This past week, we were joined by Luis DeLeon who just got a job in product data management at Google after recently graduating from Product School San Francisco. We had the awesome opportunity to chat with him and hear about his experience in getting his new job and what he did before product management.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what you were doing prior to making the switch into product management?
Prior to making the switch to product management, I was doing consulting and product development for Accenture, for the last 8 years or so. I mostly focused on the technology sector, so clients such as Microsoft, HP, and some telecommunications companies, and I also did a project that Google. Those kinds of projects focused on either process improvement or identifying where the value chain is within product development, and helping clients get more efficient in their operations from implementing product management systems or to help manage their detailed product information.
You’ve been working in development and consulting for quite a few years then. What made you decide to transition into product management?
I really wanted to move up front in the value chain and understand how products even come up in the first place, to how the problem is identified and how you go about identifying potential solutions for the customer and then finally, execute on that product. I felt like the execution piece I already knew very well, and I wanted to understand and learn more from the front piece of identifying what the product should be.
What made you decide to enroll into Product School and how was your experience and with the program?
There are a few reasons. I think one of them was the flexibility in terms of schedule; as a consultant, I was pretty much expected to work 12 to 14-hour days, very time consuming intense work. So during the week or something that was more of a long-term boot camp wouldn’t really work for me. I wanted kind of a condensed version of what product management was about and something that would be able to teach me key skills or frameworks with the flexibility of doing it on the weekends and yet not taking 6-8 months, because I really wanted to make a switch faster.
During your time at Product School, you had to work on a side project to develop a new product or feature. What type of product did you choose and how did the side project allow you to apply the knowledge you were learning throughout the program?
The product that I chose was Sense, a sleep monitoring or environment monitoring system to basically help you sleep better. It was definitely a good way to apply some of the skills that I had learned or some of the frameworks that I had learned to the products. I was able to kind of get a feel for what it would be to be a product manager in a real company. So, just going through the process of understanding what the product was, and who the key customers were and coming up with a new user feature for it was was was very cool.
The feature that I was trying to come up with was more of an ecosystem for that sort of product where it could potentially integrate with other Internet of Things. Devices that would be able to not only help you with monitoring your sleep patterns and then things that you do in your environment when you go to sleep, to see what helps you sleep better. Also, helping you throughout the day to understand you how well you’re exercising, and how well you’re you’re eating because those things are also contributing factors to how well you sleep. So that was the idea that I worked up.
After the program would you recommend Product School to other people that may want to break into a role in product management or in the industry?
Yeah definitely. I think it gives you a different perspective, for me, like I said working on more of the execution level of things and helping the execution be more efficient. I felt like it really broadened my perspective of what the end-to-end product life cycle is and it gives you different questions in different ways to measure things, measure your success by applying those sort of frameworks or skills in a real-life situation.
About your recent position at Google, how did you get the job at Google and what can you tell us about the process?
It’s kinda an interesting process for me just because I had already been here for about six months doing a consulting project for them. We were implementing a system and also changing processes and defining policies of how people should work together throughout the product definition stage and how they would implement their product information, how we would manage it, how they would change control the information with things all of a sudden failed in the field, or somebody had some sort of support issue or a customer issue with the product.
We were working at Google Fiber and that’s really appealed to me because it’s it’s kind of brand new business unit and it’s growing very fast. If they’re really trying to disrupt a market in terms of internet and TV. So it was kind of a weird thing for me because when you’re working on a project then we were implementing that that same sort of business execution model in one product area that we moved on to the rest of the product areas.
When I moved away from google fiber because we have already implemented it there, I came back and actually applied for a job and then went through the process there.
Then in terms of how the process when it was the same sort of you know interview process that everybody else goes through. So you go through the normal HR interview, you go through your interview with the hiring manager, and then more of a Round Robin with different people on the team, and finally equal subcommittee.
So it was very interesting in terms of the process, I felt more comfortable than the normal interview processes. It was more like “Tell me about a time when this happened” or “Tell me you know what would you do in this situation,” so a lot of those questions, not a lot of case studies questions, I actually can’t remember one. It was more about they’re really trying to get to know you it was a lot more comfortable than the most interviews.
What skills do you feel contributed to your success in getting the job?
I think having that or your macro view of the product itself so, making sure that I studied well what Google Fiber offered and why they were offering certain things and why they were trying to disrupt the market and what sort of customer issues that were trying to solve. So breaking it down from that level down to my actual you know role and how I would play a role in the actual product lifecycle list was pretty good preparation for the interview process and during the interview process I think just having that, it allowed me to kind of stand out from other candidates.
Asking follow-up questions to the person who is interviewing was definitely something that they liked, that I heard they loved. So you know I think it really helped in in that sense. And then for my manager now I think since we also have an application right that is being used to manage the information for the products. I’m taking more of a product management type of role in applying SCRUM methodology and in trying to use that as a way to manage the features of an enterprise application. I am treating that as my product even though it’s not a customer-facing product, they really loved that piece of it as well.
What has been the most powerful tool that’s been helping your first couple months in this new role?
I think just having an understanding of what a product manager does on a daily basis. You know there’s a lot of issues set that Fiber has to has to deal with and you know at the end of the day just being able to prioritize and understand what has the most value and how much effort things are going to take so that sort of framework. Applying it to my daily work has really helped me in the first couple of weeks. And now that we’re moving into using JIRA for example to manage product features and you know be taking more of a product owner type of role and really try to apply those skills I think is really going to be helpful for the team because we were relatively small team so we know having somebody to come in and kind of create structures is definitely beneficial for it.
What’s the most fun part about your job right now, what’s the biggest pro of working in product management?
I think it’s just being able to learn very quickly and trying to understand what the different challenges are this is definitely something that is very appealing to me. So I’m definitely not bored every day. There’s all kinds of problems to solve it and not a lot of time so I’m really trying to focus on things and learning as I go. It’s definitely something that’s key, something that I was looking for, that type of environment and yeah I think that’s really it.
What advice would you give to other aspiring product managers are basically anyone who’s looking to transition into product?
You know besides taking the course at Product School. I really feel like just being able to apply those sort of frameworks to something that isn’t really defined as you know product management or whatever, I think it can be useful. So, try to be innovative right, and try to use those frameworks in other parts of your work. I think even if you’re not a product manager as of right now, I think it’s something that you can apply to other things.
For example, I’m applying it to non-customer-facing applications. That’s something that wasn’t really discussed or really talked about in Product School but it’s something that I’ve been able to do and taking advantage of other courses that are out there and other information that’s out there on the internet or within your company.
It’s something that is beneficial even if you’re not in that product management role and I think like me when I was looking to make a transition to more of an industry job before I made the jump into an actual product management role. So, what I’ve discussed with my manager then is basically creating a path for me to get there. Definitely being open about that or having your goals discussed with your manager to make that transition, is definitely another thing that people should do in my opinion.