Social Impact is Product Management

Hema Budaraju is the Senior Director of product for health and search social impact at Google.

Hema Budaraju’s resume reads like a "Who’s Who" of tech companies. Her long and storied product career culminates perfectly in her current post as Senior Director of product for health and search social impact at Google — especially when you understand her true passion.

“Like every bud and every plant grows toward its sunlight, I grow toward social impact, because this is the best way to have technology play a role to building a stronger planet and healthier people,” she says.

But she is quick to caution that you need more than passion to make this work in a product environment: “In building products for social impact, good intentions are not good enough. Make sure that you set clear metrics; that you’re really making a dent in the problem; and that you can say that this dent is significant — that it moves the needle. Because the opportunity cost is pretty high.”

Hema puts her data where her mouth is, ensuring her team validates — or invalidates — hypotheses before they move forward on products. “Invest in prototypes, do quick and dirty research without having to build the whole nine yards of the system,” she says. “Invest in user research, figure out both qualitative and quantitative ways of gaining confidence in the hypothesis.”

She relishes the process of invalidating hypotheses as much as validating them: “One of the most underused techniques in product management … is [to] celebrate an invalidated hypothesis. I think it is amazing when you actually say, ‘Thank you for not letting us go down that rabbit hole, because who knows where we would’ve gone.’ And we saved multiple years of building, maintaining a product that might actually not be strong enough.”

Get the inside scoop on how her team adjusted to tackle COVID-19, as well Hema’s advice for getting into the social impact space and creating a sense of shared purpose, on this episode of This Is Product Management.

Download the transcript


Here are some highlights:
Navigating the pandemic 
Staying people-centered
Advice for getting into the social impact space 
The importance of gratitude
Why you should celebrate invalidated hypotheses

 

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