Once upon a time

I was born in Kashmir in the winter of 1987 to physician parents who demonised sugar, fries and all things nice.

My sister and I were curious and inventive. We built elaborate cities from mud, complete with sewer systems and market squares. When we learnt about non-biodegradability, we decided to put it to the test. We buried paper dolls in a plastic box, meaning to dig it up in 20 years. The dolls, of course, had enough food, water and books for their time underground. We wrote scripts and made puppets out of garbage bags, badminton racquets and twigs. Our first play was about Bilkees, a young woman attempting to remedy her very, very itchy eyes with a carrot.

Lessons from the loom

As years, cities and people went by I remained quiet and reflective. Art became my medium of choice.

At NIFT, where I studied apparel design, the curriculum focused on the origin of products, and the skills that bring them to life. Before designing a pattern for a weave, I had to make my own loom!

These experiences made me curious about the people, skills and processes that touched every product I used.

Changing course

I began my career as a designer, at India’s largest apparel manufacturer where an incident on the shopfloor inspired me to explore interface design. As I researched this, I learned that good design can’t be idiosyncratic, it must have mass appeal and intelligibility.

I learned the fundamental of UX research and design at Kaaryah, a fashion-tech startup. However, since Kaaryah was operating on a small scale, my learning plateaued and I was eager for more. I decided to go to business school.

API? huh?

After business school I joined the product team at Housing.com. I was the only non-tech Product Manager. On my first day, I stared blankly at the mention of “Google Maps API”.

I dedicated every waking moment to catching up.

Four months in, I was leading a team of six engineers and designers to work on a recommendation engine, to address Housing’s disproportionately high percentage of dead-end searches.

Pause, reflect, and smile

In my first (almost) three years as a product manager, I built a recommendation engine, phased out a primary business vertical, built a SaaS Enterprise product, overhauled the information architecture of a $40 Million SaaS company, and worked extensively on pricing and billing systems.

I also worked on consulting projects for products as diverse as talent recruiting (Shortlist), and fashion discovery and curation (Roposo).

These experiences have accelerated my learning in product, UX, software development, analytics, prioritization, leadership and stakeholder management. I have also found inspiring mentors, patient peers and loving friends.

The road ahead

I think of myself as an artist, and technology as my medium, one that has the power to change people for the better. Whether by holding out opportunities that might otherwise not be available, or by making relevant information easier to understand and process.

In the future, I want to continue to tell stories that can change the way people look at minorities, women, equality and inclusiveness.