For the last 2 months, our entire team was hooked to Zomato. Every other day, different people would order different food online via Zomato. The Zomato Premier League discounts were bae! Zomato probably gained a lot many users due to their Premier League discounts.
But what does our eating habits at InsideIIM have to do with product management?
Because the thing to note is just how Zomato became a habit for us. If you ever decide to become a product manager, that is something you’ll be aiming at pretty strongly, making your users hooked onto your products!
Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Duolingo, Google search, Swiggy & Zomato - when we think of these products, we think of apps that we love, correct?! Ever wondered why these apps are so easy to use? Or what’s the backstory to various features and campaigns like Zomato’s Premier League?
What Does A Product Manager Do?
The answer lies somewhere between business strategy & product management. Basically, as a product manager, you’ll need to know about PR, media, communications, sales, consumer behaviour,etc. You’ll be the driving force behind the products and services. You’ll be doing everything from designing apps or UI/ UX planning to strategizing how tech features match business goals. You’ll be involved in designing new products, fine tuning and adapting old ones, and generally deciding what direction the product development and tech teams will take.
To put it simply, a Product Manager (PM) decides what products and software to build next and helps manage research, design, testing, and go-to-market strategy. While there are many other responsibilities of a PM, deciding what to build and in what order is the key function of a Product Manager.
Do you want to be a product manager? If yes, your typical day will involve analysing consumer data, figuring out week on week, and month on month plans for your team, and generally making sure that you reach goals and targets that match overall business goals.
How Much Does A Product Manager Earn?
A PM at an organization like Flipkart earns anywhere between 28 lakhs p.a. to 36 lakhs p.a. Depending on your experience and B-school, packages may vary. But it’s important to note that you’ll not get hired as a PM directly out of B-school. You have to work and learn on the job, as well as understand the industry you wish to serve before you become a product manager.
Product Manager - Career Progression
The career progression for a product manager can be found below:
Junior/ Associate PM:
Junior PMs are responsible for smaller scale features that contribute to the strategy of a product driven by a mid-level or senior PM. This is an entry-level product role and your first step on the PM career path. What is expected here is the fundamental understanding of product management as well as being a thirsty learner. You start demonstrating your empathy for the user, discovering your passion to identify opportunities and bringing multiple people together to work on the same goal. It’s your chance to prove how well you take all parties into account, blend and evaluate the different perspectives to eventually arrive at a clear decision.
Mid-level Product Manager
To reach this point in your career path, you’ll likely need to come in with some professional experience. Direct product management experience is not necessarily needed, but it is expected you can clearly demonstrate your communication, collaboration, and prioritization skills.
You are responsible for the entire lifecycle of a product, the go-to person for the team and the glue between developers and other team members. Understanding the value proposition of your product as well as knowledge on customer problems and needs is critical. To be a solid PM, create product initiatives that support the company’s strategy
Senior Product Manager
At this stage, you need direct product management experience and working years.
This is because you need to cultivate the ability to think independently, lead by example, effectively analyze complex, interdependent factors, and develop a sense of accountability on serious decisions. Deep product and market knowledge are required as well as the ability to step in and overcome stressful situations.
Senior PMs perform most of the same duties as a junior and mid-level PM, just with higher-impact and higher-visibility products. They are in a position to coach or directly lead other junior PMs and work closely with product leaders in the organization to execute on product strategy. While other product managers are operating more on execution level, senior PMs begin to look more at the broader product process and gradually become the voice for the product team to senior management.
Director of Product Management
A director-level role entails profound leadership experience and the ability to build and trust a team to deliver the necessary work without getting in their way. There is more focus on building better processes and optimizing existing ones, strengthening overall team performance and building consensus across the entire organization in addition to overlooking the recruitment efforts to ensure a high performing team is built.
Product Directors are often mentors for the rest of the product management team. An important part of a director’s job is to leverage the strengths of their product teams for the benefit of the company while coaching individual product managers to excel. They are the team’s advocates and ambassadors of the entire product strategy. They are responsible for bringing the necessary transparency to the team on decisions taking place at the higher levels of the business and the market.
