How To Become a Product Manager in Quick Bullets
I binge-watched Alex Rechevskiy’s Youtube channel. He’s a senior product manager of growth at Google. Here’s what I learned:
Before you decide on putting your all into this career path, decide if it’s for you in the first place:
Wrong reasons to do it
- To be the (sole) decision-maker — communication and collaboration of cross-functional teams in order to align them for a common goal is required for PMs. If you want to call all the shots, be the head of your own company.
- To make perfect products — PMs focus on building well for user needs, not building a “perfect” product that no one wants. An eye for detail is fine but while prioritizing highest impact work first.
Right reasons to do it
- You enjoy working with people.
Top Skills Needed and How to Get Them to Prepare for the Role
What he’s looking for in a PM applicant/candidate
- High level of energy (necessary for all the work, even on “bad” days).
- Optimism, passion, and an excited tone to a conversation that’s mutually enjoyable.
- Succinct structured thinking and storytelling.
Pause before speaking to unravel layers of the answer before answering a question.
- Impact aimed work.
- Demonstrate learning from mistakes.
Learning from mistakes and apply those learnings moving forward.
- Desire to build useful solutions for people's problems.
Demonstrated through a previous product, app, organization, movement leadership, or hobbies.
- Delivered impact in an environment (startup or big company) matching the work environment that you’re applying for.
- Ability to explain complicated things clearly but quickly.
You’ll be engaging with stakeholders with narrow understanding. Explain a basic process, tech concept, a summary of an update in a way that they would understand.
- Ability to speak to relevant work experience.
- Ability to impress XFN (cross-functional) teams.
Top skills needed to be a PM
Collaboration skills — align varying opinions and personalities and needs on one goal.
UX design — an eye for detail, tinkering with features, getting into the details of the user’s experience.
Interest in tech — find new ways to solve old problems, innovative ways to solve new ones. Read up on tech news, the business impacts, and how the tech itself works.
Staying calm — The work is 80% ambiguity. Be able to ask why and navigate unclear territory to lead teams in an aligned direction. Everyone you work with is smart and driven; be an effective listener for everyone.
Data analysis — Make inferences from data, set up tests/experiments correctly, and analyze impact from actions.
Understand the business — having built your own company/product from scratch through monetization or MBA both help.
Empathy — put yourself in users' shoes and understand why they use or don’t use your product. Have empathy at all stages: for partners, suppliers, and for colleagues as well.
Organization — follow up with your teams for deliverables on route to meeting deadlines. If your personal organization slips, it all slips.
Prioritization — saying no with rationale. 20% of efforts result in 80% of impact.
Communication — communicate in the same language of audiences'/stakeholders’ needs.
Build your own product (not necessary to invest money on it. Just code it and get a few users). Have a business of your own to have experience with the whole process of going from ideas to execution.
While learning a lot on your journey, be able to communicate what you learn in a thought out yet clear way.
Having a tech background helps but it doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll get picked over other non-technical applicants.
Get experience via a PM internship.
Read PM books and watch YouTube videos (like Alex’s! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLT2d2_-J6Vtf_ujyW14hzw)
Making Your Own Side Hustle
First of all, passive income isn’t really passive.
List any problem (something that isn’t as enjoyable, affordable, convenient as possible) throughout your day-to-day.
Rank those problems by seriousness & rank by frequency of encountering the issue & rank by your personal interest in working on that problem’s solutions.
Invest in the top 3 ranking problems.
Within those top problems, list ideas.
Then, rank those ideas by investments, steps involved to act on them.
Invest in the top 3 ranking ideas that are most realistic to act on.
Once you’ve gathered customers, your first ten customers have to get VIP white-glove service (you’re always available to them one-on-one) because they took a risk on you. They will refer new customers if they value the product and your approach to service.
Keep reading business and tech news to identify problems and continue listing ideas.
Apply Monday to Wednesday, between 530 AM and 930 AM, so your application actually gets looked at; avoid sending information over the weekend.
After determining your top 100 companies, apply to the jobs posted most recently over older ones.
Get an internal referral so your resume will at least be looked at.
“You do have product management experience. You just don’t have the official title.” — Alex
Once you’ve gone as far as getting your resume looked at, optimize it to check the right boxes for the person reading it: education from a top school, one page in length, prioritized to match JD, measurable impact led bullets. Having experience that you launched anything (an organization that you created and lead or groups that you’ve brought together and built up).
“You’re hired to get things done, not to do things.” — Alex
Just listing tasks doesn’t demonstrate a meaningful impact. Bold those transferrable skill keywords with action verb bullets on your resume.
