There are some skills that transfer across from consulting to product management and those that don’t, as well as unexpected areas that will require a steep learning curve. Rahul Iyer, Product Manager at InSite Apps, answered questions about product management and talked about his own journey from consulting to product management.
Product Manager at InSite Applications. Prior, he was a Product Manager at Qoins, Product Management Consultant at Contract Consulting and Lead Consultant at Manhattan Associates. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and Business Administration.
Can you talk more about how you broke into product management?
To begin, I started out of college as a consultant in Atlanta. I worked on software for the supply chain and logistics of many major retailers. As I started to grow into consulting, I realized I had always wanted to be in Tech — more specifically building things that mattered and products that impacted people.
Long story, short — I ended up leaving my job in Atlanta, moving out to SF and I started to build relationships. I scheduled anywhere from 3-6 coffee meetings a day for two months with product managers, and people I felt had done any bit or piece of what I wanted to craft myself to be.
Over the course of the next few months, I landed interviews through those meetings, eventually landing the offer I would take at InSite Applications as a Product Manager.
Any advice for people who are aspiring to transition into Product Management?
Aside from the obvious things you can Google (and of course, Product School) – I really recommend meeting as many other Product Managers as you can. For two reasons:
1) I believe, the more people you meet doing what you want to do, the more you have an understanding for yourself and interviews that you may come across.
2) Product Management is a very competitive role in tech right now. Meeting people gives you over the edge of people that may be on the same playing field or higher. I’m a huge believer in building relationships, and you’d be surprised how many people actually want to help you when you’re genuinely interested in what they want to do.
Have you read any great books on Product Management for aspiring Product Managers?
Here are some books/people I recommend looking into.
1) Cracking the PM Interview by Gayle Laakmann McDowell
2) Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan
3) Julie Zhou on Medium has amazing articles on Product and life.
4) Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore
It’s important to note, reading as much as you can is great (and I believe you should do it a lot), but nothing beats your own experience. Go out and build things for yourself, even if it’s just prototyping or brainstorming ideas around product.
How does the product team support sales team so that they can succeed and hit their target?
I am actually at an early stage startup, so, admittedly, I have very little experience in this area of Product Management. I do recommend reading up on Julie Zhou on Medium. She has great articles that help around topics like this!
Any examples on how you showed that you’re interested in what “they want to do”?
If you’re interviewing for a product role, the number one thing you should do is research their company. See what their strengths, weaknesses, competitors do – genuinely be passionate about it. Most people feel like they have ‘to be right’ in situations like this, but coming up with your own conclusions and backing them with some reasoning is what most people are looking for.
Companies don’t expect you to have the knowledge they do – they just want to know you are competent (especially as a new PM). Aside from that, I think it’s important to build something if you can. Showing you can build and ship a product, even if it’s something as simple as an app for calculating a tip is important.
To follow up on your suggestion to meet as many PM’s as possible, where would be a good place to run into you, for example?
Haha, well played. I bet you can find me on LinkedIn – shoot me a message, and I’d be happy to try and set something up.
How do the customers who use an app go to the website and how do you track them?
Well, there are a few tools for things like this. I recommend looking into Mixpanel, Google Analytics, and Branch. All of those tools can help with tracking users between an app and website.
How did you overcome unemployed, lack of industry experience, and lack of functional experience/expertise when you moved to SF from Atlanta?
I actually went through my process step by step. You can read the whole thing here.
But, some important things to note:
- Build products and ship them (no matter how simple.)
- Take every opportunity to help someone build their product.
- Write your own opinions — this is something that is extremely underutilized. I think Kevin Lee building PMHQ is a huge example of how someone who wrote about PMing started to be considered an expert in the field.
- Use your past experiences as an advantage. Show where certain job functions you did overlap and relate.
What are your go-to market strategy steps – are there any standard steps upon situation/project?
I think it’s entirely dependent on the company/product you are with and building. I’m currently at a startup, so we are still working on ours. But I do recommend, reading through Julie Zhou on Medium, PMHQ, and Inspired by Marty Cagan. Those three resources are a great step in learning on these topics.
What is the difference between PM and Product Design?
I’ll defer to a favorite of mine, because of time, and she says it better than I ever could. Read it here.
Could you explain a bit of what percentage is represented in your role as Product Marketing Manager of the following: Public Speaking, Data Analytics, Social Media, and Sales?
I can’t speak for a PMM, but as a PM it realistically varies day to day and week to week. It’s all dependent on the resources your team has at hand. Some PM’s do little of some and a lot of others. Ultimately, the job of a PM is to get sh*t done and ship the product to the best of their ability.
What is your final advice for aspiring product managers?
Breaking into Product Management can be daunting, but taking the plunge is the first step. You shouldn’t be afraid of failing, as most PM’s do at some point. As Ben Horowitz would say — “If you’re going to eat sh*t, don’t nibble.” It’s entirely about what you do after. What did you learn? What will you change?
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