.
Moving forward, as our team expands, we’ll have more opportunities for both mentoring and people management roles. And for those not inclined toward people management, the option to become a domain leader, acting as a subject matter expert.
The product team’s vision is deeply intertwined with our company vision, which is to simplify Asia’s logistics. Our role is to translate this vision into an actionable product strategy, which establishes how we’ll deliver value to our customers and the business.
Currently, our focus is on these two critical areas: 1) the post-purchase experience for an eCommerce customer and 2) empowering Janio’s internal teams to deliver an excellent managed logistics experience. Our product managers will own a specific product/problem area within one of these two focus areas, and depending on seniority, will mentor and guide other PMs too.
We’re on the lookout for aspiring product managers to join us at Janio and make history. Join our growing team!