Breaking into PM

Hey! I’m Shub!

I’m a Lavalum and a sophomore here at USC, studying Computer Science and Business, and I wanted to give you a little rundown on how to break into product management! Obviously, I’m not the most qualified person to be talking to you about this, so a lot of this advice will come from people much more experienced than me, just filtered into what I think are the best bits, so let’s get right into it!

Let’s start off with a super quick, hopefully not boring rundown of what product management is:

                                                                            “InTeRsEcTiOn of TeCh aNd bUsInEsS”

Basically, you are responsible for ensuring a team ships a stellar product:

- Mini-CEO
- user advocate, focus on empathy and creating an impact for the user
- Deal with hazy instructions, build your own role
- Lead without authority, serve as a catalyst rather than a leader
- Source of info

So, what does a product manager do?

- User research. Lots of user research.
- Define product success, find pain points
- Design wireframes, talk through user flow
- Use cases, A/B tests
- Coordinate with engineering team
- Consistently use product pre-builds
- Data-based decision making
- Launching, fighting lots of fires
- Metrics / OKR’s + KPI’s

It’s a scrappy, thankless role, where you will get no credit for all the work you put in, but all the stress. And yet, people fall in love with this role because of the autonomy, passion, and impact.

What skills should I have?

- communicate
- user empathy
- data + stories
- scale, big things
- You like shark tank ;)
- Commercial tech passion

Product is never really a first internship! It’s something you get into after gaining the right experience.

A common misconception is that you need to be able to code to work in PM. However, unless you’re applying for a TPM role, this couldn’t be farther from the truth!

Decode between small, medium, and large companies

- Small: autonomy, unlikely that this is a real role, red flag
- Medium: lots of trial and error, focuses on company specifics
- Large: more generalist experience, great for learning

APM / RPM: rotate over 2 years, get experiences, lots of talent but hyper selective

- Most internships, you won’t even get to build out a feature (you only have 3 months!)
- Building product skill and familiarity with a company’s product takes time, internships are too short!

Interviews are whole new topic to tackle, but for prep:
- thepminterview.com

Apply to 20% of jobs with 80% leverage!

Final section: Experience!
- Focus on how to leverage your current EC’s to position you for this role.
- Your resume should tell a story about your path.
- Put in effort to reach recruiters.

As a final note, it all comes down to how much time and energy you want to put into recruiting, but the more focused you are and the more time you spend, the more likely you are to secure the position! Good luck!