Ruthless prioritization is top skill of PMs. Utilize it for your resume to give the reader the information that they need to invite you in for an interview. Don’t include a summary; it probably won’t get read. Leave out filler skills.
Customize your relevant experience for JD (job description) trigger words: related companies, related skills, and/or a related field. List work in a related or the same exact role at a similar company/relevant competitor that shows you’ll be an asset on their team.
Meet those at companies that you’d like to work at (be honest, be brief, be clear). Ask those at the company what skills are key to the role in reality since the JD may not map directly onto the day-to-day.
Don’t apply until in direct contact with a hiring manager, referral, etc.
Make as many PM contacts as you can for future opportunities. It only takes one yes to get a foot in the door. That yes is important because learning on the job is the best way to understand the role, your skills, and how to grow.
“Prep for the PM interview is prep for the PM job.”
Clarify the question before answering in order to disambiguate. Take a moment to think before you dive into your response. Structure your answer after you’ve thought about it clearly. From there, get a confirmation that the interviewer knows where your response is going and start filling in examples to support the high-level answer.
The signal is the thing about you that the interviewer is trying to learn by asking the question in the first place. Identify the signal and answer with that signal as the compass. Don’t fall into the unfortunate situation of completely answering the question asked without answering the signal intended. (The first episode of Politician on Netflix gives a good example of how the candidates answered the signal intended by the question rather than only answering the question itself, in my opinion).
Use the STAR framework+learning/how you improved from there to answer behavioral questions.
Use the 5C framework to answer strategy questions.
Treat the interview as a mutually enjoyable conversation about something you enjoy (product/PM) where you’re both learning something. Show how you take lead in ambiguity while checking in with the interviewer along the way.
For questions that don’t have a standard, correct answer, go deeper/be more creative. Your answer to a question that they’ve been asking of candidates over and over again for months should stand out appropriately.
A PM is an advocate for users. You design to solve user needs in an elegant and meaningful way that keeps the user's needs at the center.
Favorite product? Likes and why, dislikes/what you’d change and why, and how you’d change it for a certain demographic and why.
Even for products that you don’t like, you should be able to answer the likes, dislikes/what you’d change, and how you’d change it for a certain demographic and why.
What makes a product fail?
What makes a product succeed?
Be familiar and well-researched on the past, present, and future products of the company you’re interviewing for. Be able to state your likes, dislikes, and how you’d change the product you pick for different demographics.
Be creative! To stand out and get picked out of the several very qualified candidates.
After You Start the Job
Congratulations! Negotiate the offer well and get promoted once you’re there since that initial package lays the foundation for the rest of your career. Once in a big company, you can switch to others more easily after you have some years proving impact at your current place.
Being a PM
Overlaps with CEO duties. CEO is the PM of the entire company while the PM is CEO of a single product/feature. However, the PM doesn’t make choices. Instead, they align everyone involved on a choice.
You own the vision while ensuring all plans and deliverables move along.
Users aren’t in the decision-making room. YOU represent them and advocate on their behalf in those rooms.
Day in the life
Plan your next day the night before to stay organized and well-prepared.
You spend your time, aligning OKRs across teams and collaborating on documents and presentations/decks. Lots of meetings with different teams and check-ins with top POCs (point of contact).
FOCUS ON SOLVING USER NEEDS
Focus on the user (experience, journey, needs, demographics) more than anything else. Although business and tech aspects are important also, the user is the center of it all!
“You don’t want to build cool shiny stuff. You want to solve problems.” — Alex.
PM vs PM vs PM
The project manager receives a plan to execute and breaks down tasks into deliverables.
The product manager determines if the plan is of value, impact, and priority in the first place. Takes on the overall product and the meaning of its success for the company goals and objectives.
The program manager drives approvals and agendas/AI (action items). The program manager is the organizational glue between project and product managers to ensure our success.
Different companies also use different names for these roles as well. One type of PM can act as another type of PM.
Track your income and expenses monthly, quarterly at worst. You should understand what an expense is just by looking at the category you logged it under.
During the ups, anticipate and save for the downs. What you do spend should be on meaningful long term impact for yourself. Utilize credit cards for the cashback benefits and get discounts AMAP (as much as possible).
Follow Alex’s journey investing in Dividend Kings (companies that have paid out dividends/profited consistently for the past 50 years).
Please keep up with Alex Rechevskiy’s content!
Thank you so much Alex for all that you teach us and the effort you put into everything that you do. I enjoyed watching your videos and seeing how they evolved over time (such as when you started to add the cool intro at the beginning of the videos or when you made a new series/playlist). I look forward to more and I’m excited for the day when I get to tell you that all of your advice helped me get my first PM role.
Thank you for reading!