The Happy Engineer Podcast

172: Master Product Management Like a Marketing Pro with Amberdeep Aurora

What direction do you want to steer your engineering career? Product Management? Marketing? Techincal sales? Well, are you at the wheel of your career? Or are you hanging out in the back seat… maybe in the trunk??

Listen and discover how to drive results beyond engineering!

In this episode, meet my good friend Amberdeep Aurora, an accomplished Product Management leader who knows how to speak geek… because he started where you did, engineering.

Amberdeep is fluent in the languages of Consumer, Business and Technology. Besides being a utility patent holder, one of his products has won recognition for being Popular Science Magazine’s 100 Greatest Innovations of 2021.

We cover the key difference between outcomes and outputs, the 3 key trade offs to a product’s success, and how to make better decisions.

You may or may not see Product Management on your career ladder, but if you want to be a STEM professional capable of success and influence outside the walls of your cubicle, this conversation is critical.

Currently a Group Product Manager at Whirlpool Corp, a Global $20B World’s Most Admired Company (ranked by Fortune, 14 years in a row), Amberdeep leads a team of product managers in improving the shopping experience across the company’s North American Portfolio of six Direct-to-Consumer eCommerce websites.

So press play and let’s chat… it’s time to stop talking about solutions and start listening to our customer’s problems!

Ready for more? Join us in a live workshop for deeper training, career coaching 1:1, and an amazing community!  HAPPY HOUR Workshop Live with Zach!


The Happy Engineer Podcast

WATCH EPISODE 172: Master Product Management Like a Marketing Pro with Amberdeep Aurora



LISTEN TO EPISODE 172: Master Product Management Like a Marketing Pro with Amberdeep Aurora

Previous Episode 171: See How Easily You Can Increase Confidence at Work


The Top 3 Principles for Successful Product Management for Engineers

In this episode of The Happy Engineer Podcast, Amberdeep and I talk about the exciting intersection of marketing and engineering!

Here are the top three insights:

1. Winning products are desirable, viable, and feasible. Finding the sweet spot where these elements intersect is key to success!.

2. Distinguish between outputs and outcomes in product development. Understanding consumer and business outcomes drives creative outputs.

3. Get clear on how to make your transition out of engineering. Consider pursuing an MBA based on personal career goals, but not from the hope it’s an automatic ticket to advancement.

To go deeper and build an action plan around these points and why all this matters, listen to this entire conversation.


Amberdeep Aurora is an accomplished Product Management leader with experiences working in the Technology, Manufacturing and Retail Sectors. He is currently a Group Product Manager at Whirlpool Corp, a Global $20B World’s Most Admired Company (as ranked by Fortune, 14 years in a row). He leads a team of product managers in improving the shopping experience across Whirlpool Corp’s North American Portfolio of six Direct-to-Consumer eCommerce websites. Amberdeep is fluent in the languages of Consumer, Business and Tech having held positions of increasing responsibility across Software Engineering, Product Marketing, P&L Management and Product Management. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from India, an MBA from the prestigious Kelley School of Business and a couple of certifications in Product Management.

He’s been recognized with two individual spot awards from the office of the CEO and his last two major product launches won the prestigious Chairman’s W Award for Product Leadership. He’s the holder of a utility patent and one of his products has won recognition for being Popular Science Magazine’s 100 Greatest Innovations of 2021.

In addition to mentoring aspiring as well as current PMs, he’s also passionate about giving back to the community at large. In 2021, he was recognized by the United Way of Southwest Michigan with the Volunteer United Service Impact award, for his work on the Whirlpool-United Way Fundraising Campaigns. Having grown up in India, he now calls St. Joseph, MI home, along with his wife, Poonam. In his spare times, he enjoys playing racket sports, music, traveling, video games and reading.



Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.

Zach White: All right. Happy engineer. Welcome back. And today with me, a good friend and an amazing leader. Umber Aurora, welcome to the happy engineer podcast, man. So good to have you here. 

[00:00:14] Amberdeep Aurora: Zach White, always a pleasure. You’ve been a friend. You are a friend. You’ve been my coach too. This is such an honor. So thank you so much for having me.

Expand to Read Full Transcript

[00:00:23] Zach White: Nobody says my name the way you do. I just, I really wasn’t planning on going here, but I really do miss walking the halls of Whirlpool Corporation and from around the corner that, deep, powerful Umber Aurora voice of Mr. White. That’s like my favorite thing. Oh, okay. 

