“A great product manager has the brain of an engineer, the heart of a designer, and the speech of a diplomat.”
– Deep Nishar, Vice President of Product at LinkedIn
Product Managers (PM) are the heart of any company that integrates technology with their business. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Sundar Pichai were all “product managers” before what they are today. Product managers are not only responsible for paving the success of a product, but also leading a cross-functional team that is responsible for improving it. It is an important organizational role in technology companies, where the PM is responsible for setting up strategy, building a roadmap, and defining the feature of a product or product line. That seems like a lot of “power”. Maybe that is one of the reasons why an MBA student like you will be interested in this role. But, as Uncle Ben said to Spidey, “With great power, there must also come -- great responsibility.” Are you ready for this responsibility? Do you know what a product manager does? What it takes to become one? In a detailed interview with InsideIIM, an IIM B alum who bagged the Product Manager role at OYO, talks about his role, what is expected of him and his journey so far. Here is a detailed account of his experiences so far.
Disclaimer: The alum wishes to be anonymous. We apologise for the inconvenience in advance.
Interviewer: Why become a Product Manager?
Alum: Product Management is an exciting and popular career option specifically for individuals who are passionate about the technology world, love to put themselves in the shoes of the customers and are determined to drive impactful projects that shape the business. Several online material would tell you that Product Management sits in the intersection between Business, Customers and Technology and that is completely true. You get the opportunity to build tech products from scratch, draw up a vision for the product, think about how your customers are going to use it, prioritise certain features over others etc. The best part of being a Product Manager is that in most cases you can directly see how your products benefit the users you have built it for and track their performance.
Interviewer: Why did you choose OYO?
Alum: OYO is one of the fastest-growing startups today that provides an array of opportunities and a unique platform to solve problems for the entire world from right here in India. The responsibility and learnings that OYO offers is unmatched, especially for an individual who is just starting up in the product management role.
Interviewer: How did you score a Product Manager job at OYO? What is the process like?
Alum: The Interview preparation typically involves three stages for a Product Management role:
- A clear understanding of the company, the products that they have/could have, their external as well as internal customers etc. A quick Google search, lookup of the company’s platforms and talking to employees currently working in the company will immensely help here.
- An understanding of how products are built from scratch right from figuring out the objective of the product to the design/wire frame stage. There are a number of books in the market and online material that can help here. I found ‘Cracking the PM Interview’ and ‘Decode and Conquer’ to be two good materials for this preparation.
- Figuring out ways to structure your thoughts into paper. Most PM interviews require you to walk the interviewers through your thought process on a piece of paper. Structure of the argument, clarity of thought and ensuring a seamless flow from start to finish is very necessary. One might be expected to ask the interviewers for the right questions to fill the gap in the product building process. Guesstimates are generally expected as well.
Interviewer: Do you have an engineering degree?
Alum: Yes I do have an Electrical Engineering degree.
Interviewer: Did the degree help you in getting the job for the Product Manager role?
Alum: Not at all. A product manager is expected to have clarity in what he/she wants to deliver, make data-driven decisions and have the soft skills required to convince stakeholders. A major part of being a Product Manager is to say ‘No’ to different stakeholders. None of this requires the skills or expertise taught in an Engineering course.
Interviewer: According to you, what do you think were the reasons that made you crack the Interview?
Alum: Apart from the general questions regarding my background, why I wanted to join OYO and why I thought I was a good fit for a Product Management role, the Interview involved solving certain product-related case studies wherein I was required to go through the entire process of designing a product for a specific problem statement from scratch. An overall structure to the way I ended up designing the product and my justifications for various product decisions I took along the way, ensured that I cracked the Interview.
Interviewer: How did your learnings from B-School help you in the day-to-day working of the company?
Alum: The learnings from MBA helped me segment my user base clearly and understand the needs of each of these segments. Through market research, statistical analysis and consumer feedback surveys, I was able to design the product to suit the needs of the specific user segments I wanted to target.
Additionally, the soft skills acquired from the MBA course, from my peers in college and while working on several group projects on campus helped me understand how to deal with various stakeholders and ensure work gets done in a collaborative environment.
Interviewer: How easy or difficult was it for you to acclimatize to the OYO startup environment?
Alum: The startup environment is exciting and challenging, especially for those who have had a taste of the regular corporate culture previously. No one is spoon-fed as to what has to be done. Motivated individuals will own tasks, find a solution themselves and execute the task as well. It is a great opportunity to learn and it comes with having a great responsibility.
Interviewer: Tell us more about the opportunities in product management for b-school students and how one should go about creating a career in this.
Alum: Product management roles are grabbing more and more eyeballs, especially those of b-school students interested in the field. And it is a great fit for these students. Keeping an eye out for various product trends, reading product-related blogs online and discussing with fellow product management enthusiasts will go a long way in helping one become successful in a product management role. There are several firms that offer product management roles and this list keeps increasing every year. As companies become more tech-savvy and digital, product managers will be more in demand than ever. Startups are a great option for anyone looking to pursue this career.
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