Alright! Continuing with our series of blogs where we cover the AMAs we hold over on our Slack channel. In case you missed it we regularly host Product Managers and talk about everything #product.
We are excited to have hosted Chitrak Gangrade, Senior Product Manager, Booking.com as our guest. He shared his Learnings from building global products and finding opportunities outside of India. He has been working as a PM for 6+ years and having built his own startup, to working with large products like Flipkart Lite and Booking.com. Apart from building products, he loves to travel and backpack. From scuba diving with sharks, to hiking Everest base camp to camping underneath the stars in Siberia, he loves to share travel stories. His other passions also include personal finance and investing.
Here are some key takeaways:
There's no playbook. For me it was pure hustle. Identify the companies you want to go for, identify the type of roles you would be a fit for and then go crazy. In my experience, the difficult part is getting an interview. After that cracking the interview is as hard as cracking an interview in India. I did everything I could to reach out to the right guy.
In the end, it needs to work out once. If the probability is 0.1%, just try 1000 times.
Yeah visa issues can be difficult. I had my share of rejections in the end because of this. But that's a constraint that you can't do much about.
Your only bet is finding opportunities where you can go. One thing I used to do was send blogs which outlines how it is legal for me to get a sponsorship and share it with the Hiring manager. Sometimes HRs can be lazy and outright reject you because they don't want to put in the work. By giving the Hiring manager some ammunition, you can increase your chances.
Tips for people looking to get into PM:
Broad level reading
Tools to master
Topics to read about
Side projects are a part and parcel of anyone working in Tech. If you want to be a Product manager, you should like building products.
Most PMs are not building products. They are improving parts of an existing product. While working in a company, it's really hard to get your hands on a complete product.
Working on a product end to end exposes you to areas outside of Product - Marketing, Sales, M&A, Business, Data, Analytics, Hiring etc. Understanding how all these work will make you 10x better at your day job.
My motivation for doing Side projects: Trying to build something that a few people like and use. I don't care if it makes money or scales or grows. Just the pure joy of knowing what you created is used by other people.
And mind you, it is incredibly hard. Building something that even 10 people love is much harder than 'improving conversion by 20%' for an existing product.
There are multiple ways to do this. Whatever connects with your audience. Here are some ways I have seen people do it :
Whatever you think is the best way to showcase as well as publish your analysis/skills.
Ideas are all around you. Also, not all ideas need to involve coding.
Create an excel sheet. Create a WhatsApp group. There are infinite no code tools available. Create a course that helps people.
Create something that people find useful. Slowly you will pick up skills that will help you create even complex products.
Different in many ways and similar in many ways.
While Booking.com is a global product, so we build not just for Europe but the entire world. Micro indicators can vary a lot. For eg.
However, at the core of it user psychology, pricing, convenience, status signaling etc. which are at the core of Product management stay similar across geographies (which is what allows similar products like fb, google, booking to scale across the world)
Helpful? - Maybe
You definitely don't need to have an MBA. What you need to have are:
Both these things you can achieve without an MBA. Internet is your friend. And being on this group already shows your intent to learn.
Would highly recommend doing case studies, publishing them, building side projects, working with startups for free, taking up extra initiatives at work to signal to your potential recruiter that you have the skills needed to be a PM.
Don't do one just for the sake of it. You don't need an MBA to be a good PM. However, the network, leanings and skills you might learn in an MBA can definitely be useful in your career.
So think deeply about what value an MBA can add to your career and if its worth the time, money and energy for you to get one.
Personally for me, I believed that I already had access to the network and opportunities using the leverage of internet. I also felt that I learning on the job is much more useful and valued than anything I can learn in a class. And hence I didn't do an MBA. and till date, I haven't felt, even for a single instance, that if I had an MBA my performance would have been better.
So In summary: There's nothing wrong with doing an MBA. But be very clear as to what you are looking to gain from it and what value it adds for you. If you are clear about that, you will be able to make the most of your 2 years at B school :)
To be able to switch, you need two things:
Skills can be learnt by:
In my opinion, go and build a product, however small. And when you get stuck ask for help, google for answers. Slowly you will build your intuition as well as knowledge.
You can also signal to the recruiters that you have the necessary skillsets by:
In the end I believe it all boils down to curiosity and willingness to learn.
Are you someone who is always tinkering with things? and always picking new things to learn? Then you will be fine as a PM.
The job of a PM requires you to be put in testing and new territories with little to no knowledge of the industry. You need to have the skill to go figure it out and deliver impact. Curiosity will help you stay afloat and is the most important skill in my opinion.
A PM should be able to converse, brainstorm and communicate with the team freely. You don't need to know how to code, but you should be comfortable holding a conversation with your team and in fact be able to unblock them as well as give ideas from an outside perspective to be a good PM.
To answer this question, you need to understand what the role of a PM is and what is the expectations from them.
In my opinion, a PM (Especially early stage) should be able to do their own analysis. Hence, its important that they can run queries, play with analytics and validate their own hypothesis. The amount of SQL which allows you to validate your own hypothesis most of the time is the right amount of SQL to learn.
Same goes for tech. A PM should be able to converse, brainstorm and communicate with the team freely. You don't need to know how to code, but you should be comfortable holding a conversation with your team and in fact be able to unblock them as well as give ideas from an outside perspective to be a good PM.
Ideally an inconclusive A/B test means well inconclusive. You can't act on it. It has not created the desired impact.