[00:00:48] Amberdeep Aurora: I don’t know if you remember when we first met, we used to work in cooking and To me, you were always this guy because we barely knew each other.

[00:00:55] I was on the business side, you were in engineering. But you always had that eagerness and enthusiasm about you. Like even in the town halls, the first hand to go up was Zach White. When we went to the ballgame, The engineers and the business guys are all in separate groups. Guess who’s the only guy who’s going between the groups?

[00:01:13] Zach White. So you’ve always been impressive, man. So it’s easy to make that connection. 

[00:01:17] Zach White: Thank you. I appreciate that, man. I remember the baseball game, the South Bend Silverhawks. We went down and hung out at the baseball game. That was super fun. Well, okay. That’s a perfect. Place. If we go back to those early days, working in cooking, I’m in the engineering team, you’re in the marketing organization.

[00:01:38] I was eager to learn about the business and expand my capabilities. And truthfully, Umber, most of the engineers that were. Influencing me at the time, the majority really saw the marketing team as a source of pain, right? You know, they’re always changing the scope of the project. They’re, they don’t know what they’re talking about.

[00:02:00] They never listen to the engineering team on requirements or realistic deadlines. They just walk in here and tell us they know what the customer wants and, make our lives. Really difficult you know, change notices and all these things. And I had this one voice, you know, coming in from the engineers, maybe been jaded by that, or just didn’t care to know better telling me that on one ear.

[00:02:25] And then I remember meeting you you’re one of the very few people on the marketing side who was really. Interested and open to the whole conversation, like willing to listen to us on the engineering side, but really good at taking a stand for the, like, these are non negotiables. We’ve got to figure it out and we need to push harder.

[00:02:47] And it was really unique meet someone who had a different lens and kind of opened my eyes to maybe marketing’s not all just, source of pain. And so I’m actually curious, where did that. That difference begin, because I really do believe you’re unique in that regard. Not everybody has that. So, what made you that way in terms of seeing and caring about both sides?

[00:03:11] Amberdeep Aurora: think the answer is simple. The fact that I came from an engineering background. So to give a little context, my career started off. I’m one of those people who actually got to live my childhood dreams. At the age of 10, one of my dad’s friends gave us like a home computer, which this was back in the nineties where a computer was something that you used to hook into the TV.

[00:03:32] I log into this, the basic prompt comes up and I’m in love. I take a course. I decide I want to grow up, become a software engineer. And eventually I did that. Went and worked as a software developer for about four years. The reason I actually even shifted to marketing was I was a good engineer, not a great engineer.

[00:03:54] Zach White: Oh, and I realized 

[00:03:55] Amberdeep Aurora: what, what I enjoyed the most was actually connecting with the customer. We were building B2B software at the time, understanding their pain points. And almost like helping them find solutions, which sometimes meant less work for me, sometimes meant more work. But then at the end of it, I knew that the solution is going to be something which they’re going to find useful and not just another feature which I built, which sits in this corner of the software.

[00:04:21] So I almost as a marketer. In fact, it’s funny you recognize that. And I’ve heard this from other fellow engineers too. Hey, you’re one of those guys who actually listens to us. If I’m being totally truthful, I think because of my engineering background initially early on in my career, maybe I let I went a little too much to that side.

[00:04:40] Where I was listening too much to engineers and maybe not enough to the voice of the consumer and the voice of the business. Now, over the years, I’ve learned to strike the right balance. So that’s really where this came from my background of having been an engineer. 

[00:04:54] Zach White: I forgot about your years in computer and software engineering prior.

[00:05:02] I knew you had the computer engineering degree and I wasn’t really pondering that, but tell me when was the moment, if you can think back to your, your, you’re living the childhood dream, man. Engineering is, is what you wanted to do. What was it that really created the shift in the awareness? Like you, you realized one day.

[00:05:21] I’m good, but not great at this. Was it like, Hey, I’m, I’ve met someone who’s brilliant and now I see myself in comparison and I’m seeing maybe I won’t make that hurdle or was it more, had this opportunity to hang with the customer and just fell in love with it. And so I would rather do that than continue to grow or some combination.

[00:05:40] Like what, what created the shift? Do you remember? 

[00:05:44] Amberdeep Aurora: I do. I can’t narrow it down to one, but I can give you two inflection points. so number one, so just like in the U S and India, engineering degrees, a four year course. So in my fourth and final year, I take an elective in marketing management.

