Transitioning from Analytics to Product by WeWork PM

Are you an Analyst who wants to transition to a Product Manager role? If so, how can you do a smooth transition? What are the relevant questions you can ask to mentors? Can you get some before-hand experience in your current team by acting as a PM?

In this article, Nikil Ramanathan, WeWork Senior PM, talks about his journey of being a Business Analyst and transitioning into Product Management. Some of his tips focus around talking to the leadership team to get a bird’s-eye view of the product, attending PM meetings to understand decision making, and doing additional tasks in your existing team that resemble those of a PM, to help you gain better experience in Product Management.

This article is based on Nikil Ramanathan’s talk “From Analytics to Product Management.”

Transitioning from Analytics to Product

When Nikil was working as a Business Analyst at Amazon, he was focused on identifying key business metrics and providing trends for the business. Nikil had the opportunity to partner with Sales Managers from different verticals to help them create brand names and identify competitors. His interaction with the Sales team motivated him to take the first step of being in a more technical role.

Soon he landed an opportunity with Amazon Video where he worked on the X-Ray component; a component where relevant information like the actors’ name and directors’ name are displayed on the playback of a video. He also worked on Mobile Devices and led all products within the Amazon Video portfolio. Lately, Nikil discovered his interests in Product Management and sought guidance from other PMs at Amazon to make the transition to the Last Mile Technology team.

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Nikil landed an opportunity with the Amazon Video team

Nikil attributes his transition success to networking with leaders, current analysts, former analysts, and other product managers.

He recommends talking to leaders as they can give you a comprehensive view of the product. Having the opportunity to be in the Mobile Devices team for Amazon Video helped Nikil to work with PMs and get mentorship from them. As an analyst, he was able to provide specific metrics to PMs that helped understand the whys of a product.

Here are a few tips to better understand the role of a PM and what questions you need to ask PMs to have a smooth transition:

  1. One of the most valuable skills of a PM is to know how to prioritize different tasks. Ask a PM about the strategies they use for prioritizing different tasks while also meeting the business goals.
  2. The biggest takeaway for an Analyst is to figure out how to do things as an Analyst that resembles the work done by a PM. For example, conduct A/B tests for your product and do other tasks that imitate the role of a PM in your team. This will help you get a better understanding of the PM role, further your relevant experience when you interview and allow you to see if you would actually enjoy being a PM.
  3. Most Analysts are stuck with what they’re supposed to do but they need to think about additional product insights. Understand the whys of a product and come up with your own suggestions/questions.
  4. Ask PMs how they measure the success of the product they manage. Is it based on customer adoption or the time a customer spent using the product?
  5. Attend meetings conducted by PMs: you can see people making decisions about the product which will give you an insight to the end-to-end process.
  6. An efficient time-management strategy is to spend 30% of your time doing things a PM, and 70% of the time on your work as an Analyst.

Nikil also recommends talking to current and former Analysts and asking them what gets them excited about their role or why they made a transition from Analytics to Product Management. Understanding their sentiment and the decisions they made will help you introspect your path as well. Further, meeting a wide variety of people and asking them all these questions will help you get first-hand feedback and knowledge about Product Management.

Once you figure out all the aspects of Product Management, it is important to discuss this with your manager. He will be able to assign you projects where you can start acting as a PM without the formal title. This experience is extremely invaluable when you make the transition.

When you are making the switch to Product Management, look for more analytical or data savvy roles and make sure you have a strong handle on the product metrics.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Talk to lots of people, get feedback, and ask lots of questions. Ask why?
  2. Develop relationships with teammates and mentors as they can help you get your foot in the door.
  3. Figure out what type of work in your current role most resembles the day-to-day for PMs and focus your efforts there.

Meet Nikil Ramanathan

nikil ramanathan

Nikil Ramanathan is a Senior Product Manager at WeWork where he handles negotiation with real estate owners and focuses on improving discoverability and sourcing of CRE properties. Prior to WeWork, Nikil worked at Amazon for five years, in three different teams and in three different roles. He started his journey in Amazon by working for the NA Sales team as a Business Analyst and later made a transition to Amazon Video, and then to the Last Mile Technology team where he led the product.

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