Q&A with Anand Tharanathan

Q&A with Anand Tharanathan, MetaCX’s new Chief Product Officer!

September 11, 2020 | Written by Kolby Tallentire

Yesterday, MetaCX announced the appointment of Anand Tharanathan to the newly created role of Chief Product Officer (read the press release here). Anand joins MetaCX from Facebook where, as the head of user experience research, he led end-to-end product research for Facebook Search, Identity, News and the overall App Platform. In this role, he was responsible for bringing a user-centered perspective to the forefront, impacting product strategy for a variety of products, across conceptualization, ideation, development and launch.

To get to know Anand and his background a little bit better, we asked him a few questions. Below are his answers!

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself

Professionally, I have been in user experience for a long time, and my passion for the space only continues to grow. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to work in multiple domains including consumer tech, B2B software, oil & gas, defense, aviation and transportation. So, the range is quite broad, and as one would imagine, I’ve had my share of successes, scars, and learnings. It continues to serve my hunger to be a lifelong learner. I am also a team-first kind of leader, and I religiously abide by that principle. Leaders are trivial without their team, and it is always important to be cognizant of that.

On the personal front, I have lived in three different countries because of which, I understand and/or speak multiple languages. I think that has played an instrumental role in bringing an “empathy” lens to my thinking, and also helps me have a keen eye toward customers and their contexts. Currently, I live in the Bay Area with my wife and two kids. I am an ardent tennis fan; have been playing the sport since I was five, and most importantly, see a lot of parallels across sports and leadership. In that regard, one of the fun videos I really like is this, with Andre Agassi, where he talks about how he eventually beat the great Boris Becker. A lot to learn from!

Q: What drew you to MetaCX?

First, the strategic vision for the company, and the fact that what we are trying to achieve is not only innately powerful, but founded on acute and urgent customer problems. Considering my background, you can imagine how strongly that resonated with me. Second, the opportunity to go on this journey with Scott was very exciting to me because apart from being a great leader, he deeply cares about the customers, and believes in how impactful product experiences can transform companies. Those dimensions aligned with my passion and mindset. Third, I personally wanted my next career gig to not only be challenging and a rich learning experience, but also a space where I could bring some of my previous experiences to focus on customer-centered value creation. One of the key goals for MetaCX is to empower buyers and sellers to collaborate on outcomes, and in essence, transform the way B2B companies interact and work together. The underlying thesis of such an outcomes-based framework opens up doors for a compelling network effect on the platform! Importantly, to enable that, there is a huge opportunity to bring B2C-like experiences to the B2B space, and that was very attractive to me. I look forward to building product experiences that can empower MetaCX to get to that goal and through that process, becoming a valuable and indispensable asset for our customers.

Q: What aspects of your past experiences at Facebook and other companies help inform this specific mission?

I have been fortunate enough to work in multiple domains in my career, and there are a lot of learnings across different dimensions. And trust me, those learnings keep you humble! Without specifically naming companies, over the years, I have learned to appreciate (1) how to have razor sharp focus on customer needs (2) drive insights that are valuable and impactful not only for our customers but also for our business (3) the importance of experience-led innovation and product development (4) how to conceptualize, shape, launch and massively scale a product (5) how to focus on having the right mindset and approach to stay humble and adaptable so as to pivot most effectively to meet our goals, and finally (6) how to build a resilient team that can get us more effectively and efficiently to the goal. For the journey that MetaCX is on, I believe I can effectively bring and apply those learnings.

Q: What skill do you think matters most in a product leader?

I think a great way to contextualize this is through one of my favorite sayings: “Strategy without tactics is a daydream. Tactics without strategy is a nightmare.” Over the course of my career, I’ve seen several instances where companies, departments or product teams have stayed too strategic or too tactical, and as the saying goes, the impact is never ideal. Hence, I strongly believe that as a product leader, it is crucial to find the right balance between strategy and tactics. It is important not to lose sight of the strategic vision. At the same time, it is imperative to have a prioritized set of plans (or means to the end) that you can efficiently execute. Also, to be an impactful product leader, one has to be extremely collaborative, and a good storyteller. After all, people really pay for and remember the experience. And lastly, to be an impactful leader, you need to focus on building a resilient team, and open culture that fosters openness, transparency, innovation, confidence and encourages people to bring their best selves to work.

Q: What’s a fun fact about yourself?

When I was a teenager, I used to live in Qatar. In one of the tennis tournaments, I had the opportunity to play against the then-prince and now the King of the country. Interestingly, after that specific match (which, by the way, I did win), he invited me to play a few more times with him. I wonder how many people can say they have played tennis with the King of a country; ha! As intriguing as it sounds, it is also fascinating how sports open up opportunities for interesting moments.

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