[00:06:00] Zach White: Interesting. And 

[00:06:01] Amberdeep Aurora: this is, I’m studying this textbook from Philip Kotler, famous professor from the Kellogg school of business. And I’m like, absolutely blown away. What does this new world that you’re talking about? The Cola wars, Ford versus Chrysler and GM. And all these marketing tactics and how you go in and understand the customer.

[00:06:20] Then again, we engineers love problem solving, but marketing, at least those case studies, a lot of them are about problems and solving those problems. I’ll bet there was different kind of problems. 

[00:06:31] Zach White: So that 

[00:06:31] Amberdeep Aurora: was step one where I said, ah, there is a world beyond engineering, which could really interest me. the second inflection point was, I still remember this.

[00:06:40] This was one of those weeks where we had a long week. And we were having going to have, we used to have a weekly call with the customer. This was, so we were building B2B software for another software firm who was then selling it to their customers. So there’s like a long chain. So we were going to have a call with our customer.

[00:07:00] And while the rest of my peer group was, Oh my goodness, we’ve got to talk to that guy again. I was like, yes, today’s the day that we get to talk to him again. Understand what his pain points are. Understand what he likes about the last version that we shipped out and what else are his unmet 

[00:07:16] Zach White: needs. And 

[00:07:17] Amberdeep Aurora: just seeing that difference in attitude where my peers wanted to just go back to their laptops as quickly as possible.

[00:07:25] Get back to coding. I was like, Oh, I get a chance to take a break from coding. Go talk to a human being, understand their pain points and actually understand what role my stuff is playing. 

[00:07:34] Zach White: Wow. I love that. It’s funny. You mentioned the elective course in marketing when I was doing my master’s in mechanical engineering at U of M go blue, the one elective course that I found that I could take that was in the business school.

[00:07:53] It was an engineering entrepreneurship. And it had this heavy marketing influenced curriculum as far as, or the syllabus had a lot of marketing content. And that was, I believe the first moment that my interest in the business was ignited. I really didn’t care as much prior to that, but that course, same thing.

[00:08:17] It planted the seed about. The bigger picture and learning the business. And I really agree with what you said that the lens of problem solving is extremely fruitful in all of these domains. It’s just a completely different skillset and maybe type of strategy or thinking, but that’s really interesting.

[00:08:36] I don’t, maybe I need to give more credit to my, engineering master’s degree to why I’m here doing what I do now, but okay, here you have this inflection, you wake up to the reality that while my childhood dream was to That DOS prompt on the TV monitor, I have the passion to be close to the consumer and to do this.

[00:08:56] And so did you leave straight for Ross to go get your MBA? Is that the first thing that brought you here or how did that begin the transition? 

[00:09:06] Amberdeep Aurora: So A, hate to disappoint you. Did not go to Ross, I went to the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. Number one, we are still friends. We’re still friends.

[00:09:18] I knew that. 

[00:09:19] Zach White: I just said, go blue. And I think I was pre I was primed. I was in the wrong head. Thank you. And by the way, I have a lot of family in Bloomington and my uncle reminds me every time I see him, Zach. You still bleed red. Okay. Okay. Uncle, 

[00:09:36] Amberdeep Aurora: still in the big 10 family and a 

[00:09:38] Zach White: fantastic MBA program.

[00:09:40] Undoubtedly. All right. Apologies. Yeah. The Kelly school of business. Was that your first, transition point then was that decision? 

[00:09:48] Amberdeep Aurora: So this took my GMAT still while I was, working as a software developer. Happen to get a good score and then interviewed, got an admin at the Kelley School of Business.

[00:09:59] Came here and then right out of business school, got a job at Whirlpool and then that’s how my transition started. 

[00:10:06] Zach White: Okay. Little side trail on MBAs. I get asked all the time by engineers, what’s my opinion about an MBA? Should I get one? And I have a lot of clients who got their MBA early in their engineering career are still in an engineering career.

[00:10:27] And now they’re a manager or a senior manager. They already had their MBA from five or 10 years ago, and now they feel like they never really got any value from it. And in many cases, don’t even use it because they’re still doing core engineering roles. What would be your perspective on when is the best time or the most highly leveraged time for an engineering bachelor’s degree profile individual who’s in an engineering career path?

[00:11:01] What’s that decision criteria in your perspective about an MBA being a true leveraged, you know, force multiplier for your career path versus, you know, just somebody sold you the idea, but it really isn’t important. What’s your perspective on that? 

