The Product Management Blog

Tips and Free Resources to become a Great Product Manager

Software Engineer Turned Product Manager with Cylance PM

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This week, Product School’s #AskMeAnything session welcomed Cylance Product Manager, Harsha Parbat!

Harsha is a Software Engineer turned Product Manager. She started her career in Software Engineering and found that her wide range of skills were a perfect fit for a career in product. Now she’s owning her Product Manager role at Cylance and is excited to give back to the product community! Curious about how Product Managers have broken into and mastered their roles? Then join our Product Management Slack Community and ask them!

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Harsha Parbat has a Bachelor in Engineering from Vishwakarma Institute of Technology and a Master of Science, Computer Engineering, from California State University. With over 7+ years working in Software Engineering, Harsha has a serious understanding of how to develop products. With this knowledge, she decided to embark on the Product Management journey and dive into the many facets that make up the ever-evolving career of a Product Manager. Here’s what she had to say about her experiences!

Software Engineer Turned Product Manager

Can you tell us about your transition from Software Engineer to Product Manager? Are you a Technical Product Manager?

I always enjoyed understanding and solving problems. I always enjoyed talking to customers and building products. I didn’t enjoy just coding and implementation but instead, wanted to solve the problems. This led me to do side projects and help startups, which is when I realized the Product role is where I can add the most value.

What helped you to stop thinking about implementation and focus on market needs instead? What roles did engineers play in your Product Management decisions?

Product Managers should focus on the problem, needs, and high-level solutions. Identify the problem. Identify the needs. Work with architects and engineers to implement the solution. The architects and engineers are the experts here on implementation of a solution.

What challenges did you face during the transition?

The biggest challenge I faced was the perception of being an engineer. You have to work hard to break that myth that engineers only think about implementation. It takes a lot of effort, time, and patience to have people believe in you. It’s not impossible for sure.

Since you come from a software background, what advice do you have to people aiming for Product Management roles who have a non-tech/MBA background?

My advice to anyone in the tech business would be, have some amount of coding knowledge. This will go a long way. There are tons of online coding schools that will teach you the technology and coding 101.

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What advice would you give a Product Manager looking to come into the security space? What things stood out for you when you came to Cylance from Abyss/Tigerlogic?

Get some security certifications. Understand the cyberspace and its needs and problems.

Any specific programming language that you suggest one should learn?

Python is an easy one. I would start with that.

I’m currently an SME and understand the day-to-day activities of the Product Manager role. Any advice for people like me on what challenges we should look out for in a Product Manager role?

Get some amount of coding knowledge. Get your hands dirty and go test the products. Work with support to understand what issues the customers are facing. My two cents on getting started.

What’s a good strategy for the “tell me about yourself” question in a Product Management interview?

  1. Don’t spend more than 2 minutes.
  2. Go chronologically with your resume.
  3. Highlight achievements.

The Product Management Role

What are some of your daily responsibilities and challenges?

My day-to-day responsibilities depends on what phase the project is in. Based on that, I have to interact with different teams like Comp-Intel, marketing, executives, engineering, QA, PMO.

What do you see as the difference between the role of a Product Manager and a Product Owner?

I see PO as a subset of PM. As a Product Manager, you have to think beyond owning the aspects of the product. You have to look at the competitive space, market needs and challenges. As a PO, you tend to focus majorly on the product and how you can solve customer issues, in my humble opinion.

I need to test whether sending photos through my app will have value for our users. How can I make sure users really want this feature?

The most valuable lesson I have learned is understanding your user base. Why would they want to use your app? How would it solve their problem or enhance their lives? Then, once you have identified the MVP, put some KPIs around the questions I posted above. I hope this helps for starters.

When it comes to A/B testing, what are some of the strategies/tools you have followed and which ones worked better than others?

There are tons of third party tools to get a/b testing done. I would release an MVP, put some KPIs around it and put it through the a/b testing.

Product Management Tips and Tricks

What are your thoughts on keeping a strong team dynamic between all personnel? Opposing ideas, not hitting deadlines, how do you actually deal with that?

You always want to encourage and empower your teams. You always want to stir and guide them. You always want to be that leader and role model they can rely on for direction. If you anticipate not meeting deadlines, make sure you keep all the stakeholders informed. If there are opposing ideas, always listen, you don’t have to always agree, but always listen.

What are the 3 most important things for a Product Manager to have?

  1. Clear understanding of the issues
  2. Clear communication
  3. A strong ability to build relationships with customers and teams

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How do you keep yourself updated on the available tools for your domain when deciding on building solutions versus buying solutions (vendor tools)?

At some point in my day, I take time to read blogs (tech and non-tech) and news related to the competitive space. Also, always make time to meet with architects/engineers and brainstorm ideas.

How do you stay updated with your team when they are in different physical locations or have crazy travel schedules? What methods did you find were the most helpful?

I do have teams that are remote. I make sure I travel once a month to see them with donuts. 😉 Plus, I make sure I check in with them through chats or video calls. The most important thing is you want to ensure your teams are in sync with you.

Any hacks or cheat code for Product Manager you would suggest

Build relationships with customers and teams. That will go a long way.

Any final advice?

If you have that desire to be a Product Manager coming from any background, I assure you, its possible. Not always easy, but possible. Have faith in yourself, take steps in the right direction, have mentors, and be persistent till you make it.

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