Shilpa informed our PM community on the necessary skills required to break into Product Management and provided some excellent Product Management resources along the way. Curious about how Product Managers have broken into and mastered their roles? Then join our Product Management Slack Community and ask them!
Shilpa is a seasoned Product Manager with 6+ years of Digital Product experience. She has proven success stories of launching world-class software products with meaningful outcomes within both B2B and B2C industries. She is really passionate about Data and Business Model Innovation and is interested in the topics of Education, Sustainability & Machine Learning. Currently, she is leading the portfolio of products for Groupon’s International Marketplace. She drives highly impactful growth initiatives to boost user acquisition, funnel conversion, user engagement and lifetime value across international markets.
How did you start down the Product Manager path and what made you realize it was what you wanted to do?
I have a CS Undergrad degree; while I was in school, I was involved with a startup which was started by some of my seniors. I was involved in business development, marketing and programming our website. I was always interested in learning the monetization of a business and I enjoyed growing our startup, so when I joined Infosys, I got an opportunity to join a product organization as a developer.
Soon, I expressed an interest to my manager to move to the product side as I wanted to understand and contribute to the bigger picture and business requirements, than just coding. And that’s how I made the switch once a new position opened up in the product team.
How do you truly understand what the market wants?
As a Groupon Product Manager, we do a ton of user research – both through surveys and customer/merchant interviews and focus groups. The product team also works very closely with the business and sales groups to understand specific market requirements and we do competitive research to gather more insights. Apart from these, we get lots of data through the A/B tests that we run to launch new features that guide us to understand markets better!
Can you tell us about some exciting projects that you are working on Groupon?
I work on launching great Conversion, Search and Discovery, Supply and Pricing features for Groupon in International Markets. Earlier this year, I also worked on a project to comply with GDPR regulations in Europe which was cool.
Aside from taking courses at Product School, how do you crack the barrier into a PM role? What are the Product Management Resources and must-have skills you should master so that you don’t make a fool of yourself?
I would highly recommend building a product portfolio through Product School or General Assembly courses or through any good bootcamp programs. Demonstrating that on your resume and including the portfolio link on your applications should be the first step. Also going out to product community events and networking with folks to get an understanding of what roles are available in the market and pitching about your background in return. I would also suggest the following product management resources to build a knowledge foundation:
Product Management Podcasts
* TED Talks Daily
* Killer Innovations
* The Economist – Money Talks
* This is Product Management
* The Everyday Innovator
* How I built this with Guy Raz
* UI Breakfast: UI/UX Design and Product
* Master of Scale
* The Product Podcast
Product Management Books
* Cracking the PM Interview: How to Land a Product Manager Job in Technology – The Best resource for beginners
* Product School Blog – How to Crack the Product Manager Interview w/ Gayle McDowell
* Intercom on Product Management – Free Download!
* The Hard Things About Hard Things – The best straightforward book on management and business.
* High Output Management – Andrew Grove introduced OKR’s for the first time
* Sprint – Design Sprints
* Running LEAN and Scaling LEAN – Ash Maurya
* The Design of Everyday Things – Donald Norman
* Don’t Make Me Think – Steve Krug
* Business Model Innovation – Alex Osterwalder
* The LEAN Startup – Eric Ries
* Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely
* Crossing the Chasm – Classic Technology Marketing Book
* Radical Candor
* Hooked – User Behavioral Focus
* Inspired by Marty Cagan – Founder of SVPG
* The Innovator’s Solution – Clayton Christensen
Product Management Blogs
* Little Big Details
* A Learning a Day
* Mind the Product
* First Round Review
* Mattermark Daily
* Product Collective
* Harvard Business Review
* Amazon Letters to Shareholders
* A List Apart
* Co.Design – Fast Company
* 37 Signals
* @sebastienphl – My Product Management Reading List 2017
* Top 75+ Resources for Product Managers | Sachin Rekhi
* Noah Weiss Thread on Product Leaders
* Kenton Kivestu’s Product Management Links
* The Product School Blog
What is the one book that you found the most helpful for your daily job as a Product Manager?
I really found Business Model Innovation by Alex Osterwalder to be the most useful book. Many times, a PM will get busy in the weeds solving tactical issues, but not think about strategy and understand the best problem to solve for your product area as well as the organization; that’s something I inculcated after reading Alex’s book. I also took his masterclass in Boston last year on Business Model Innovation, incredibly helpful 😀
How would you personally “wow” a Product Manager interviewer?
