This week we sat down with Product Manager Prayana Suma. She talked to us about her role at Wahed, how it has evolved since joining in 2017 and what can be done to get more women into engineering roles.
How did you come to be a product manager at Wahed and what is your background?
I studied civil engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur. I graduated in 2014 and got my first job as a software engineer working in trading and settlement systems. I came to the role because of my training in Java development and found it really interesting. I managed the trading and securities data across global markets and platforms for the company.
In 2017, at the beginning of Wahed’s journey, I joined the Firm as a product manager. The field of technology and especially the fast-growing Fintech space is really exciting to me.
I love knowing how things such as apps actually work. Also, what Wahed is doing is inspiring: they are bringing investment opportunities to millions of people. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that mission!
Was it just the technology and company mission that brought you here?
Yes, but I am also fascinated by the passive investment and portfolio management element of Wahed Invest. Once the risk profile is carried out on the customer, they are able to seamlessly move to being a passive investor. And, this happens so quickly depending on the region. In the U.S. you can become an investor within minutes!
This is amazing not just as a fan of financial technology but also as a product manager. It is fascinating to see how you can scale up from a few users to many different users in a short period of time, offering them all this great service.
Wahed is a very fast-growing company. It’s very exciting to see how our work is impacting the world and the brand that we are building.
Why did you want to switch from software engineer to product manager?
I made the switch for two main reasons; As a product manager your focus is what the business needs and wants are and the delivery of requirements set forth by the company’s roadmap; working with teams from other parts of the world to collaborate and to deliver a successful outcome. As a software engineer, you would just work on a small element of the project and that wasn’t enough for me.
I wanted to be at the center of everything happening at the company and didn’t feel it was possible as a software engineer.
What was it like when you first joined in 2017? It was so new then!
We were a team of 25 or so individuals when I first joined Wahed working across various projects and marketing campaigns. As a product manager for the tech team, in the Mumbai office, I worked on our first ever product which was the US platform. Later I moved onto the international platform, a big job! Here we brought a lot of countries onto the site but like the US platform, we soon moved to an app-based offering. It was great working on the international offering as it gave me a chance to showcase my project management skills. Wahed has really given me the opportunity to shift my career from software engineer to product manager.
What’s the team like that you work on?
I don’t manage a set team of people, we work across teams depending on who we need to collaborate with for each project.
I love the work culture here. Working with Kareem, our Chief Product Officer, is really amazing. We implement new ideas each and every day. We build products in such a way that we create a great user experience and this is what drives us. This approach makes us very competitive in the fintech space.
Our success is also owed to the fact that we are really encouraged to share ideas. We learn very quickly and are always helping to grow and support the brand we work for. There is a freedom of thought here and we own our projects from end to end.
What does your role involve?
As a company, we have a roadmap that outlines where and when we want to be offering our services. It could be Kazakhstan or Nigeria – anywhere in the world. With each goal, we set up meetings with the relevant stakeholders and see what the various requirements are. Then we set up the parameters and what we need to do to ensure successful delivery. Sometimes we can work with existing partners and other times we need to create new relationships to make sure the solution fits into our framework.
For many companies, an app is the same regardless of the country but with our offering, it can be a very different app depending on where we launch. It is important that no matter the location, age, and requirements of the user that they have the same great experience which fits into Wahed Invest’s ethos and standards.
When we look at launching new products I examine the end-to-end user flow and how we can best deliver the product. I can’t really say how long it takes to deliver our products. For a simple product with a straightforward country, it can be a couple of weeks but for more complex offerings in complex countries, it can be a few months.
Diversity is a big deal for Wahed. How does Wahed nurture this?
Collaboration, openness, and a belief from the senior management team that we are equal and should be treated the same way. They set the tone for the company, and from my personal experience, they’ve created an environment that is extremely diverse. What you see in the world you see in the office, our culture reflects society. And our company is not just diverse in respect to regions but also in regard to diversity in thought.
How can we get more women into software engineering and project management?
This is such a tricky question! Where to start?! If we are able to boost the confidence of girls very early on and empower them to feel like they can achieve the same as their male counterparts then we will make a big difference. Even just the basics need to be worked on, such as literacy rates and teaching math and sciences to all students at an early age would help. They also should be encouraged to lead and take on senior roles.
Women have so much to offer as managers and financial advisers. We are great at managing stress and multiple tasks in one go. You can see that just by looking at the traditional roles of women in society – housewives – we multitask every day. We manage different people, projects, and goals all the time.
If I had to give any advice to women looking to join the fintech space then I would say that work on the skills and interests that you like and look for the company that matches your values and grabs your interest. For example, I knew that I wanted to work for a company such as Wahed but I needed to hone my skills whilst I found the right company. So I worked for three years as a software engineer whilst I gained experience and waited for the right company and role to come along. Now I am here and I’m loving every minute of it.
Tell us about Hyderabad, where you are currently based.
We are known for two of the best things in life: biryani and our kindness! It’s a great place to be and I’m proud to call this home.