Prashant Mahajan on starting up Zeda.io and becoming an entrepreneur, after getting laid off as a Sr PM
Product State Q&A
EC: You founded Zeda.io in the middle of 2020, only a few months after being laid off. What was it like to start up during such a wild time?
PM: It was actually both easy and scary. When I got laid off, I experienced fear of having nothing — not having an income, and being jobless.
When you experience having no salary for months, you really feel it. The best way to conquer your fear is to face it — Having done that, it was easy and liberating.
But the scary part was: Will anyone join a startup in a pandemic? Will someone be crazy enough to invest in a startup or leave a job to join a startup?
My fears ended up being my own. We raised money before we registered the company, and people joined us — leaving high-paying jobs and taking pay cuts. It was the vision that people believed in. And the pandemic didn’t end up detering smart people.
To people who just got laid off: This could be a blessing in disguise to figure out what you want in life. Plan for that, and go for it.
EC: How has your mindset changed from being a Sr PM to an entrepreneur?
PM: My view and horizon has expanded a lot. My mindset is more long-term now. I try to zoom in and zoom out in every discussion because, as a PM, we tend to have a very myopic view and tend to get into details without looking at the bigger picture. And some founders tend to be at 30,000 ft and aren't concerned about execution, thus missing details. I try to make the best of both backgrounds.
Secondly, as a PM, I used to think a great product is the most important thing, but as an entrepreneur, I now understand the importance of every department. A company is built by having many functions working together in sync, and a Product is one of the many cogs in this machinery.
I have also learned that if you have a great product and people don't know about it, it is of no use. I wrote a blog post to covers this in detail.
EC: With so many restructurings happening in tech, some are considering MBAs. What might you advice PMs and product leaders pursuing higher education?
PM: When I got laid off, I was planning for an MBA. But I never applied for it because being stuck at home for 2 months without any job gave me time to think and introspect.
I realized I wasn't looking to get an MBA because I wanted to — but because I thought society and industry will value me more if I have one. Learning wasn't my goal. Having the tag on my resume was.
An MBA was an option. Other options were an MS in Product Management, taking a break and travelling, finding another job, switching my career from PM to Growth (business or marketing)… or starting a company.
I’m glad I didn't go for an MBA or the other options. I started my own company.
The point here is not to do one thing or the other, but to think about what you want to do in life.
Many people think very straight forward — choosing any option present in front of them. My suggestion is to think about where you would like to be in a few years and then plan backward.
If higher studies are the path towards it, do that. If not, then find out how you will reach there.
Everyone is different. Our options are always different. We each need to explore our path for ourselves.
To people who just got laid off:
This could be a blessing in disguise to figure out what you want in life.
Plan for that, and go for it.
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