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Conquering Your Product Management Interview with Overstock.com’s Vice President

This week,Ā Product School’sĀ #AskMeAnything session welcomed Overstock.com’s Vice President, Umesh Sripad!

Umesh is currently the Vice President for Overstock.com‘s Loyalty, Club O, and Finacial Service divisions. He started as Director of Product Management and before Overstock, he was the Director of Product Managment for CNN‘s Publishing division. Curious about how Product Managers have broken into and mastered their roles? Then join ourĀ Product ManagementĀ Slack CommunityĀ and ask them!

Umesh Sripad is a seasoned Digital Product Leader with decades of experience in Consumer product technologies across Media, eCommerce and other internet-based industries. He has a strong passion for building and executing strategy in order to deliver results that drive revenue and solve customer needs. Throughout his career, heā€™s always been the go-to person to solve business problems and develop creative solutions. He is a modern-day leader who believes in leading, motivating, and influencing teams through transparency, support, and accountability. He also strives to create an inclusive culture where people are challenged and proud of the work they do. Here’s are his answers to community questions in our latest #AskMeAnything session:

 

Is there a mentorship or training program for Product Management that you know of and could suggest here in the Bay Area?

Product School offers a great PM training program. They have a location in SF and I have used them in the past and def would recommend them. IMHO, I’d go to Meetups and talk to several Product Management professionals and ask them about their experience, how they work, etc.

I want to transition to Product Management but lack any real experience of how a PM works. Do you know any resources to understand this?Ā 

I am so glad to hear that there is a lot of appetite in the market for PMs. As mentioned above please go to a lot of PM Meetups, Hit PM’s up on LinkedIn and ask them for mentorship or time to chat. Read a lot of blogs – for example, Ken Norton, The Clever PM, Tyner Blain, Roman Pichler, The Product Blog.

Read loads of books about leadershipLean Start-UpĀ andĀ Hard Things About Hard ThingsĀ are good starting places.

Finally, read loads of articles about business models here – feedough.com.

Based on my recent product management interview experience, I hit a wall with questions related to pricing strategy or product strategy. Can you suggest any ways on how I can better learn and prepare myself for that?

Since IĀ don’t know the context of the interview or the organization, I’ll give you a 35k foot view answer. In a product management interview, the interviewer is pretty much looking to understand your framework of thinking and root cause solving. We know that it is impossible to build or define a strategy in 45 mins.

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I’m an Agile Project Management professional. I’ve worked on projects that delivered a service or an application with informational data to the end users. How I can position myself as a Product Owner?

This is the most frequent question I get asked. A Product Manager in a consumer based industry (as an example) needs to have his/her pulse on these 6 facets – Marketing, Commercialization/Sales, Content, UX/Design, Research/Analytics, Technology. If I’m understanding your statement, you have worked on some initiatives from a technology perspective, now you can start exploring it from all the different angles that are mentioned above.

With the influx of Product Managers and job titles, how do you differentiate your targeted talent and product specs?

When I’m hiring for a PM, I look for an individual who can demonstrate these traits (Marketing, Commercialization/Sales, Content, UX/Design, Research/Analytics, Technology). You don’t need to be a master of everything, but a good understanding of these disciplines is appreciated.

For someone looking to transition into Product Management, would developer experience be more valuable than an MBA degree?

IMHO, educational background does not matter to be a Product Manager. I have a strong technical background and don’t have an MBA. When I am looking for candidates, I don’t really look for MBA education but instead, I prefer someone who has a business head above their shoulders, can solve consumer problems and are capable of running a profitable product.

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I feel that not being tech-savvy (I’m rather biz-savvy) doesn’t work to my advantage. Do you have any recommendations on how to overcome this challenge and any positioning strategies I can use with my resume, interviews or job selection?

Great question!

  1. Clear articulation of initiatives or business issues, generally engineers get angst if the epics, user stories and acceptance criteria(s) are not well defined.
  2. Lead by Influence – In most organizations, PM’s don’t have direct reports. It is essential that we lead by influence and our deep knowledge of business, consumer, product, etc.
  3. Try not to build tech solutions – As PM’s we need to stick to what and why part of the user story, there is always temptation to get to the how part. But we need to train ourselves to stay clear. You can ask all the questions that’d lead to an answer.

Any final advice?

It has been an absolute pleasure and thank you for all the questions. I def had a lot of fun chatting with you guys. One final thought:

  1. Listen, Learn, Read a lot, go to meetups, hit people up on LinkedIn and ask for their advice.
  2. Talk to leaders in your organizations and ask them questions.
  3. Let your mind wander and be curious to know how businesses work and how consumers will respond.
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