[00:11:18] Amberdeep Aurora: Yeah, I’ll answer this question from the perspective of anybody wanting to get an MBA, not just an engineer.

[00:11:24] Uh, and maybe then we could hone in on what does that mean for engineers? The most important thing to ask yourself is why do you want to get the MBA? Okay. What are you looking to get out of it? And for me, that was my ticket to switch careers. I went from engineering to marketing. 

[00:11:43] Zach White: Yeah. 

[00:11:43] Amberdeep Aurora: I switched countries. I went from living in India to living in the U S and then I also switched industries. I went from technology to manufacturing and consumer goods. And to me, those two years that I invested, right. The money I invested, the time I invested, the returns that I got.

[00:12:02] Now, financially, by the way, there are some of my friends who’ve stayed in software and software back then was booming, but the way it’s boomed in the last 10 years, nothing like that. Some of them I can tell you today, financially, they even look back, Hey, are you happy you went for the MBA? Look at how much more money I’m making.

[00:12:17] I’m like, great for you, man. But to me, the reason for getting the MBA was not just about money. I truly wanted to switch careers. I also wanted to switch my countries and get this diverse experience. And I managed to get all of that, managed to make decent money too. But to me, the money was a bonus. So for me, MBA, full marks, loved it.

[00:12:41] I think if your question was about for an engineer who plans to stay in engineering, is the MBA useful? Again, the question there would be, is that, are you seeking the MBA to get a better understanding of the business? Are you seeking the MBA to test? Hey, actually is a career besides engineering good for me, like in marketing or in finance?

[00:13:06] And then once you’re clear on that question, then you could ask yourself, are there cheaper and faster alternatives, which could help me answer that question. In some cases, depending on the question, the answer would be yes. In other cases, it would be, no, I have to get the MBA. 

[00:13:20] Zach White: Yeah. 

[00:13:20] Amberdeep Aurora: And then the next question, the final question for you should be, do I go for full time versus part time?

[00:13:25] And if that’s of interest, we could go there next. 

[00:13:27] Zach White: Yeah. I don’t think we need to unpack those nitty gritties, but I really like the lens you just put on that. I feel like we don’t typically have a good answer. And here’s what I’ve seen the most. You tell me if you agree with this number, an engineer gets a couple of promotions, maybe they make it to engineering manager even, and then they get stuck in a decade into that engineering management career.

[00:13:51] They feel like they just can’t get to senior manager, leading leaders or director or executive roles. And they see the MBA as the rubber stamp they need to break through that. Glass ceiling. And so they’ll go get one or even sooner in their career. I’ve seen engineers who are maybe IC plus, and they’re not getting that management role.

[00:14:12] And they feel like they’re stuck in the catch 22 of that because they’re not, they don’t have any experience leading people, so they can’t change companies and get a manager role elsewhere. Their current company isn’t promoting them. They feel trapped and they see an MBA as a way into management, or they’ll do like an engineering management type of masters, you know, something like this.

[00:14:31] What I’ve noticed is, it’s like a default. Well, I can always just go get an MBA and that will help me break through. And I honestly see a lot of people just projecting all of their barriers and shortcomings and things that are not working in their career onto this imaginary gap of, I don’t have an MBA.

[00:14:51] And if I just go get that, they’re all going to be solved. And then they come out of their MBA and guess what? You know, some things, but you’re still the same person with the same leadership profile and you haven’t changed any of your behaviors at work. And then they get frustrated why their company doesn’t just make them directors.

[00:15:07] And it’s like, you know, I think Their lens on it is incorrect. So that to me is a real failure mode of the system or the mindset about an MBA is just this automatic accelerant to moving up the ladder. And I don’t see it that way. there’s too many people who could tell you I’ve got my MBA and it never did anything for me in terms of moving up the ladder.

[00:15:29] So shameless plug about the opposite side. If you don’t know the answer to why, don’t just go get it. it’s not an automatic ticket, but would you agree with that? Or is there any counterpoint you would, would make to that statement? 

[00:15:42] Amberdeep Aurora: No, I’d fully agree with that. In fact, some of the best leaders that I’ve worked with in engineering.

[00:15:47] They don’t have an MBA. In fact, you’re one of the best leaders I worked with at engineering. I don’t think you have an MBA. 

[00:15:52] Zach White: No MBA, no MBA. There’s a big blank on the MBA bucket. 

[00:15:56] Amberdeep Aurora: But, but I could tell you in talking to you and the way you approach those problems, The mindset that you came with, you managed to cultivate that mindset even without the MBA.

