Employee Airtime: We sit down with Senior Product Manager, Amateur Race Car Driver and Travel Enthusiast Sumukh Rudrapatna

5 minutes
Employee Airtime: We sit down with Senior Product Manager, Amateur Race Car Driver and Travel Enthusiast Sumukh Rudrapatna

Get to know Senior Product Manager Sumukh Rudrapatna, based in Melbourne.

Explain what a Senior Product Manager does in four sentences or less. 
  1. Figure out what the customer wants (but not necessarily directly cater)

  2. Understand what the business wants (but not necessarily directly cater)

  3. Optimise 1 & 2 and decide what to build and why

  4. Convert into a product design to iterate, develop and release with the cross functional teams

You tutored university students for a number of years. What lessons (if any) did you take from the experience into your career? 

Learn how to learn

In my initial semesters at University before I became a tutor, I took a very brute force approach to learning. I’d basically rote learn all my course notes, praying that the lecturer would be lazy and the exam didn’t differ too much (unfortunately it always did). 

After I started tutoring, I realised that a back-to-first principles approach, which entails breaking down problems into their fundamental/core constituents, was often the best way to learn, teach and apply the content. If you only learn how to perfect the execution of individual tasks, then the ability to adapt when even something slight changes is very difficult. However if the core principles behind these tasks are understood, it's significantly easier to carry over the knowledge to a wider range of scenarios.

 If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough

I stole this saying from the great Albert Einstein. This quote also ties into the previous point around ‘learning how to learn’ — it really hit home for me after I started teaching. 

When I started tutoring, I struggled to be articulate in my presentation to students and tended to overcomplicate topics. I realised that I was trying to simply teach the course material rather than the concepts that underpin them. This lesson also applies in the workplace. Communicating complex ideas in a simple way that focuses on the ‘Why’ is a method I've found to be particularly effective in bringing everyone along on the journey. If you aren’t able to get buy-in from your peers and the wider business, your idea/solution will never get off the ground.

We hear you collect sayings and change them frequently – what are your current favourite expressions?  

‘Is the juice worth the squeeze?’: Just because we can build something, doesn’t mean we should. As product managers, our job is to figure out what we need to build, how it will achieve the goals for the customer and the business, and whether the effort/cost involved is worth it.

‘Measure twice, cut once’: I especially use this in the context of technical debt discussions. As Airwallex continues to accelerate its scale, we’re very conscious about any shortcuts we take to get products to market, as the reversal costs are increasingly high with our scale. Raising our line of sight allows us to be acutely aware of the tradeoffs we're making.

What are your top places to travel to and why? 

I look for three things when I travel—nature, adventure and culture.

For nature, my favourite country that I’ve visited is Iceland as it has some of the most unique and diverse landscapes I've ever seen. 

For adventure, it's Japan for the wide range of unique activities that you can do—my favourite being driving a go-kart on the streets of Tokyo dressed as Mr Potato Head.

Finally for culture, it's India. Pre-pandemic, I frequently travelled to India to see a large portion of my extended family (I have 36 first cousins!). Visiting India provides an opportunity to spend time with them and get in touch with my roots (and as a result, I wind up eating non-stop and gaining a lot of weight after!).

Is getting into a race car your favourite way to unwind? Really?

From a very young age, I've always had a fascination for anything that moves fast (maybe that’s why I enjoy working at Airwallex!). My biggest interest lies in Motorsport as it has always been a childhood dream of mine to be a racing driver. 

Motorsport can be quite prohibitive to get into. Other than occasional social go-karting, this remained just a dream for a long time. My breakthrough came late last year, when I saw an opening in a Formula Vee race team (a popular, entry level category) in Victoria called ‘Akurra Motorsport’ and decided to give it a go. I did a test with them and managed to secure a seat to compete in the 2022 Victorian State Series Championship.

Racing requires a high level of concentration, so when I’m driving, my mind is completely clear. I am thinking about nothing but the task at hand, something that I often struggle with on a day-to-day basis. While racing isn’t the most relaxing sport, in a weird way it's my way to get away from it all.

You’ve just started at Airwallex in the product team. Who are the top three people you must introduce yourself to and why? 
  1. Jack Zhang, our CEO and co-founder: To understand the vision and what we want Airwallex to become.

  2. Shannon Scott, our Global Head of Product: To understand how we will achieve the vision through our product.

  3. Anyone in a customer facing role related to your product: To put yourself in the customer's shoes, understand their pain points and use it as the frame of reference for your work.

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