The Google Associate Product Manager Program is a unique opportunity to quickly gain access to the world of product in the heart of Silicon Valley. Read what it’s all about, how to enter and how to prepare for such a role!
Some clubs seem worth joining for their fame alone. But often, a good name is not everything. Other times, however, a group’s reputation is totally deserved. The Google Associate Product Manager Program (APMP) is one of those clubs.
This 2-year-long program exposes you to some of the most exciting projects in tech, while you rotate through Google’s departments. Even if nothing is guaranteed in life, it will most certainly boost your tech career ahead of the competition.
But how does it work? And, most importantly, how do you join the club? Keep reading to find out!
Training the future of Google, by Google
Like many other good ideas, the APM program emerged from a necessity. To keep developing new products and features, Google had to enlarge its talent pool. Certainly, the company had become one of the largest in tech, so it had no problems attracting strong candidates. Why start in-house training, instead of simply hiring the best from everywhere else?
Well, as you know, working culture at Google differs radically from many other tech companies.
There’s no learning period: from the start, you’re launched into the battlefield.
There’s no hierarchical line of command: yes, there are bosses. But they expect true self-starters to lead the way.
And there’s no such thing as a “fixed assignment”. Expect to change from mobile to search to machine learning; as much as the company itself switches its priorities!
Does this sound radical? There are not many places like this: an external hire, while versed in tech, could find it quite difficult to adjust. This is why the then-Google Product Manager Marissa Mayer started the Associate Product Manager Program.
Since then, alumni include current Head of the APMP and Google VP Product Management Brian Rakowski, Google Maps co-creator Bret Taylor and Optimizely CEO Dan Siroker. Whether you remain at Google, join an Alphabet spin-off, or embark on your own product adventure; the APMP certainly seems to be doing something right.
Becoming an Associate Product Manager at Google
In the United States, Google travels across campuses and tech events to promote the program to prospective participants. Of course, an opportunity to work at Google is not a hard sell. But let’s look closely at what they offer.
As mentioned above, over two years these APMs are meant to build a product. Slowly, they are supposed to learn to rely less on their own work and get used to interacting and managing teams. From marketing, engineering, and finance, PMing is a full-spectrum job with lots of responsibilities.
One cool bonus within the program is a two-week trip to Google offices across the world. Some of the most important markets for digital products lie outside the US: it’s an invaluable chance to understand how different societies and customers relate to technology.
But they’re not going to make it easy for you.
Google interviews are tough. In addition to the usual preparation that goes with them, you need to be ready to show something special in the way you address and solve problems. They will probably describe an actual challenge and ask you to solve it. And expect the unexpected!
This is because the program attempts to flesh out who is not simply a coding or data genius, but also has business and marketing sense. If this sounds like the perfect Product Manager package, well, that’s just what it is! This is why at Product School we have been training our students to become professionals across every sphere in tech.
When tech leaders like Marissa Mayer are involved, you simply follow. In her time as program head, she ensured that Google managers would be involved: accompanying participants in their trips, being open to mentoring… Imagine the opportunities this can open (even if you choose to leave Google like Mayer did!).
And there’s more.
Can you refuse an offer from Google?
Besides all the above opportunities, there’s the salary. Common knowledge is that Google employees are well rewarded. This entry-level position is not an exception. According to Glassdoor, average total pay (including perks) for Google APMs is around 130,000 a year.
This salary plus your responsibilities means that they’ll keep an eye on you. Not in a bad way though!
The Google philosophy is based on experimenting with new things. Teams are rotated, and new hires are encouraged to take part. Thus, the lucky few (around 40) who are chosen for the program will be able to speak one-to-one with the makers of their favorite products.
Obviously, usual disclaimers apply. As you know, product managers are supposed to conduct their business through “influence, without power”. This feeling will be even more intense for newly-graduated APMs! No need to fear: simply be open to listening, establishing relationships with stakeholders and learning from them.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll be launching the next Chrome or Gmail.
Do I even stand a chance? Yes! Well…
Look, it’s clear that the Associate Product Manager Program at Google is an exclusive and worthy club. Whatever your background, you will benefit from being at the center of the action. Make sure to remember all the advice we list above.
What if you don’t get in? Well, there are other pathways to product. True, Google’s two-year program faces you with real challenges, letting you live the Silicon Valley experience from day zero. Sadly, there’s no such thing at traditional educational bodies, like universities and business schools.
There is an alternative, though. Here at Product School, besides hosting expert talks from Google and other professionals, we conduct hands-on product management courses. Our main focus is on getting you as close to the real experience as possible. As it says on The Product Book, our goal is to unleash the product potential in everybody.
So, what do you think? Do you feel like embarking on the Google APM adventure?