[00:16:06] There’s a few other engineering leaders that I’ve worked with who will ask all the right questions. I’ll give you an example of an engineer who I’ve worked with. This guy was so passionate because, you know, he used to get that standard answer from the business. Oh, that’s because this is going to make us money.

[00:16:21] And he said, okay, show me the business case. Well, you want to understand. That’s okay. I’d like to study it. He would go into the business case, question each assumption and build out his own version of the business case all without having an MBA. Again, yes. So I think to answer your question, sometimes an MBA is seen as a crutch, so it can be the right answer, but always start with the right question.

[00:16:49] Zach White: Marketing and engineering, how they relate, how they communicate. let’s sit on this. Cause I said right at the beginning, you’re the best I’ve ever worked with on that side to, to communicate together. So. What have you learned through product marketing, brand marketing, sales, e commerce, product management, which is an area you are now really building mastery and in your current team, if you were going to highlight what makes it work between the marketing teams and this business lens, the commercial side versus engineering and technology and a product development lens, what are the keys that you’ve discovered?

[00:17:30] Amberdeep Aurora: The number one key, and this goes for both parties, right? Marketing and engineering is to recognize that a wedding product is an intersection of three things coming together. The product’s got to be desirable, which means consumers have to want it. And it’s got to solve a problem for them in their nights.

[00:17:51] It’s got to be viable, which means it’s got to make money for the business and give it at the appropriate financial returns. And it’s going to be feasible. Which means that’s something that we can actually build and not just build because the you know, all my engineering friends love to joke. Hey, can you do this?

[00:18:09] Uh with enough time and enough money anything’s possible anything 

[00:18:13] Zach White: It depends 

[00:18:15] Amberdeep Aurora: It depends But is it feasible with the capabilities that we have today? And in the timelines that we need to hit it and where I’ve often seen these tensions come is where you look at the product from just one lens and not the other lenses and to be the best teams which come together where the collaboration happens, where the magic happens, where great products are created, where there has been some tension.

[00:18:42] There’s been a little bit of a debate, but it’s all been constructive in the spirit of finding what’s that right combination, which brings together desirability, viability, and feasibility.

[00:18:53] Zach White: Have you been tasked to find that intersection and ultimately there wasn’t one? You just said, in spite of our best effort with what we know, there is no overlap. Like that Venn diagram does not intersect. Is that something you’ve experienced? 

[00:19:15] Amberdeep Aurora: It happens. It happens both at the macro level, when you’re conceptualizing the product, you know, those big decisions, do we go for bigger capacity?

[00:19:25] Do we go for this new innovation? do we integrate AI into our product? But then also at the micro level, do I really need this polished screw? Do the curves really need to be that smooth? Do I really have to hear the click of the knob? And oftentimes, Thanks. There won’t be an answer, which actually ticks the boxes for all three.

[00:19:49] This is where I even go back to, you know, the mistake I made early on. It’s, I think the happy engineers in your podcast may not be so happy after this, after I make the statement. The default, the easiest thing to default to is the feasibility lens. Hey, it’s not possible. It’s not been done before.

[00:20:09] It’s an unreasonable ask. Unfair, by the way, like I said, I’ve been an engineer, so I know when unreasonable demands come through. But to me, the order in which I found to actually make those trade offs that start with the consumer always, then what’s right for the business. And then can we build it as opposed to can we build it?

[00:20:31] Can we make money or does anybody actually care? That’s the absolute wrong order. I will go further and say though, okay, the next question would be, what if I do get an unreasonable demand? In that case, then I think it’s the job of the engineer to get to the why behind the ask, where is this truly coming from and help find an alternative solution, which still helps solve the consumer’s needs, which can still help deliver the business’s goals.

[00:21:00] But now is a lot more feasible than the original ask.

[00:21:07] Zach White: What I love about this, because I’m guilty, I appreciated the compliments earlier on, but I am very guilty of starting on the feasibility lens. And in many ways, our engineering training somewhat creates that. little engineering mindset robots that all think this way, which, which I know it’s not intended to every university does their best to include, voice of the consumer in our coursework, et cetera.

[00:21:31] But at the end of the day, we spend our entire life focusing on why things can break the failure mode and effect analysis, what are the boundary conditions, all of the things that can go wrong and risk assessment. And we live in the world of why won’t it work more often than we live in the world of.

