Customer Impact, Business Impact

This week, Product School hosted Padma Sethu, Product Lead at Amazon, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Padma answered questions regarding transitioning into a PM role, getting a senior PM position, and the hardest part of a PM’s day.

Meet Padma

Padma Sethu, Product Leader at Amazon

Padma is a Product Lead at Amazon Business, working with supplier tools.
She has over seven years of experience working with Product at Amazon.

Before joining Amazon, Padma spent four years as Assistant Vice President at Merrill Lynch, creating and setting in motion platforms that saved on costs while boosting efficiency. Padma earned her Master of Business administration from Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford.

What side projects do you suggest for someone who wants to go from a PM to a Senior PM?

young person on laptop with coffee at side

At PM level you are given a well-defined problem/scope and the expectation is on execution. At the Senior PM level, the problem statement is less defined and you need to identify the problem/propose solution. There is an aspect of setting the vision and strategy here. Would suggest taking on projects that give you that type of exposure.

Check out: Seeing the Problems Before They Happen

What is most challenging part of your day at work and how do you progress through it?

As a PM there is inevitably always more work than I can fit into an 8-hour workday. So I find that I need to ruthlessly prioritize what I want to focus on. I like to create a short task list at the start of day and check out items as I progress through it.

You might also be interested in: 3 Prioritization Techniques All Product Managers Should Know

What should I expect in a Technical Product Manager interview?

It depends on the hiring manager. Could be a combination of prior experience evaluation, LP, product sense, project management, tech design/system design, roadmap management.

You will also be evaluated on other soft(er) skills like communication and stakeholder management. Would suggest asking the recruiter as well to see if there is anything specific the hiring manager is looking for.

What would you suggest to a PM who has joined a new company?

A few things you can do to get ramped up:

  1. Get to know your customer. If you can use your product as a customer, that will give you sense for what customers experience is and what areas of opportunity are
  2. Get to know industry at large, what other competitor products look like
  3. Talk to your stakeholders, they will give you ideas on what has been working/not working and may have roadmap ideas to at least get you started
  4. Track down key metrics for your product (sales, traffic etc) so you understand how things are performing and what you need to focus on.

How can I move from a program manager role to product manager role?

A program manager role is focused more on driving large-scale projects or groups of projects to launch. It’s more execution-focused.

To move to product, it would be good to demonstrate an ability to set a vision/strategy for your product, getting your team to execute on it. There are several transferable skills though (like stakeholder management, roadmap management, project management) so not too far off.

Read next: Transitioning to Product Management From ANY Background

I’m currently working as a software engineer. How can I make the transition to product management?

red leave changing color

If you are able to take on 1-2 side projects as PM, that would help. It will give you a flavor for product work and you can also use that to demonstrate to HMs that you have relevant experience.

Which are the key insights a product manager should derive from qualitative data?

Typically qualitative data is useful for:

  1. Adding color to what you are seeing in your metrics (E.g., if your app registrations are declining, looking at qualitative metrics may give you sense for why this could be the case)
  2. To be used as anecdotal evidence in the absence of any metrics/hard data.

Any final advice?

Final advice: you guys are clearly all asking the right questions! Breaking into PM is not easy, but certainly doable. The key is to focus on customer impact and business impact and make sure you are driving your team towards that. Having this perspective will help in your interviews.

Product Podcast Season 7

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