The Lead Product Manager for Robotics and Advanced Automation

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Spotlight on Hidden Physicists

The Lead Product Manager for Robotics and Advanced Automation


Anish Chakrabarti, Honeywell International


Anish Chakrabarti.

Being a product manager is an incredible job; I love it. I work in the Robotics and Advanced Automation Division at Honeywell International. I’ve been at Honeywell for about nine years, in different roles. 

I graduated from a dual-degree program with bachelor's degrees in physics and math from Drury University and a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Washington University in St. Louis. During my engineering program, I realized that I liked systems engineering—things like coding control systems—more than electrical engineering. So after graduating I found a job in that area with Intelligrated, a company eventually bought by Honeywell.

Intelligrated focused on conveyors and conveyor systems—software, hardware, and electronics for materials handling in warehousing and distribution centers. When Amazon introduced two-day shipping, it needed lots of back-end infrastructure to support their distribution centers and deliveries. There was a huge boom in the materials-handling industry and conveyor technology. Walmart, Target, and other companies realized that they had to compete. COVID-19 then led to a huge increase in online shopping.

I joined Intelligrated in 2015 as a tech support engineer. Our customers were retail businesses and brands, such as Target and PepsiCo, with distribution networks. They would call in with product issues that I’d solve by looking at drawings, upgrading software, or recalibrating instruments.

After about two years, I was recruited into the project engineering group. That meant going to sites to install, commission, and calibrate products. I worked my way up and led the Amazon team for a while, then took some time off to earn an MBA with the goal of going into product management. After graduation I was rehired by Honeywell and transitioned to being a project manager.

Today, I manage Honeywell's robotics products, which includes autonomous robots that run around distribution centers (kind of like Roomba vacuum cleaners) carrying pallets or racks of product; robotic arms that move products around; and a loader–unloader that goes into a trailer, picks up a product, and sets it on an attached conveyor. The robots are driven by artificial intelligence because they need to recognize obstacles, products, and how products are oriented.

A big part of my job is building the division roadmap. That means answering questions like, What should we build next? What problems do customers have that are worth solving with a robot? What is the market for that kind of solution? What capabilities would the robot need to have? Should we build it in-house, build it with a partner, or buy it from somewhere? What percentage of the market could we hit, and could we deliver on our revenue targets? If an idea makes it this far, I take it to the engineering team and manage the project from development to market. 

Because of my physics and research training, I’m comfortable with critical thinking, putting a plan together, and unknowns—which are all important to successful product management. The job involves reading reports, getting a sense of what's out there, making intelligent guesses, and critical thinking. That’s Physics 101. My engineering knowledge gives me a sense of technology and what it would take to bring a technology to market, and my business training helps me with soft skills like leadership and working with people in areas from finance to engineering.

The cool thing about product management is that the journey is pretty much the same regardless of the product. As a 2011 SPS summer intern, I wrote a guide to help SPS chapters hold science café outreach events. I made a plan, figured out where to hold a prototype event, assessed interest, secured a speaker, held the event, evaluated the outcome, and shared it with others. I basically launched a science café product. Now I’m solving different problems with different products, customers, and margins, but the getting-to-market phase is more or less the same!  

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