[00:21:49] Well, how could we make it work? And so it’s, it’s tough. It’s tough to break that mindset and that default setting. And a lot of times the pressure from the powers that be makes it difficult or Even further unreasonable in our engineering mind that, well, even if I could solve your unreasonable demand, you want it by next Friday and how in the world, like, yeah, I still have three other projects I got to work on between now and next Friday.

[00:22:18] And so we run into these real world constraints of time and energy and resources and these things. But what I’m curious about, if I’m an engineer. And I get that unreasonable demand and I hear you, I’m like, I really want to take your advice. I really do. I’m going to, I’m going to go, I’ve got to go deeper.

[00:22:37] I want to figure out the actual why behind the ask and see if there’s a side road or another path. Is that really my job? That’s the question I hear all the time. Like, is that even my job? I hear you that that’s what I should do, but that’s going to require all this extra effort and all these things. If I do all that and I don’t solve it or I do all that and I do, I don’t even get really rewarded for that.

[00:23:05] Is that really my, my job to go do that? And we run into these siloed type of thought patterns or the frustration of like, is that worth it? I’m just curious to like, purely from your, your lens, if somebody was bumping up against that. What’s your heart for that? What would you say you know, in terms of your own experience or what would be helpful to maybe reframe that paradigm of like, why would I go to all that trouble to just help the marketing guy?

[00:23:33] Amberdeep Aurora: By the way, all of these statements that I make context matters, right. You could have the most unreasonable team ever, where even if you want to collaborate. In that case, I feel sorry for you. More often than not, right? More often than not though, each of us is just trying to do our best possible.

[00:23:51] And sure, we have our selfish motives at hand, but a lot of us really want to make the best product possible, whether on the marketing side or the engineering side or in finance, make the best product possible for our consumers and deliver the best results for the business. So the question then, if that’s what we’re trying to do for the engineer would be, What are you trying to achieve?

[00:24:14] If you’re trying to do just the best job possible in your current job, I would fully agree with you. That’s not your job. Yeah. And your job is take the ask and go figure out how you’re going to deliver ask. And the guys who does it the fastest, the quickest, most efficiently at the end of the year, you’re going to get reward.

[00:24:35] But that’s where a promotion is different than doing a job. Promotion is. You’re ready to do another job, which you don’t yet have. And especially in engineering, that’s where that I’ve seen the senior managers, the directors. It’s not just about the delivery. It’s about partnership with the business. 

[00:24:57] Zach White: Help 

[00:24:58] Amberdeep Aurora: me understand your goals so I can help you deliver the right solution.

[00:25:03] Oh, and by the way, I understand you may not be making the right task, but that’s okay, I’m going to help you figure out what the right task is, which works for you and works for me. 

[00:25:12] Zach White: What a powerful distinction. Promotion is different from just doing the job well. Oof. You, you, um, have a passion around this distinction between outcomes and outputs.

[00:25:27] And I’m wondering if that’s related to this tangentially or maybe spot on. Can you tell us how you think or define those two words differently? An outcome versus output. 

[00:25:40] Amberdeep Aurora: Yeah, yeah, for sure. This is something which I’m really passionate about. And by the way, it’s not something which I’ve always followed.

[00:25:49] An outcome is something that you’re trying to achieve at the end of the day, either for the consumer or the business. So for the consumer, usually it’s either a change in behavior or change in their satisfaction. And for the business, it’s either market share growing the results.

[00:26:08] The output is. The thing that you actually build. So for example, we are building the next generation laundry product. You and I worked in laundry. So let’s pick on laundry. The output would be we’ve created this next generation laundry product by December of 2024. The outcome that we’re trying to drive is this laundry product greatly simplifies laundry.

[00:26:38] And instead of taking three hours, you just spend an hour a week. So you’ve saved two hours for the consumer. The outcome could be by launching this product, I gained 10 points of market share. And ultimately, by the way, they’re both important, right? Outcome is what you ultimately get. I almost think of this like a hierarchy and a pyramid where outcomes sit at the very top outputs are the middle layer and then activities.

[00:27:06] Zach White: So 

[00:27:08] Amberdeep Aurora: writing the engineering, doing the FMEA analysis, that’s an activity which leads to the output of a stable quality. laundry product, which then leads to the outcome of us having delivered 10 points market share gain. But starting with understanding what are the outcomes you’re trying to drive, you can then start to be creative in terms of what are the outputs which can get you there.

