Sidebench Talent Spotlight: Rhythm Mehta
Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I grew up in New Delhi, India. It was pretty dynamic, and the hustle-bustle of the city never stops.
Outside of work, what are you irrationally passionate about?
Funny question because what I am irrationally passionate about is what I chose as my career. Building products that provide value to the community is my ikigai. So, outside of work as well, I am building. These days I am working on using AI to make learning yoga more accessible.
It’s rather common that PMs have uncommon paths into the discipline. Walk us through the process that you went through to get into Product.
I have had a knack for building stuff. I discovered that I liked messing with my computer around at an early age. Curiosity kept me going, and I started self-learning coding through online resources. I would build totally random and fun projects like a website where you could browse a collection of wallpapers and once, I built a social media for my friend groups to share and watch movies and play multiplayer games. As I matured, I realized I should channel my passion into not just building cool stuff but also useful stuff. I launched a B2B SaaS product called yellowRide from scratch to rolling out to 20+ clients. With some business acumen and a technical mindset, I came to San Francisco for my undergrad degree and high exposure to the tech industry with global influence. When I started exploring career paths in my junior year, I came across the term product management. I researched and talked to industry professionals to understand more about its function and it was spot on what I wanted to do — where I could combine my business plus tech mindset. The following summer, I built another product from scratch to MVP in 10-weeks, where I got to apply learned formal product development practices and play around with newer technologies like AI/ML and Computer Vision. I am excited to graduate, and I intend to continue doing what I enjoy. I’m glad to have Sidebench as a part of my journey. All in all, I never really got “into” Product, I was already doing it and I found a place for myself in the industry.
We talk a lot about our jobs being the opportunity to imagine the future and then make it real. What vision do you have for the future and want to make real?
Not customer-centric or user-centric but human-centric technology is my optimistic vision for the future. I want technology inherently to be built to improve human lives; technology should serve humans and not the other way around. Technology is rapidly developing, and in today’s globalized world, everything is moving fast. There is one trend today and another trend tomorrow. Consumerism may run economies but leaves our humanity to chase materialism in the long term. We must not forget that humans are just another species on this planet, and this ecosystem relies on natural evolution — which has its own pace. We could move very fast, but what did we really achieve if we lost ourselves?
Not everything we do works and that’s okay. We learn from those things. What is the least successful product or project you’ve contributed to and what did you learn? (No need to mention real names if it’s an issue)
During the pandemic, when I was stuck indoors due to lockdowns, I had thought of using the science of learning techniques in computer coding education for school students. I enjoyed working on designing the curriculum, but it did not feel challenging or exciting enough to continue to do so. I wanted to bring a leap in learning methodology from a conventional classroom setting. But, I felt like I was building yet another online coding summer camp. So, I dropped the idea. But, I believe that in the future, I would love to leverage Web3 technology to achieve a disruptive leap in education methodologies through immersive and active learning experiences.
How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?” (Borrowed from Tim Ferris’ “Tribe of Mentors”)
The first startup I launched back in high school in India is one of the best learning experiences I have had so far. I founded yellowRide, a tri-application mobile platform that allowed parents to track school buses in real-time and school admins to manage their fleet. When I look back, I am glad to have applied best practices intuitively when I did not know “product management”, even as a word. I am more pleased that I made good mistakes, which taught me valuable lessons. Although the product failed to sustain profitability, that experience was a success in making me realize what keeps me going and gives me purpose. It was the feeling of satisfaction that I felt when I saw my app in my parents’ hands and received positive feedback. However, I was too optimistic and did not put enough effort into analyzing the weak aspects. Even though multiple stakeholders would express initial enthusiasm, and I was able to roll out my app with the help of hired associates to 20+ schools, it turned out that enthusiasm died within a few months. It was not a “must-have” but a “nice-to-have” product for the target audience.
What’s been the most exciting part about joining Sidebench so far?
Diverse industry exposure, especially at an early career stage, allows me to transfer my skills in building awesome products and learn how things operate in different contexts through retrospection. I can work on a project that helps patients with self-medication or a platform that provides a safe space for particularly marginalized communities. Sidebench presents me with opportunities to bring impact on this planet through my work while learning from amazing individuals around me.
We love to find people that ADD to our culture vs fit into our existing culture. What are some cultural aspects that you’ve experienced that you hope to bring with you?
I am grateful to have had a chance to explore the world by living in five countries so far (India, the US, S. Korea, the UK, Germany). I have enjoyed working with companies worldwide where I have gotten exposed to different work styles, multitudes of perspectives, and distinct people. I have observed different layers of factors play a role, for example, how sociocultural factors play in internally organizing and running the company or externally understanding the nuances of a market. We need to acknowledge the differences and approach accordingly. Hence, anywhere I go, I take my open and growth mindset.
What skill, practice, behavior, hobby or habits are you currently working on?
Organizing and streamlining tons of digital information. As the project’s scope grows, the teams get bigger, communications get sparse, and one slight miscommunication can lead to a snowball effect. I want to learn how to effectively organize aspects of a project that best meets teammates’ needs coherently at the individual, team, and managerial levels. Work culture is evolving, and as people are collaborating remotely in different corners of the world in today’s globalized world, we need tools to keep everyone aligned while ensuring smooth experience.
Bonus Question: What book, publication, or podcast have you most recommended lately and why?
The Rudest Book Ever.
This book does not teach anything but challenges you to think and engage critically with common things from an uncommon perspective. I would recommend this to someone in high school or early college years, and it would likely make them ponder the practicality of things like everyday problems or desires.