Breaking into Technical PM with Amazon Senior Product Manager

This week’s Reddit AskMeAnything session featured Sushmitha Nannuru. Currently, she’s a Senior Technical Product Manager at AWS Backup, a fully-managed data protection service that enables AWS customers to centralize and automate the back up of data across AWS services in the cloud as well as on-premises using the AWS Storage Gateway. Sushmitha is a Product Manager with a problem solving and data-driven approach.

Sushmitha Nannuru Senior Technical PM at Amazon

Could you please differentiate technical PM compared to non technical PM, in terms of roles and responsibilities?

Tech PM generally involves managing products that are technically complex. These products are either built for technical customers like developers or IT professionals in a company (AWS) or for non-technical end customers (Alexa). In both cases, PMs need to be conversant with their technical architecture and be able to influence the direction of product.

What does a day in your life look like ? Who do you work with on any given day?

A day in my life includes analysis of key business metrics, attend engineering stand-ups and sprint meetings, work with cross-functional teams to prioritize tasks (involves quite a bit of negotiation), prepare business reviews for executive leadership, author narratives and PR/FAQs for ideas I want to propose and features I want to build.

How do you convince your team your proposal will benefit the company, whilst not coming across as pushy or as too weak?

At the risk of dishing out cliches, I believe as a product manager, influencing your team members without authority needs to be done on a daily basis. I found that proposals backed by data and strong customer influences/testimonials is a great way to get your team’s buy-in. Trying to involve some of them on customer calls with you might also be beneficial.

What do you think could be helpful in breaking into TPM role? I am currently a BA but not in tech industry.

If you are still in school or in a non-product management role right now, I recommend getting involved with part-time consulting projects in product management domain and try to demonstrate in your interviews that you have experiencing defining user experience for products.

Try and draw comparisons from your current or previous gigs where you might have solved complex problems using data, engaged with customers to understand their requirements and came up with technical solutions to address them. Your past experience working in cross-functional teams in a matrixed organization is a huge plus. Please try and collect these experiences in small, incremental steps that will go a long way in getting those Tech PM interviews and converting them into job offers.

You might also be interested in: 3 Sets of Technical Product Manager Interview Questions

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I’m an undergrad, in my second year, looking to break into PM. What would be your recommendations in terms of classes to take, resources to use, projects to be a part of, etc?

I recommend taking classes on data analysis that gives you experience with SQL, Python, R, Tableau, Alteryx etc., negotiations, business writing, having difficult conversations, introduction to distributed system design. I recommend getting involved in student consulting projects or take up internships that give you opportunities to create business models, analyse P&L statements, build small applications etc.

How much important are python, power bi skills are for Enterprise product management? To what levels should EPMs learn/know these skills?

I think Python, SQL skills are important for any type of product management roles to able to reduce dependency on Business Intelligence Engineers (BIE). I have seen teams that prefer PMs to be responsible for business intelligence. Strongly recommend brushing up your SQL skills.

As a Senior Sales Engineer and serving as a bridge between commercial side, customers and engineer-consultants, do you think will be easy to switch to a TPM role?

Being able to speak to technical customers is definitely a huge plus for aspiring technical product managers. If you are able to demonstrate business/data analytical skills and/or working with engineering teams, I think you have a good chance of switching to the role of tech PM.

How do you get insights from qualitative data like customer support tickets, surveys etc.?

Mapping the feedback you are receiving into categories like ‘Feature Requests’, ‘Bugs’, ‘UX improvement’ will help distill insights from more qualitative data you receive.

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