I would suggest looking into the problems or challenges the company is currently facing and thinking about some solutions in that space that you can pitch in. Besides that, I would brush up some scenario-based or behavioral questions and metrics related to the industry, as questions related to those could come up.
What are the traits you look for when hiring a Product Manager?
I look for three things – core competencies, emotional intelligence (EQ) and company fit. The candidate should be able to ask the best questions, should demonstrate critical thinking and have ideas to create products with strong user adoption that have exponential revenue growth and perhaps even disrupt an industry. Also, they should be a correct company fit and fun to work with! 🙂
I would recommend the Cracking the PM Interview: How to Land a Product Manager Job in Technology book – This is the best resource for aspiring PMs – www.ProductSchool.com/blog/how-to-get-a-job/crack-product-manager-interview-gayle-mcdowell
Do you recommend the Six Sigma Green belt certification for potential Product managers?
That’s a good skill set to have but not absolutely necessary for PMs. Six Sigma has definitely helped me formulate new processes and develop LEAN methodologies while developing new products.
Can you highlight any strong negotiation tips that you use when talking with non-PM teams, like developers or designers?
I always use frameworks and data to build a business case to negotiate with peers or other teams that I’m working with. Preparation that leads to effective communication is always a good thing. For prioritization, RICE is a good framework that I have used in the past and I’ve also written an article on similar lines.
What are some of the metrics that a Groupon Product Manager uses to evaluate the success of features released?
We use the basic AARRR metrics. PMs focus mainly on KPIs for their specific areas and that could be focused on the either of the following – awareness, usage, engagement, conversion, and satisfaction.
What could a newer candidate do in an interview to stand out? Especially when competing against candidates that have many more years experience in the field?
This is an excellent question. I have seen a lot of hiring managers give preference to candidates with lesser years of experience, or rather, generalists who are well prepared from a product standpoint/have shipped great product experiences/are really passionate to get into that space or company/show a great deal of promise by having solutions to what challenges that company is currently facing/great at communication and with a go-getter attitude.
Also, it would be very helpful to show some side projects on cool product ideas that you have worked on, being active in the local product community and having a good thought leadership online presence.
Is a PM’s role and responsibilities tech heavy? Can you speak on the transition to PM with no product background or with some entrepreneurial background?
I would say PMs’ roles and responsibilities are very analytical, rather than tech-heavy. Anyone who is analytical can pick up tech skills easily. I would suggest building your resume in a way where you can talk about challenging problems that you have solved in a non-tech environment.
Also, show your accomplishments of working with cross-functional teams, your entrepreneurial experience, if any, analytical skillsets or projects that you have worked on, ability to lead, communicate and build products and interest in working with engineering, design and data science. Maybe if you are interested, get some online courses on web development, SQL, etc. and projects that you can put on your resume.
From your involvement with business development, marketing and programming, which of these skillsets has helped you the most in Product Management?
My work with Marketing and understanding of customer behavior and playing with huge datasets and applying my analytical mindset has helped me the most.
I have core web development experience and know the ins and outs of UX. Is it realistic for me to look into Product Management roles? Who can help me out?
Start going to Product Community events. I’m a part of Women In Product Community and it’s a great group through which I have learned a lot and built great relationships. Please join our FB groups and start networking and build relationships. I’m with the Chicago community, feel free to join our group – WIP Chicago Community
I work at a creative agency and I need to hire contractors for a small web application project. How would you create a budget for a project like this and communicate this with a client?
I would strongly encourage building a vision and a supporting business case of why you need the resources you request. Your vision should help you to excite the clients and your business case should lay out the plan for execution and your headcount should justify why you need the people to make your vision a success.
As someone who’s coming to digital Product Management with minimal tech experience, what would you recommend for those keen to break into the sector?
I would suggest getting some online certifications underneath your belt related to web development, SQL or data analytics, whichever field excites you the most. That should help to supplement your background and experience while applying. You could also work with some startups on the side and get some product/business development/analytics experience to talk about if possible in interviews. The idea is to show a well-rounded background to the hiring manager with respect to Product Management.
As a PM at Groupon, a larger company, is it your responsibility to come up with product ideas and to pitch the business component of your ideas to the executives?
It’s a bottom-up process! The product team comes with ideas and business cases to pitch to senior leadership.