VP of Product Management
You are significantly less involved with the hands-on activities related to the product development process. While the product team is tactical, you are mainly strategic. Responsibilities include budgeting for the product organization, ensuring strategic product decisions align with business objectives and protecting the product team from internal politics.
The VP role enables the product organization at the high level and is the intermediary from the perspective of the business, C-level stakeholders and board of directors.
Chief Product Officer
The Chief Product Officer can also be known as Chief Innovation Officer. It is an executive, responsible for all product-related activities in a corporation. You’re dealing with the entire product portfolio, ensuring that staffing resources, budget, and research is being invested in the areas that will provide the desired outcome. Typically the position reports to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The CPO can be an extension of the VP of Product or oversee multiple VPs of product rolling up to one product leader.
Note that this is not necessarily how your career will play out if you get into a product managerial role. You might have the proficiency and skill to be selected at any of these positions. Also, it’s quite possible that in many companies, there will be only 1 or 2 PMs. The hierarchies may vary.
How You Can Become A Product Manager
There are some basic steps you can take to work as a product manager.
Step 0: Work on product (or at least get as close to it as possible)
Wait, what? How can you work on product if you are not working as a PM? Well, realistically, it can often feel like you aren’t really doing “product” things if your title says something different, but there are all kinds of skills and tasks that qualify:
- Collecting feedback from users, prioritizing it based on business impact and consumer impact, and sharing the information with relevant decision makers who can make changes happen.
- Coming up with a new idea for a feature and detailing out all the things it would do, then figuring out whether it can be built.
- Analyzing data from your website / app to determine common user paths or whether certain business events had a major impact.
- Managing revenue or profit and loss lines for a specific product or service and making changes that increase revenue.
- Leading a project from start to finish that involves people from different teams coming together to build something.
Step 1: Read
Here are the things you can read while prepping for job interviews:
Cracking the PM Interview - This book is pretty basic, but gives a good sense of what common questions and exercises might be if you’re interviewing for the position of PM. If you haven’t done case interviews, this is good practice.
Stratechery - Daily newsletter covering in-depth analysis on tech, including breaking down companies’ strategic moves, mergers, why certain products fail and others don’t, and so on. This is a subscription based newsletter. But if you're really into becoming PM, very useful for you.
Ken Norton’s Bringing the Donuts Newsletter - Advice on how to actually do the product manager job well. Also includes job postings and recommended books.
Julie Zhuo’s blog and newsletter - Honest, personal stories from Julie Zhou’s career as the VP of Product Design at Facebook and lessons learned. She’s great at addressing the personal quandaries that come with being a product lead (dealing with insecurity, breaking into the industry, handling conflict, responding to rejection).
Step 2: Ask questions
Ask your friends to introduce you to anyone who’s worked as a PM or on products in general. You can even divide your acquaintances and colleagues into 2 categories:
- Ones you are not at all interested in working with but need advice from
- People whose organization you’d love to work with
You can contact these people (especially any PMs you know) and ask them career questions like:
- What do you look for when you interview PMs?
- Here’s my honest experience, what parts do you think I should highlight in my CV & interview?
- How did you get to where you are?
You will be able to develop an understanding of the “ideal” PM: analytical, technically savvy, consumer-driven, critical thinker, strategic, and able to work with many different types of people and motivate them.
Step 3: Prepare your own story and put yourself out there
After gathering the relevant information, you will be able to develop a more ideal pitch of why a company should hire you as PM, even when you do not have the relevant work experience. Basically, focus on all the PM type activities you may have worked on, even in college projects or during summer internships. For example:
- Working with PMs and engineers to build new features
- Assessing user needs, and balancing complicated stakeholder groups
- Analyzing data to make business decisions
Step 4: Interview, interview, interview
If your CV is tailored well, and the story you present well thought out, chances of you bagging that interview are pretty high. The meat of the matter lies in discerning which companies you’d like to work with and why.
Once your CV is shortlisted, and you crack any HR interviews, the real work begins. The general process would be: informal phone chat with someone who works at the company -> HR phone screen -> hiring manager phone screen -> take home exercise -> onsite, usually involving a presentation of your work, situational exercises, or both.
Any career role you are really interested in? Tell us and we’ll help you find a career pathway or share possibilities of achieving your goals.