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7 min read

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Published on 01/11/2024
Last updated on 02/14/2024

Outshift's VP of product, Papi Menon, on how emerging tech redefines our world



Outshift by Cisco is a diverse melting pot of talent with a plethora of expertise and foresight into what’s next and new in the technology industry. Papi Menon not only has several decades of product knowledge gained from his leadership experience at incredible companies such as HashiCorp, GitHub, MuleSoft, and Docker, but also in building emerging technologies across cloud native application security and generative AI. He brings his swagger that unites people to build businesses, tackle new markets, and encourages teams to dream bigger.

Menon is the chief product officer and vice president of product management for Outshift by Cisco, whose charter is to discover the next transformational business opportunity for Cisco by incubating emerging technologies and serving new markets and personas. At Outshift by Cisco, Menon leads the product management, design, sales, and growth functions. His team focuses on driving product adoption in cloud native application security spaces along with building new generative AI solutions for enterprise customers interested in beginning their generative AI journeys.

During our conversation, Menon and I covered a wide spectrum of topics. We discussed his perspectives on cybersecurity in 2024, the significance of product management in business strategy, and his sources of optimism for the technology industry. We're currently experiencing incredibly exciting times, and it was an absolute pleasure conversing with a visionary leader who's actively shaping our journey towards a more promising future.

Menon is no stranger to the spotlight, and his insights are sure to ignite your drive to make a positive impact on the world.

Sanders: What makes your role at Outshift different from other incubators?

Menon: It's different because we are trying to do something quite different than just incubating a technology or a business. Within any startup, the challenge when you're trying to bring a new technology to market… is trying to find that product market fit.

The additional challenge within Outshift is that we're trying to do this at Cisco, one of the most successful businesses of all time, with revenues in the tens of billions, and we're trying to incubate meaningful businesses at that scale.

Sanders: What are the barriers to entry for enterprise customers adopting cloud native application security?

Menon: Many companies are at different stages in their whole cloud native maturity. Being in the Silicon Valley bubble, we often tend to think of cloud native as something that has already happened. However, the reality is that many enterprises are still early in that journey. So, they have traditional infrastructure that they still need to secure with traditional security.

The nature of the cloud native world evolves so fast. The rate at which new technologies are launched is mindboggling. It’s a challenging job to keep track of these advances. We think of this idea for a cloud native application protection platform and the idea of securing the application life cycle end-to-end is precisely because of this heterogeneous, fragmented, and diverse environment.

Sanders: What does cybersecurity look like in 2024 and why is Outshift interested in this space?

Menon: Cybersecurity is one of those areas where the market continues to evolve and grow very rapidly. It’s a transformational space. From the perspective of how we can leverage AI in pursuit of securing our existing infrastructure or existing application lifecycle better, AI itself is going to increase the risk surface area for businesses.

Given these challenges, the product we have in the market is called Panoptica, a cloud native application protection platform. Panoptica takes a very holistic look at the application security in the cloud, from the developer building the application out through running it in the cloud and securing it with the APIs.


Sanders: How do product teams fit into the bigger picture of a company and how do they play a role in the strategy?

Menon: Finding product go-to-market fit, building the right product for the right market, and having a clear strategy on how to take that product to market is virtually crucial for any business. Product management is also a strategy to execution fit.

The role of product management is being the keeper of strategy and making sure that the execution and the strategy fit across sales-led strategy, cloud-led strategy, and engineering-led strategy.

Sanders: How crucial is it to have the ability to pivot as a product manager?

Menon: As a product manager, one of the key things is to have humility. And what I mean, by humility is, you need the courage to have a thesis, and to be opinionated about that thesis. Then, have the humility to understand when the signals are telling you that the thesis needs to be changed, or perhaps it is wrong and that something needs to be done.

You may need to pivot, change directions, and adjust your roadmap, or your strategy. You need to be super rigorous about measuring yourself and making sure you're tracking toward those success metrics as you have defined them.

Sanders: What are the skills you look for in a product manager?

Menon: The number one attribute of a product manager, is you have to be curious. You have to be endlessly curious about the potential for doing different things with technology, understanding the markets and the different routes to market, and exploring how to get there. Be endlessly curious.

Secondly, be courageous. We will never have perfect information, so you are going to have to trust your instincts. You're going to have to develop your expertise and build your knowledge to the point where you know enough about the space that you can trust your instinct.

Lastly, have the humility to change things when needed. You need to figure out quickly how to fix the things that are broken or how not to break things the next time around. You need to move fast, so you may break things, but you also need to learn from that. It's important to be to be humble.

Sanders: What keeps you hopeful about the technology industry as a whole?

Menon: I am a technologist through and through. I've seen technology have a transformational impact on the world in terms of the ability to change people's lives for the better. Technology has made the world a better, fairer, and more equitable place for people. I’m not oblivious to the risks of technology and how we have to be mindful and aware so we can solve them. Technology is a tool…with tremendous potential for humanity. I think we will figure out how to harness technology in the right way.

Check out Outshift’s latest cloud native application security offering, Panoptica.

This article is part of our series How It’s Made, featuring voices from Outshift’s product management team as they reflect on lessons learned in the field.

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