Creative Thinking & Identifying Pain Points with Amazon

Product School hosted Nivy Sivakumar, a Product Manager at Amazon for a #AskMeAnything session. Nivy answered questions about Product execution and delivery, transferable skills for PMs, transitioning into Product, and advice on career development.

Meet Nivy

Nivy is a committed and perseverant Product Manager, currently working at Amazon. Previously, she was a PM at DreamBox Learning. She started her first Product experience at Cin7 where she was responsible for the integral parts of Cin7’s inventory management system. Before that, Nivy was a Business Relationship Manager at Tata Motors. She is excellent at building teams and always looks at the big picture. She is detail-oriented and with her deep sense of understanding she always comes up with effective solutions to problems.

Could you share your experience at Amazon? What kind of products you are working on?

I am part of the Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) team and work specifically on the FBA Seller’s shipment creation experience. This workflow enables Sellers to ship their products to the Amazon warehouses. When we get an order from the consumer via amazon.com/amazon.uk etc., we ship the products from the warehouses to the consumer. 

Looking to get a job at Amazon? Here’s How to Get a Product Management Job at Amazon

What is the most challenging part of being an outstanding PM?

The challenging part of being a PM for me is influencing without authority. Most times as product managers, we don’t directly manage stakeholders we depend on (that is engineers, UX designers, customer support, etc.). Nevertheless, it’s important to make sure that these stakeholders are aligned with your vision and thinking since it directly impacts the success of your product.

The sense of fulfilment I feel when I come out of a alignment meeting with success makes the job totally worth it!

Amazon

What are the top three qualities I need to put in my CV to get an interview at Amazon?

Top 3 qualities…

  • Quantify every point in your resume with metrics to show the impact
  • Show that you have exhibited Amazon’s 14 leadership principles through the various bullet points in your resume
  • Focus on what you delivered rather than on the roles and responsibility

What is the biggest difference between PM for consumer-facing products, vs PM for internal team member products at Amazon – in terms of the overall experience?

I have not worked on products for internal stakeholders and can only speak from what I have heard from other PMs I interact with. Based on my understanding, the biggest difference is User Experience. When we build products for external users, we invest heavily in making the UX speak for itself – we can’t expect consumers and Sellers to read through help pages and support content. For internal users, the focus is more on functionality rather than UI. Again, this can vary on a product-by-product basis.

What does career development look like as a Senior PM at Amazon? 

Amazon is great at recognizing talent and finding opportunities that meet your areas of interest (provided you ask for it). You have the opportunity to either move up the management ladder for a particular domain and have other PMs reporting to you. Alternatively, you can be an individual contributor and increase your scope of influencer, that is build products that are transferrable across domains. Many Directors and VPs at Amazon start off as Product Managers.

coding

Do PM or PMT-ES or TPM at Amazon have a coding interview?

PM (Non-tech) don’t have coding interviews. I cannot speak about PM-Tech and TPM since I have not interviewed for those roles.

Product Managers and Technical Skills…What’s The Deal?

What would you say a typical day in your role at Amazon looks like? Any advice you can give to someone currently searching for their first role?

Your day varies depending on the stage of your product. During the conceptualization phase, you are heavily focused on User Research, talking to customers, and understanding their problems. During the development phase, you are closely working with engineers to make sure they don’t get blocked. Post-launch, you are measuring usage metrics and talking to customers to gather feedback and iterate upon what you have already built.

As for advice, build something. It doesn’t have to be large or fancy but build something you are passionate about and ask your friends and family to use it and provide feedback.

 I am starting my journey in Product, a lot of focus is on execution for PMs. Do teams have project managers to take care of that?

This is something I spent hours contemplating when I started off as a product manager. When you start off on your PM journey a lot of emphasis is on delivery and execution. Once you have established a track record on delivery, you have larger strategic opportunities thrown your way.

Also, in smaller companies where you don’t have funding for dedicated program managers, a product manager is expected to get their hands dirty to get the product out the door.

Coming from a consulting and non-technical background what do you suggest I focus on picking up to get considered for the roles?

One challenge that most consultants face when switching into product is showing Ownership. Come up with strong examples of how you have  demonstrated ownership in your current role – that is to show that you didn’t stop with proposing a solution but went ahead and delivered it and made improvements to is based on feedback and metrics.

Check out: How to Transition to Product Management as a Consultant

creative lights

What frameworks do you use to come up with creative solutions particularly for entirely new products and features, where data can’t help you?

In my experience, creative thinking cannot be tied to a framework. It’s about putting yourself in the shoes of the customer and trying to imagine the pain points throughout the journey. Talk to as many customers as possible to better understand their pain points. Also, be open to brainstorm with anyone and everyone. Sometimes the best ideas and most creative solutions come from the sources you’d least expect it from.

You might be interested in: Design Thinking for PMs

Would you say that all PMs in amazon work in the same way?

Fortunately or unfortunately, things aren’t very structured in large companies such as Amazon. Each team (and sometimes each PM) has their own way of organizing and managing  resources and tools. We do organize Lunch and Learn sessions to transfer knowledge across the org.

Product School Students Get Free Access to Top Product Management Tools

What are the transferable skills which are relevant/need to be emphasized when coming from a data engineering/data analyst background to break into product space?

Being a data analyst means that you are already one step close to being a product manager. Data and metrics are so important in the PM world. Your ability to influence and/or make decisions using data is a key asset that would make you stand out.

Looking to transition into Product? Here’s a guide to transition from ANY background

What do you think are the biggest mistakes PMs make during the early discovery phase?

Trying to work backward from a preconceived solution. Always identify the root cause of the customer pain-point before you start solutioning.

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