Tech Tales: An MBA’s Seek for an Internship in Product Administration
“Congratulations! You have been selected as an intern in the product management department.”
I had finally secured an internship for a role that inspired me to graduate!
Chances are, you know what a product manager is. Just in case, here’s a quick rundown. Product management is a relatively new role in the technology industry. It is at the interface of engineering, design and business. A product manager is responsible for the success of all aspects of a product or function. You are involved in all phases of a product’s life: understanding the vulnerabilities of your target users, brainstorming solutions, monitoring the implementation of ideas and soliciting user feedback. A PM is involved in all phases of a product’s life. A PM is expected to understand the business problem, create a vision for the solution, and then translate that into operational modules that design and development teams can work on. Once the product has been shipped, the PM will also monitor user feedback to make changes to the product.
ACADEMY AND PROJECTS
When I started the Georgia Tech Scheller MBA program in Fall 2019, I made sure that the electives I chose were relevant to product management. Some of these, namely collaborative product development and innovation analysis, caught my eye in terms of teaching the skills required for product management.
Collaborative product development provided hands-on experience building a product that would meet the demands of the marketplace. As a PM, it is important to understand who the customer is and what their needs are. The class taught me that in order to create a successful product, one should always start from the customer’s weaknesses and never rush to a gut-feeling solution. Rather, you should take a methodical approach to find a solution that best suits user needs. Our team has set itself the goal of solving the problem of the lack of standardization of the money paid to social media influencers. By the end of this class, we had a clickable model of an application that fixed this problem. Recently one of the team members even brought it to life by creating a real platform!
Innovation analysis was another class that I found extremely useful. In a semester-long project, I worked with another MBA student and a law student to promote the viability of a Ph.D. analyze. Research the candidate and create a go-to-market strategy for it. Cross-functional working is an important skill for a product manager, and this course has helped me improve on that.
In order to become an authentic voice of the customer in the product development process, I wanted to learn more about the design aspects of the role. To that end, I enrolled in the MS Computer Science program with a specialization in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and became a dual degree candidate. So far it has been a challenging but fulfilling endeavor. As an MBA student, I learned the steps of a product development process, but didn’t go into detail about how to implement it. After a year in the computer science program, I can now do user research, create personas and create high-fidelity prototypes – all thanks to the HCI core class. In this class, in a team of five, I completed a project aimed at improving the lives of people with dietary restrictions. We conducted user research through literature surveys and stakeholder interviews, which provided us with a lot of quality data for analysis. With the help of affinity mapping, we discovered the recurring pain points and created personas accordingly. We then brainstormed solutions to meet the identified needs and prototyped that could be tested with end users and iterated based on their feedback.
Product managers often act as an interface between the business and technology teams. They are therefore expected to communicate the needs of both sides and develop a vision that can drive both teams. You should be aware of the latest technological developments as you build the product, but also ensure that they are aligned with the broader business strategy and are working with the resources available. As a result, recruiters look for candidates whose profile suggests such a skill. After completing several semester-long projects in both technology and business, I understand both facets and can talk about them in interviews to present my experiences in a concrete way.
PRODUCT MANAGEMENT INTERVIEW RESOURCES
In addition to class, there are a few other resources that have helped me a lot in learning about the role and preparing for PM interviews. In a product management interview, the candidate is expected to demonstrate a combination of soft skills and niche product management skills that employers assess through behavioral and product case interviews. I found Decode and Conquer by Lewis Lin and Cracking the PM Interview by Gayle McDowell extremely helpful in preparing my interviews. Lewis Lin has developed a very versatile and easy to implement framework called CIRCLES, which is an acronym for the various steps involved in designing a product. The latter book talks about the culture at various top tech companies and what their PM interviews are like. It also delves deep into the various metrics a PM aspirant should know. Both books do not require a required level of knowledge on the part of the reader and will help develop an in-depth approach to answering PM interview questions.
However, in order to internalize these frameworks and gain confidence in their application, it is essential to practice. Product managers are expected to be methodical, make rational decisions, and be clear about their vision. Practicing through mock case interviews is the most efficient way to improve the above traits. In a bogus case, two people must play the roles of interviewer and interviewee. The interviewer facilitates the case by identifying the problem and providing relevant input throughout the session. Respondents are expected to understand the problem, ask thoughtful questions, and come up with a solution. The interview is very talkative. The best way to understand how a bogus case works is to watch it. I couldn’t provide a better resource than Rocket Blocks’ YouTube channel which goes through different types of PM interview cases. If you’re having trouble finding a partner on a case, I would recommend stellarpeers.com, an online portal to connect people looking for other aspirant product manager to work with. On the website, users can easily book a time slot and specify the type of case they want to practice.
My journey into the emerging field of product management is just beginning with my summer internship, for which my enthusiasm is unparalleled. I look forward to sharing my internship history with you and giving you an insight in the near future.
Priyansh is a dual master’s MBA-MSCS candidate from Georgia Tech. He is passionate about developing technological solutions to real-world problems with a customer-centric approach. He’s a die-hard cricket fan and a foodie who enjoys talking to new people about their experiences.