[00:27:36] Sometimes there’s a fraction of the effort and a fraction of the cost. It is also motivating to work on the outputs once you understand the outcomes you’re going after. And that means you even come down to the lowest tier of the activity. Keeping in mind, what’s the output that the supports and the outcome.

[00:27:53] Zach White: Not 

[00:27:53] Amberdeep Aurora: only is that energizing, it is also such a great prioritization lens. When for that engineer who’s listening to this podcast has a never ending to do list. 

[00:28:03] Zach White: Benefit of using that hierarchy in thinking around prioritization for the engineering mind is when you look at this and ask, Then, therefore, what are the activities? That if I do them, makes failure at the outcome unreasonable. It’s like, if I know what activities will drive that outcome, and I can say confidently, look, barring a tornado hitting the factory, or some un reasonable plannable or improbable activity or outcome happening.

[00:28:47] If these things happen, we’re going to get that result. A lot of times we don’t really put that lens on it. We just start doing the activities that are laid out before us, or we follow the same process and path we always have, or we grab the design guide and just grip it and rip it. But. If you start with that top level question and say, well, what then is the outcome that matters?

[00:29:12] What output must we create to deliver that? And therefore what activities would make failure unreasonable? It’s like, if we do these things and deliver and execute on them, well, we will succeed, within what’s within our control, that’s a really powerful framework to me to build. Just feel confident in what I’m doing every day.

[00:29:33] And yeah, 

[00:29:34] Amberdeep Aurora: yeah. 

[00:29:35] Zach White: at some level, you 

[00:29:36] Amberdeep Aurora: put that so well, Zach, when we, I would 

[00:29:38] Zach White: say this, go ahead, please. No, 

[00:29:42] Amberdeep Aurora: I was going to say there’s another benefit to this whole thinking and this mindset, this pyramid thinking is oftentimes as engineers, we are faced with trade off decisions and the easiest thing to do.

[00:29:54] I mean, the easiest thing to do is just ignore the trade off and make the easiest decision. Don’t even think about the trade off. Well, We’re going to take a step higher. The proactive engineer thinks, Oh, no, I’m going to actually collaborate with my marketing lead, my product development lead, go and ask him what trade off would he like me to make?

[00:30:16] But again, if you want to have the highest value, if you have understood the outcomes and outputs you’re going after, you can then go in with a recommendation. Hey, here’s a trade off that we have one, by the way, because I understand your goals. Here’s what I think we should do. Do you agree or not? And that’s such, a productive conversation.

[00:30:33] And it also shows your proactiveness as opposed to just tossing the question over the fence. 

[00:30:37] Zach White: When it comes to decision making, the tendency to just want to look at data. And, you know, only think that way as an engineer versus considering some of the more intangible aspects of a decision. I think a lot of engineers would then say, well, marketing is very irrational.

[00:30:59] It’s they’re very emotional. They just think about these fluffy things. They don’t care about data and facts. What would you say is the distinction in decision making paradigms between rational and irrational decision making? And how does that play out? In the business.

[00:31:18] Amberdeep Aurora: This distinction is so important. And to me, this is where you truly go from being good to great, whether as an engineer or as a marketer, especially so for consumer products, because consumers, let’s start with this, right? Repeat after me. Consumers are irrational. 

[00:31:38] Zach White: Consumers are irrational. 

[00:31:42] Amberdeep Aurora: I’ll again, go back to a product that you and I have both worked on laundry.

[00:31:46] The rational factors. What would you look for rationally in a laundry product? A washer, you tell me, Zach, what would you look for very rationally as a consumer? 

[00:31:57] Zach White: cleans my clothes, gets the job done. That makes sense. Rationally. Maybe it’s fast. Like can get the cycle time down to the minimum and still clean.

[00:32:07] So I can save my total time in the laundry process capacity. I want to fit. More clothes in it so I can do fewer loads. I don’t know. Those seem reasonable. 

[00:32:20] Amberdeep Aurora: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And yet, in spite of that, as a shopper, go to your local Lowe’s, Best Buy, or your local ABC Appliance, whatever you have in your town, and go and see how shoppers actually shop.

[00:32:32] The first thing that they do when they walk up to the product, Is to open the lid and to touch the knob. They are opening the lid and they’re touching the knob even though none of those things Really have an impact on how well it washes how big it is or how fast it is Because those things matter. It conveys durability.

[00:32:53] It conveys quality and going back to the example of cars, right? The auto industry I think has done this a little better than the appliance industry Where when you have a really solid car and it’s built well, you hear that thud when you close the door You That’s the same thing that shoppers are looking for when they go in and they feel the knob.

