Senior PM Skills with AWS Senior PM

This week, Product School hosted Rahul Singh, Sr Product Manager at Amazon, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Rahul gives a teaser for his upcoming webinar on the 90 day plan, and shares his insight on essential skills to have as a Senior PM and leader.

Meet Rahul

Rahul Singh, Sr Product Manager at Amazon

Rahul Singh is an Amazon Web Services Senior Product Manager who uses a customer-centric approach to build innovative solutions. He is also an Advisory Board Member of the edu-tech startup Enhelion. Previously, Rahul was working at CapitalOne, creating digital tools to help his customers spend smarter. He started out as a PM for their online banking platform before being promoted to Lead Product Manager for Web Experiences.

How has your position changed between being a Product Manager and Sr. Product Manager?

Thanks for the question. Positions and their scope are quite subjective. Startups might give you a Principle PM role with scope much lower in scope and impact than Senior PM at Amazon. More than titles, one should look at what scope and impact a position has to offer and keep aiming to get higher scope in every successive role – so that you are constantly learning and upping your game.

person standing in suit and looking up at orange balloons, smiling

How do I prepare a strong foundation for PM as an interview candidate?

Start with understanding your product really well. Write down your success stories, failure stories, conflict resolution, stakeholder alignments, and other key areas of your Product and non-product experience.

I am doing a webinar today for developing a comprehensive (360 degree) view of your product to make sure you know what you need to. All of this will cover the behavioral aspect of the interview (I will also cover how to prepare before you start the role, create a state of affairs, and establish yourself as a valuable team member).

Then invest some time doing Product sense and execution case interviews, and depending on the need you might need to look at system design interviews. Youtube has got it all for you.

What skills do you consider the most important, the ones that got you where you are as a Sr. Product Manager?

person sitting at table and working in sunlit space filled with plants

Few skills that helped me:

  • Being able to see the big picture (and able to articulate that in your vision)
  • Being extremely customer obsessed and starting with customer first (literally in all scenarios)
  • Building a comprehensive understanding of the Product, your target customer, business priorities, and your tech.
  • Understanding your stakeholders and ensuring they are aligned with your product goals.

I am covering this in my webinar today too. So look for that one.

How do you determine whether a feature should be in the Free version or the Paid version?

Great question. It depends on what your goal is (driving adoption vs retention etc), and what stage of Product lifecycle you are at, your cost of operations, funding, and business and competitive reasons.

Generally speaking, if you are solving a very big customer problem that you have fully validated and are confident that you are doing it like no one else, then you could start by doing a small test and price your product and see how the customers respond.

What is a good approach to identifying and aligning on a strategy?

naturally formed stone arches in the ocean, aligned

To be able to develop product strategy – you need to have a 360 view of your customers, business, product tech, sales, and operations.

One cannot build a vision without understanding the customer needs and market dynamics (trends and competition). As a Senior PM+, one will be expected to be the master in that domain to really think through what the product should be able to do 5yrs from now to continuously stay ahead of its customer needs.

OKRs are very tactical – they work best when you have a topline goal to start with. First thing first – get the topline product goals well defined, get the alignment across the business and tech – and then use that to define OKRs.

Check out next: The Difference: OKRs vs KPIs

Which scrum certification is most recognized?

I don’t think you need to do any Scrum certification* as such. You can just look at any certification curriculum and go to youtube to watch videos on them. That’s all you need to do.

What are the top 5 Amazon leadership principles (LPs) that a PM at Amazon has to focus on?

Generally in your 6-7 rounds of interview, most LPs get covered so it’s not very important to know that which LP is more important than the others. I have seen that some team values certain LPs more than others. So you may also check that with the recruiter.

What are the technical skills one should work on developing to be a good fit for Amazon non-technical Product Manager roles?

Do a few system design cases on Youtube and you will get a fair idea. You need to know concepts like latency, lazy load, microservices, databases, caching, and load balancing. Hope this helps.

What’s your favorite product and why?

Apple watch with apps on it

Ah! reminds me of my interview days. Haha. You can find products where you have enjoyed their design, service, support, and any features that you come back for to that product again and again.

What have been your experiences negotiating salary as an SPM and what advice would you give to a new grad?

You can start with – Levels.fyi. Reach out to your seniors or someone in your network who works in the same job function in that company.

Another great resource: The Quick Guide to Product Manager Salaries in 2022

Any final advice?

My biggest piece of advice (whether you’re a PM or not—say as a Marketer or an engineer) is that if you are working on a Product…

  • Try to build as much understanding of the product as possible.
  • Know who your target customer is,
  • which group of customers are most using your product,
  • and what pain points are we solving.
  • Know how the strategy gets built—i.e. what parameters are considered to build the strategy
  • Try to see what impact the product features and new launches have on key business metrics.

You can partner with a PM in your team or Business/Data analyst to get those numbers. For PMs, it is key to fully understand the product—customer, business, sales and ops, marketing, and technology. Only if you know it all, you can carve out a well-thought-out strategy for your product.

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