Esha Shukla - Product Manager @WhatsApp, ex- @Meetup, @Citibank

Esha Shukla - Product Manager @WhatsApp, ex- @Meetup, @Citibank


I’m currently a Product Manager at WhatsApp (owned by Meta Platforms), the private, cross-platform centralized instant messaging and voice-over-IP service connecting billions of users across the world. I was born in Mumbai, India, and spent my childhood in Zambia. I currently reside in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I’ve been in the product management space for the last ~7 years across both business and consumer products in different verticals (fintech & consumer social media). Before Meta, I worked at Meetup as a PM for their organizer subscription & events team. Prior to that, I worked as a Mobile Product Manager @ CitiBank.

As an inside view into my daily life, the most-used apps on my phone are WhatsApp (no surprises! My entire family lives in India, so I rely on the app to stay connected with them on a daily basis), Spotify (intentional design UI that focuses on discovery & recommendations to introduce her to new artists) and Google Maps (always pinning places to go!)

What does your typical day look like?

  • It varies depending on the stage of product development I’m in, but usually, I’m doing either one of the following things

  1. Writing product requirements & gathering feedback from engineering, design, data on them for a feature we’ve all aligned we should build

  2. Brainstorming with design and exploring solutions to a problem that we want to prioritize solving

  3. Discussing the feature with privacy, policy, legal, and integrity to ensure we’re building the right things for the users, in the right way

  4. If our team has a feature that’s about to ship, I’ll participate in bug bashes to identify and prioritize issues we need to fix

  • In general, the job involves a lot of meetings with different stakeholders to work together to solve the problem at hand in the best way possible for the user, and get the feature to launch!

  • Additionally, while a major part of the PM job is execution, I also try to find focus time during the week to take a step back and think about the longer-term strategy and vision for the team to ensure our current priorities reflect the right direction we want to land in.

Why did you choose to become a product manager? How do you see things differently than the rest?

While product management has become a hot profession in the tech world today, back when I started, there wasn’t a lot of awareness for this role and subsequently no direct path that could land you there. I was always interested and fascinated by technology, so I did my undergrad in Computer Science. However, during my junior year, I realized that my skill sets & interests weren’t aligned with the traditional software engineering role. I started to look for options that would help me leverage my technical background, but allow me to explore different fields. This is when I stumbled upon the Master of Engineering Management Degree at Duke University. This degree allowed me to take different courses across project management, product management, and tech consulting so I could explore all options before deciding on a career path to pursue.

While I was studying, I did my internship at@ Citibank, where I discovered the product managerPM role. I interned on a product development team that was building software for processing payments and I loved how I got to collaborate with different functions such as Product Design, Engineering, & Data Science. I was lucky enough to be offered a full-time job, and this is what kick-started my PM Career!

I worked as a Mobile Product Manager for their corporate mobile and tablet app and learned a lot about building products for a B2B audience. Eventually, I made the transition to consumer tech & worked at Meetup before joining Facebook. Meetup is where I really learned how to be a consumer PM –-- leveraging A/B experimentation to determine best features to release, partnering with UX Research to talk to real-life users, and collaborating with engineering on product & technical requirements to build the product. ~7 years into the field, and I couldn’t be happier I landed in this role!

What’s the one thing that you absolutely love about your job?

I absolutely love how I get to work with a team of talented stakeholders to solve a real-world user problem and see the impact / change it can have for them once the feature is live! Being the user advocate is the best part of my job.

What are some of the cool things that you are working on currently?

I recently switched to the WhatsApp Messaging team, and we are working on building some interesting features in the group messaging space for our users, but I can’t share them just yet since they are not public.
I can share some details about my prior team. For the last 2 years, I was focused on building features to help women (particularly those in emerging markets such as India) feel safe and in control of their experience on the Facebook app. Our team launched a feature called profile lock, a privacy toggle that allows you to share your past & future content with friends only, tension-free!

What are some of the emerging trends in your industry that excite you? And why?

I’m now in the messaging space w/ WhatsApp, and I think what excites me is how deliberate you have to be about the problems you choose to solve and the products you decide to build. This is because, as a consumer, there are so many messaging apps to choose from, and what you decide to offer, can be an important reason that draws users to your product vs. someone else’s.

In the messaging space, I think combining video, audio, text into one app has become almost the standard, finding and offering ways for users to express themselves outside of just text e.g. memoji/bitmoji/voice recordings, etc. Particularly w/ COVID happening, when families and friends were unable to see each other, we’ve seen a lot of companies either pivot their strategies to cater to all audiences or hone in on one particular target audience. Additionally, community messaging is a big trend that other apps like Telegram, Discord, Slack are leaning into.

Do you follow any product/prioritization frameworks when making decisions? If yes, what are some of the top frameworks that you recommend, and why?

There are so many frameworks out there, that sometimes leaning into your intuition and making decisions based on principles is often the smart route to go. Think about principles to develop for your product, and use them to make go/no go decisions. For prioritization, come up with 2-3 objective criteria (effort, impact, severity, etc.) to compare options, and lay them out visually in a table to articulate your recommendation!

What’s the one tool that you couldn’t do your job without, and which very few people know about?

Oh gosh, there are always several tools I leverage that can almost do all the things I need to - so I don’t think there is one specific tool, but I will say I heavily use WhatsApp to communicate with our colleagues so we get to use the same product we put in our users’ hand and experience it before we launch features!

What’s something that you learned/realized recently in your work journey that you wish you knew earlier?