The ideal approach is to either sharpen my solution or change the staging/measurement in a way that I can achieve significance. Getting a significant, conclusive result is the most accurate way of knowing what you thought was working or not.
However, in situations where you don't have enough traffic or can't run your experiments long enough due to business constraints, you should look for other signals that might point you towards what the impact is.
Look at user feedback, qualitative research and also see if it aligns with the impact your leadership wants to achieve. You can take a calculated call at the time, however you should be very careful making such decisions.
If you are very new to PM:
If you have some experience:
I got into PM by accident. While in college, my ambition was to get a Harvard MBA and hence my dream job was - a consultant in McKinsey and then go work for Sequoia. But while in college, I did a startup and unknowingly acted as the PM of my startup. While the startup didn't work out, Housing.com saw my work as a PM and hired me as an APM. And I couldn't believe that I am being paid to do something I love so much.
While Housing was building products using pure hustle and smart work, I wanted to get more structure learning around what really Product management is. Which led me to Flipkart where I had great mentors and worked on amazing products like heading the mobile website with millions of users or growth hacking the Play Store ranking from 3.9 to 4.9.
But after an incredible stint at Flipkart, It was time for me to move on. I took a break of 4 months to travel across Russia, India and SEA and then eventually ended up in Amsterdam with Booking.com
At Booking.com I worked on relaunching their entire app in react native to leading completely new business verticals. This exposed me to areas outside of Product and helped me understand what goes into building a company. Product is just a tiny part of the whole equation. It still feels like Day 1 and the more I grow, the more I realize how little I know.
I love to travel and have as many experiences as possible. While I loved absolutely everything about my job at Flipkart, I was at a point where I had to decide if I wanted to build my career in India or outside. Is being stuck near Marathalli flyover for 2 hours daily something I wanted to put up for life? Do I want to only build products for the Indian market or expand to building products that someone in Madagascar can also use?
I wanted to experience this for myself and started applying at companies exclusively outside of India. I received offers from companies like Microsoft, Grab, Carousell etc. and eventually picked up Booking.com as my place of work.
There are many ways to identify companies. First look at the products you use and would like to work at! That's always important.
Reading about the startup ecosystem. Follow what companies are coming up, raising funds etc. on TechCrunch. Look around in your network. There are always people willing to refer you in.
Just sending resumes doesn't generally work out. You need to get their attention. For me, it worked out best when I reached out personally to the hiring managers and provided value (in terms of product critique or analysis) in advance. Everyone likes to see enthusiasm and hunger. If you can showcase that, you are already half way there.
Yes. Also in my emails, I had a 4 point summary of my entire career. In most cases that summary was more than enough.
You should be able to sell your most unique skills with just 4 points. The resume is for details.
Well it depends on the company, the role and who I was reaching out to.
But in summary, keep it short. First give value to the person, then pitch yourself and then suggest next steps.
Don't waste their time and make sure the emails are always actionable.
And yes, I would always mention my nationality. No point wasting anyone's time if they are not willing to go ahead with your application because of visa and stuff.
Typically, these senior leader or hiring mangers are busy people. Even if they like you, there might be too much inertia for them. Or they might just forward the email to an HR which then would get lost in plethora of emails.
The first step to getting a job is finding where do you have a shot. Ask a question. Sound curious about their product. Send them a few suggestions about what they can do with their product. Ask them for access to their blog. Ask for mentorship or connect to someone in their team for a question.
Further the conversation. Once a conversation starts, you know that there is potential and can follow up later to further your application.
This is Sales 101. Only here you are selling yourself.
This is something that's generally taken care of by the HR and not something I had to worry about.
US was a clear no when I was applying (Trump :D) EU and SEA are hot areas right now. You can in fact even try remote now, if that aligns with your goals.
PMing is becoming super popular. Everyone wants to be a PM now. Just basic PM skills are not going to cut it for now. You need to go beyond it. Today, Great designers have a solid understanding of product and business. How are you going to stand out?
I would focus on building hard skills that bring immediate value to the team. What is that one thing that you can do the best in the world? What is that one skill which you can get into a room and say 'Yeah, I will get this done, don't worry about it'
My advice would be to build skills that allow you to commit on output metrics and not input.
Companies now care about value delivered, not effort put. Focus on value not on effort.
Yes, definitely. At this stage in your career, most people are looking for energy, willingness to learn, IQ and problem solving skills. If you can showcase that in your interviews, you would definitely be considered as a good candidate.
Again, you need to go where your users are (in this case potential recruiters). Try LinkedIn, AngelList, Twitter, Conferences etc. As I said, you need to make it work once. So hustle and find that opportunity.
People are always willing to pay it forward. They are always looking to be in touch with young guys who are hungry to get it done. Few things that come to mind which helped me find mentors:
I really like the beginner series by Freefincal if you are really just getting started.
I am presently reading 'One up on Wall street' to get started on value investing. Rich dad poor dad was one book when I was in 10th grade which changed my life and outlook towards investing so would recommend that for absolute beginners as well.
Twitter definitely works. Even more so now than before.
It's all about your subject line and content. Find what they want and show them that you can deliver it.
In the end, it's all about starting a conversation. Once they see potential in you, things will flow automatically.
Thanks everyone for having me! I hope you guys got some value out of this.
If there's any topic you'd like me to elaborate on or need further clarifications on, feel free to reach out to me. Also, if you can provide me with any feedback/thoughts on this AMA on Twitter / LinkedIn / Instagram it will really give me the confidence to do AMAs like this again in future. Happy to help!
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