Landing an APM role at a Top Tech Company
Is it bad luck or is your resume just not good enough?👀 Kanika Dutta shares her experience applying for jobs and working in various tech companies as a guide for all aspiring Product Managers seeking APM or other Product Manager roles.
For Kanika, Product Management = problem solving. You have access to different resources, people, market data and markets as resources to solve whatever the problem looks like in your company.
To be a good problem solver aka Product Manager, Kanika recommends three skills - collaboration, because you’re going to manage different kinds of personalities working on their own individual aspects of the product and you need to unite everyone’s vision to create a cohesive product; communication, because this is the secret to carrying everyone along and making sure that ideas, changes, and processes get to the person that they’re meant for and finally, resilience, because you’re going to hear a lot of ‘no’s whether it’s to your idea, your comment or even your product.
The interesting thing about resilience is that you definitely need it as a Product Manager but you also need it even as you aspire to become a Product Manager, especially if you wish to pursue Product Management internships and APM positions as these are notorious for their low acceptance rates.
This is why Kanika’s tips are invaluable for aspiring Product Managers as she has managed to secure internship positions at, amongst others, Tesla, Microsoft and Shopify and an APM position at Lyft.
When asked her ‘secret sauce’ to landing these positions, Kanika says “try to be involved in college”. Her membership in a club that gave her the tools to intern every four months is a good part of the reason she was able to intern at these top companies and gain valuable experience even before graduating school. Kanika was involved in a lot of projects from leading a project to working for a non-profit company, which allowed her to exercise her Product Management skills.
Gain internship experience, but more specifically, if you want to go into Product Management, map out how these experiences and the skills you learn overlap with Product Management skills.
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Secondly, cozy up to the idea of cold-emailing and expect your advances to be rejected. When this happens, try, try, try again. Kanika was rejected from four teams at Tesla before she got into the team she finally interned with. When she got rejected from one team, she’d acknowledge that response and then ask to be referred to another team that was hiring. That’s how she was finally able to find a spot.
With cold-emails, the most productive way to approach it is to be respectful, keep it short and straight to the point, have a good resume and make your proposal crisp and strong. For example: “Hello …, I’ve been following your company and your work and I think that you are doing something really great. This is what I’ve been working on in the past year…., and I’ll love to hop on a call for thirty minutes to chat about my experience and see if there’s a fit. If there’s a time that works for you, please let me know and I'm looking forward to hearing back”.
APM programs are incredibly competitive- Kanika applied to pretty much everyone there was before landing the position at Lyft. Her advice? “start early”. They’re usually open to people who have graduated within one year of application or will graduate within a year of application so bear that in mind.
Most APM programs open in August/September. By June/July, you should be doing mock interviews daily. The turnaround time is quick so once applications open and you get an interview, there’s no time to prep. You need to be ready to interview at a moment's notice.
Resources like Cracking the PM interview, Decode and Conquer, friends with whom you can conduct mock interviews are all extremely helpful. Mock interviews should be a combination of product sense and metrics questions. So questions along the vein of “how would you design a dashboard for UberEat” or “if a metric is down how would you investigate it” are most applicable.
An often overlooked category of questions people fail to prepare for are leadership/behavioral questions. These questions such as “what’s your biggest weakness? or tell us about a time you exhibited weakness at work and what were the repercussions?”, seem like they can easily be answered on the spot but there’s a structure to them and there are specific things the interviewer is looking for by asking such questions so prepare for them. Make a list of stories from your previous experience that might be helpful.
In the event of rejection, remember that there are two types of rejection - rejection that has nothing to do with your skills, there’s only a certain number of people they could take, it is what it is so keep doing the work you’ve been doing; and secondly, there’s the rejection that requires you to go back to the drawing board and change your strategy. It is important that you’re honest with yourself about the reasons for your rejection because to a large extent, this is what will determine your next steps.
Above all, practice practice practice. Prepare a succinct resume that’s not overcrowded and highlights the most significant experiences and learnings. Don’t feel like you have to memorize and study for interviews, just practice until you’re comfortable answering questions and telling your stories naturally.
If you want to be a Product Manager, and you know why you want to be a Product Manager, go for Product Management. Don’t allow imposter syndrome to make you choose Product Management adjacent roles before working your way to Product Management. You’re every bit as capable as you think that you are so keep challenging yourself and continue learning.
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