Getting Your Foot in the Door with Microsoft Senior PM

This week, Product School hosted Tannu Jiwnani, Senior Product Manager at Microsoft, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Tannu spoke about core PM traits, networking to break into Product, and roadmapping at Microsoft.

Meet Tannu

Tannu Jiwnani, Senior Product Manager at Microsoft

Tannu Jiwnani is a Senior Product Manager with years of experience working on computer software. She is currently working at Microsoft.

She started with the company in 2018 as a Business Program Manager. Before that, she was a Senior Data Analyst at EY and GA Telesis. Tannu earned her Bachelor’s in Electronics and Telecommunications from the Bhilai Institute of Technology, Durg. She later went on to attend the University of Florida for her Master’s in Information Systems and Operations Management. Not only did she graduate in the top of her class with the Beta Gamma Sigma Honors Society, but she also held various positions at the university including Operations Associate, GBCS Ambassador, and Data Migration Analyst.

What are some core traits for a Product Manager?

I would emphasize soft skills. As a PM most of the times you are working on products/features which was not developed before and require a lot of communication, conflict/time/stakeholder management. Also, it’s important to be ok with ambiguity, and asking right questions to make sure we are heading towards some clarity.

Read next: Characteristics of Exceptional Product Managers

I am an engineering undergrad looking to move into the PM domain, what would you suggest I do for a good start?

I would suggest taking some small responsibilities as a PM and start exploring the area, it’s the best way to learn something. Getting more involved with customer-facing engineering roles will give you the zest of the role, and help you preparing your story as a PM whenever you have conversation with you next potential hiring manager.

How to prepare for Product Design interview questions?

two Mac desktop screens with design apps open
  1. Read up on books and familiarize yourself with all the kind of questions and respective approaches.  I would recommend Solving Product Design Exercises, System Design Interview ( Alex Xu). 
  2. There are bunch of YouTube resources available too, they are very helpful as well.
  3. Practicing questions with your peers, that’s the best way to get feedback.

Check out: What Is Product Design?

What can I do to maximize my chances of getting my foot in the door and starting my PM journey at companies such as Microsoft or Google?

IMO, Reaching out to individuals is the most impactful. If you can reach out to hiring managers or recruiters with the exact job ID and what you are looking for, it reduces their effort as well as gives you a foot in or at least have your resume looked at.

What’s the best way to break into Product at Microsoft?

Using LinkedIn posts as a resource is very important. If I as a recruiter or hiring manager am looking for a PM and the right person reaches out to me on LinkedIn, I can’t explain how easy my job becomes. Networking/Referrals are also a good way because you can ask all the questions about the role to your referrer, to figure out if the role is right for you or not.

Learn how to make better connections: Networking for Product Managers

I am trying to break into Product. Would it be effective for me to pivot into Project Management and then into Product Management? Or should I target Associate PM positions first?

If it’s in the PM role in same domain/industry you are in I would say Product/Program manager is a right entry path as you already bring some domain/industry experience to the table. However, if you are targeting different industry where you have no knowledge of business/industry then targeting an associate would be a smart move. You can always prove yourself and progress ahead.

How does roadmap planning happen at Microsoft for consumer facing non-technical enterprise products?

highway road stretching into distance

There are various factors to consider while defining roadmap:

1. What is the Product Strategy (vision, goals, etc)

2. What are the potential features mapping to that strategy, what is the feature priority?

3. Do we have requirements defined? Do we have any external drivers for those feature releases? As a PM its our job to consider the factors and define a roadmap making sure you have right resources in place.

Any final tips?

I would recommend looking for opportunities in your current role and act as a PM, maybe for a small project, feature, or task. That’s the best way to learn anything. Also, it is helping you create those stories /experiences which you can speak to in your next PM interview, making a case for why you are interested in the role.

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