Izma Shabbir: Product Manager at Amazon Music
Introduce yourself to us! What do you do in the industry? Where are you from?
Hello! I’m Izma Shabbir – a tech consultant turned technical product manager in the digital music space. I recently joined Amazon Music’s music licensing product team to build the latest and greatest mechanisms ensuring independent creators get paid well. I work with content acquisition, finance, accounting, podcast, and label royalties teams to understand our business strategy, and then our engineers to build a well-designed solution that automates our business’s needs. I am a proud born-and-raised Philadelphian and moved out to Los Angeles when I was in middle school. I’ve been here ever since!
How did you get your start in the industry, and how long have you been in the industry?
I began my professional career in technology consulting right after I graduated from college. My consulting experience was specialized within the technology side of the world’s major media & entertainment companies: The Walt Disney Co, NBCUniversal, Paramount Studios, and Amazon Studios. My work focused on product management, analytics, and project management for content security, music royalties, streaming, data privacy, and home entertainment marketing aspects of the film industry. I knew I wanted to transition out of consulting yet remain in the digital entertainment space. The technology side of the music industry – emergent technology meets streaming meets digital entertainment – felt like the perfect blend of my work in the entertainment industry while presenting a new challenge.
When did you know being in the business is what you wanted to do? Was there a specific moment where you were like “oh god, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”?
I am very open to new challenges and working on the most interesting questions in the industry. I kind of fell into the music world and digital entertainment space after college. Right now, it’s the most exciting challenge for me!
Is there anything you struggled with (or even still do struggle with) being in the industry?
Yes! Learning the nitty gritty and sometimes not as flashy sides of the music industry—licensing, royalties, accounting implications, currency changes—impacts the streaming service world in very major ways. As anyone reading this is probably aware of, the music industry is extremely complicated, from both business and technology perspectives. It’s a lot to learn, but really interesting and rewarding.
What is the best part of your job? Why?
The best part of my job is the exposure I get to every aspect of the streaming service industry – from the impact of the creator economy, royalty licensing deals, podcasts, technical considerations, to the nuances and changing landscape of royalties.
What is it like being one of the younger PM's at Amazon? (Congrats on that, btw!)
I am continually learning from some of the best in the industry, and it’s very been very humbling.
What is it like working in the music department at such a large company like Amazon?
It’s invigorating. The combination of Amazon’s global reach and innovative culture means we are always taking on new and exciting product launches. As a team, we simultaneously juggle macro-goals like global expansions and strategic product definition, with the impact of micro-goals like renewal deals with the major labels and price changes.
What is something about PM’s that you would want someone to know? What is something most people wouldn’t think when it comes to PM’s?
Product Management is a career that has recently become really hyped up – and, in my opinion, for good reason. It’s a strategic role, while also allowing one to dive deeply into the technical details of product development. For those that are interested in product management, it’s important to know that parts of the business that one wouldn’t necessarily associate with a traditional ‘product’ – data warehouses, system infrastructure, analytics pipelines, to name a few—have product managers behind them. When applying for roles, make sure you’re absolutely sure of what the “product” is!
Is there someone who you consider as your mentor in the industry?
My manager, Sai Sundar, is a wonderful guide and mentor. I constantly feel supported, heard, and encouraged by him and his leadership.
What advice do you have for women who want to get their start in the music industry?
Don’t be afraid to try jobs and projects that don’t necessarily align with your “dream goal.” I’ve found that there is always a valuable learning experience in the projects that you are less-than-excited about. Some of the best experience I’ve gotten is on projects that didn’t fit into my “overall goal.” I’ve learned that the goal should always be to learn more and challenge yourself. Don’t box yourself in!
Have you ever been turned down or not taken seriously because you were a female in the industry? What did you do when put into that position?
I honestly don’t think so. If I have been I’m not aware of it!
What are some of your other hobbies? What do you do in your free time (which we know can be very hard to find)?
I love to surf, cook Pakistani food, make pottery, draw, and read.
Who is your all-time favorite artist?
What is something you can't live without?
My swell water bottle and my eyelash curler.
Tea or Coffee?
Both! I love French press coffee (black, with a dash of cinnamon), and masala chai.
First concert you went to?
I saw Chris Brown, T-Pain, and Tyga (I am cringing now) at the Irivne Ampitheater as a high school freshman.
What’s something that you always have on you?
Claw hair clips and my water bottle.
What does a typical day at work look like for you? (this answer can depend on how you want to handle it. You could talk pre, during, or post covid, whatever you’re comfortable with).
I started my role during COVID, so I’ve been virtual through the entirety of my time at Amazon Music. I try to have a quiet morning -- I wake up slowly, stretch on my balcony, make breakfast and coffee, and then sit at my desk to start my day. I jump between calls discussing projects, focused writing time for product specs and strategy plans, and reading documents from my team on new products, launches, and business plans.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I hope to still be on the tech side of the music world, hopefully leading a team and building great products that help artists get paid fairly and transparently.
What do you hope to see done in the industry within the next few years?
I hope the emphasis on paying creators and independent artists living wages through streaming continues to grow.
Lastly, what saying do you live by?
Don’t be afraid of being a beginner!