Two things:

  1. Invest time in understanding how your product is built (i.e. basic tech stack)!: When I say this, I don’t mean to be a successful PM you must have a technical background, what I mean is, investing time and working with your Engineering Manager/Lead to understand how your product is built, what the tech stack is, and what are some common constraints you’ll need to keep in mind will go a really long way, particularly when you have to discuss trade-offs. In the past, I’d steer away from this because I didn’t want to be prescriptive & I thought my job was to focus on the “what & why”, not the “how”, but I’ve found understanding the basic technical details actually helps you be a stronger PM partner to your engineering team!

  2. Advocating for yourself!: This could be with regards to asking to work on a project that seems interesting to you and a good fit based on your skill sets, asking for that promotion you deserve or asking for what you need from another partner team you work frequently with! You have to be your own advocate, and not shy away from voicing your asks with rationale! I wish I knew this earlier in my career journey, but it’s something I always find time to reflect + practice.

If you don’t mind sharing, what’s the one mistake you’ve made and will advise others not to repeat?

In my early years of being a PM, I wasn’t very good at being opinionated (& voicing it), particularly in a room with more senior product leaders or leaders across other functions.
At my previous company, Meetup, I was working on a high-priority project that had visibility up to the CEO. We had these weekly workstream updates where leaders across functions such as Design, Engineering, Marketing, Operations, and Business Development would get together to outline priorities, progress against milestones, and discuss blockers (if any). This was my first consumer-facing product role and on top of that, I had some strong personalities in the group who were very opinionated about their choices.

As a result, when recommendations had to be presented, I’d lay them out on a slide with the criteria to walk through with pros and cons, but I didn’t really strongly voice my opinion or provide my recommendation. This was partly because I thought as a ‘new’ PM, it wasn’t my place to have an opinion, particularly in a room full of opinionated leaders, and some of it was my hesitation/fear of speaking up in a large meeting. This gave the impression to some that I didn’t really have a POV or stake in the ground when it came to choosing between options presented and it was the feedback I received from my manager. A big drawback of this, in addition to feedback I received, was that this back and forth (post meeting) would mean more time spent trying to align on a decision.

I realized through that experience that your biggest assets as a PM are to

(1) have an opinion for what your product should do (i.e. build a north star),

(2) provide options with a clear set of criteria when a decision needs to be made,  AND

(3) voice your recommendation, whether or not it may be the path your team ends up taking.

This actually helps guide conversations, enables quicker decision-making, and helps other team members think through pros and cons in addition to those you might have listed.

What are some of your biggest inspirations that help you get up and do your best work?

The most gratifying part of being a PM is seeing the real-world impact of the products you launch - this is the biggest inspiration, and the reason why even after ~7 years of being in this field, I love this job so much. In addition to this, I’ve found that if I'm passionate about the product I’m working on, it inspires me to do my best work, & this is why when I choose teams or companies, I’m very intentional about where I apply.

What would you recommend to people who want to start their careers in your space?

I’ve come to see that the PM role is glamorized a lot recently in the tech space. This role is quite demanding, requires a high level of patience & grit, and definitely has its ups & downs each day. Make sure you talk to real-life PMs about what parts of the job they love, and most importantly - what parts they’ve come to deal with that are challenging. This will help you holistically evaluate if this is the right role for you long-term!

For those that are determined, and want to achieve their goal of transitioning to the PM role, here are a few tips:

  1. Highlight PM skills in your current role: While PM is becoming a more mainstream role, it still doesn’t have a set path you can follow, particularly for entry-level roles. Highlight PM skills you are doing in your current role & start with associate PM roles at companies.

  2. Network with Product Professionals: I don’t mean just connecting on LinkedIn - I mean attending appropriate events/conferences where you can learn about the profession & use that common ground to meet people. Some examples include Women in Product Conference, ProductCon by Product School, AMAs, or Topic-based Events organized by Product School & Product Twitter! When you reach out to someone on LinkedIn, always personalize the invite, and offer something in return (e.g. coffee, a LinkedIn recommendation). Product Leaders can get a lot of reach-outs and offer something in return, or showing you’ve done your research on the person and what you specifically want from them can help you stand out in those requests.

  3. Don’t be afraid to apply! I spent a lot of time contemplating whether I was qualified for the roles I wanted to apply to. The best way is to interview & assess where you need to improve. Even if you don’t meet all the requirements listed, apply! That first role can be difficult, but I encourage PMs to keep trying & take courses from RocketBlocks or a similar blog/service to improve their interviewing skills.

For new & aspiring PMs who want to learn how to sharpen their PM skills, you might find these 5 product principles I talked about on the Product Experience podcast helpful!

Anything you want to promote or plug?

I was recently invited as a guest on MindTheProduct talking about 5 product principles that have helped me make smart decisions & I think it’s a great listen for new, or aspiring PMs!  


Additionally, I’ve started to write articles sharing tips, learnings, or insights from my PM career on Medium, Twitter & I’m a featured speaker + product coach for Product School.

Brought to you by

Olvy is an AI-powered feedback management tool designed specifically for Product Managers and UX Researchers to better understand their customers' needs at scale. 

Read our case studies with LottieFiles, and ReadyPlayerMe.

ProductHooman Podcast

Follow us On

©2023 - Olvy Inc.

Brought to you by

Olvy is an AI-powered feedback management tool designed specifically for Product Managers and UX Researchers to better understand their customers' needs at scale. 

Read our case studies with LottieFiles, and ReadyPlayerMe.

ProductHooman Podcast

Follow us On

©2023 - Olvy Inc.

Brought to you by

Olvy is an AI-powered feedback management tool designed specifically for Product Managers and UX Researchers to better understand their customers' needs at scale. 

Read our case studies with LottieFiles, and ReadyPlayerMe.

ProductHooman Podcast

Follow us On

©2023 - Olvy Inc.