[00:33:12] So based on this, one of the first products which I launched, we didn’t pay attention to any of these factors. When I finally learned this, I said, okay, this is such a fundamental learning for me, but my engineering counterparts aren’t going to get it. We did shopper walk alongs. We actually brought in other folks from the business and then asked them just to interact with the product and give us feedback.

[00:33:35] And then these guys could see firsthand the same irrational factors that people look for. When, by the way, because of this, we’ve actually made delays to project so that we could get the click off the knob, right? 

[00:33:46] Zach White: Wow. So 

[00:33:47] Amberdeep Aurora: that we could get the flex off the lid, right? And those factors, you know, it’s really hard to quantify, but ultimately I strongly know and believe and the anecdotal feedback I’ve got those factors played and equally, if not bigger factor and making those greater products successfully.

[00:34:04] Zach White: I think you’re right. And even the engineer in me this moment, I feel it kind of rebelling against saying that, but there’s so much truth there. Umber, all of these pieces. At some level come together. And if someone wants to be brilliant in the product management space, which lots of engineers do want to move that direction, I hope, you know, they’re taking really detailed notes because these, these are super skilled and we’re gonna have to come back and go again.

[00:34:33] And really unpack what you’ve learned in these last couple of years, because we haven’t even gotten into the, the modern day, like the number of right now, there’s so much more we could talk about, but I know people are going to want time or an opportunity just to connect with you, follow your career, maybe ask you questions and get mentorship from you as an amazing leader.

[00:34:51] If somebody’s interested in doing that, what would be the best way to connect with you? 

[00:34:57] Amberdeep Aurora: Yeah, the best way is LinkedIn. Uh, you can go, I’m sure you’ll share my profile, Zach. the only warning with LinkedIn is there’s so much junk mail that you get. So if you do reach out through a message, please. I’m either a friend of Zach or a listener of Zach’s podcast, then I’d make sure I respond.

[00:35:15] Zach White: Amazing. Happy engineer. We will put Umber’s LinkedIn URL in the show notes. Go make that connection. of course I’m biased, but you’re not going to find a better product, management, product marketer and engineering at heart leader in the space. So go do that. Umber, thanks for making time today. And we always end.

[00:35:39] In the spirit of questions, because as and we share the whirlpool history where we talked in OpEx about questions lead and answers follow. All of us are seeking better answers in life, better answers in our career, better answers in this mix between marketing and engineering. What would be then for you a more powerful or a better question for life that you would leave the happy engineer with today?

[00:36:09] Hmm.

[00:36:14] Amberdeep Aurora: You know, Zach, we were talking about the sabbatical that I just took two months ago. I was very fortunate. Whirlpool has a new policy where they allow you to take some time off. So this is very fresh and recent, but I was thinking again for myself, what could I do to elevate my own performance? So something which I have found through some of that self reflection during those four weeks I can share.

[00:36:35] And the question which I’m now constantly asking myself is, How can I be of better service to those around me? And those around me could include, my team that I manage. It also includes my boss. It includes the engineers that I work with. It includes the executive team, which may sometimes bypass my boss and come up to me with unreasonable requests.

[00:37:01] It also includes my friends. And then my wife, I think that one question can almost change your mindset where it’s, you take that focus away from yourself. You’re focused on the other person and you’re truly focused in the matter where you can actually add value to the relationship and to that person.

[00:37:19] And in effect, if all of us start to do that, I mean, I’m going to sound philosophical now. The world’s going to be such a better place to live in. 

[00:37:27] Zach White: Yeah. Amen. What I love about that too, when you get into the heart of service, the mission to serve becomes clear. As you pursue the answer to this question, and when the mission to serve is clear, then the power of fear in your life goes away.

[00:37:47] You can do anything when the mission to serve is clear and powerful enough. And, and fear has no place in the heart of service. Uh, because it’s rooted in love, it’s rooted in selflessness. And when we’re selfish, a lot of times that’s where we fall into. Some of those traps of fear. Such a powerful question.

[00:38:05] Umber, thank you for that. 

[00:38:07] Amberdeep Aurora: That is so true, Zach. 

[00:38:08] Zach White: It’s been tremendous. We’ll do it again sometime. Blessings to you and your continued growth and success. Umber, thank you so much again for making time today. 

[00:38:16] Amberdeep Aurora: Thank you so much, Zach. It’s been an absolute pleasure.