Instagram PM Says You Have to “Be Firm and Determined” in the Product Industry

In this week’s #AskMeAnything session, Product School hosted Deotima Mukherjee, Senior Product Manager at Instagram. Deotima shared her working experience with Instagram/Facebook and shared how to get started as a Product Manager.

Meet Deotima Mukherjee

Deotima has demonstrated a strong capability to manage large projects with global cross- functional teams and delivering great results. She currently works as a Senior Product manager at Instagram, where she establishes shared visions across the company. Additionally, she defines and analyzes metrics that inform the success of Products, understands Instagram’s strategic and competitive position, and delivers Products that are recognized as best in the industry.

What It’s Like to Work in Product at Instagram

What’s an incredibly successful day like for you as a PM at Instagram? What’s an absolutely chaotic day like when nothing goes right?

  • An incredibly successful day: I have a series of meetings with people across the org which results in concrete decisions and moving a project forward (or deciding not to!)
  • A chaotic day: One where none of my meetings result in any meaningful progress and I feel burnout and not productive at the end of the day!

As a PM knowing when and whom to meet is a pretty important decision.

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Have your consumers attitudes and behavior changed due to COVID-19? Will you adapt your products and services to accommodate?

People are spending more time on social media and online than ever. A lot of people who were doing things off-line are quickly shifting these behaviors online. It’s important that we capture that new opportunity but at the same time remain mindful of the fact that people are lonely and more isolated so anything we build for them should make them feel better and not worse.

Another important aspect is becoming aware of the fact that people are using your product for a different use case than you may have initially imagined. For example racial justice has definitely taken precedence for all of us and making sure that we are building a product that’s fair and will provide equal access to everybody is crucial.

Both Instagram and Facebook are planning a lot of work in this area, some of which has already landed so I’m excited to build for a future where everyone’s voice is heard.

What does Facebook look for in Product Managers?

What I can say is understanding what Facebook cares about is very important. There’s three things: 

  1. The ability to think about measurement and metrics, 
  2. The ability to think creatively and use logical frameworks to talk about your product ideas,
  3. Empathy and resilience.

Outside of this, we care that you have demonstrated an ability to lead a project successfully from end to end and shown leadership over all of the different areas.

hands building rubix cube

How do you get prepared for competitors such as TikTok?

The short answer is, lots and lots of research and experimentation. Getting this right is not easy so making sure that your bets are focused on the problem you’re going after but also that they are creating new opportunities versus just copying existing ones is important.

How do you handle disagreements on product direction with executives? How do you evaluate decision-making dynamics if you’re navigating midst a political environment?

This happens all the time and the key is to use data and evidence to make your case! Show principles thinking, use a framework that allows people to easily understand why your decision is right.

As a PM you will get pushed around all the time, so some of this is simply being firm and determined. Don’t be afraid to ask people to get out of your way. YOU are the PM, the buck stops at you. It’s NOT rude to say, “Thanks for the feedback but since I am the PM this is how I am planning to do it for reasons xyz.”

What model do you use to calculate feature score for prioritization?

To be honest, this varies by PMs. Personally I use a simple matrix of impact, effort and risk to calculate an average score. I then map their relevance to organizations or company priorities to make the final decision. My roadmap is a mix of critical things that have to be done today and exploratory work to discover new opportunities!

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Where do you see a space for innovation in online fashion shopping?

It’s important to recognize that people have too many options today and not a good way to sort through them. Anything that comes next for shopping is to make sure that our choices are hyper personalized and make it easy for people to quickly find what they want and order it with complete faith in the process. Basically help me find what I want as quickly as possible and order it with trust.

What would make all of this even better if that’s done in a way where the U/I is really compelling and inspirational for the user.

Getting Started as a Product Manager

How would you go about getting your first job as a PM with a professional background in both software development and business?

I have been there! I went from being a Data Scientist to a PM. My philosophy is, start doing the job you want to do, today. That may mean finding opportunities at your current role to take on more PM-like responsibilities. If you have an opportunity to intern with a firm or take some classes that’s also a good way to flex this muscle.

Do you have any tips in terms of crucial skills needed for a new grad looking to secure an APM role after graduating?

Hustle, hustle, hustle. 

Public speaking, executive presence, creative-thinking, exhibiting project management skills, handling people and budgets where you created something new, being able and willing to wear many hats at once. 

Strong EQ which means both empathy for customers AND for your team.

Person public speaking

How should I portray my resume to pass the resume screen for a product manager role? Considering that I’m an entry level engineer and have experience leading and managing engineering projects throughout university.

Make sure your resume is brief and focuses on things that a product manager would usually do. For example, if you have managed a project end to end and had input on design and research and metrics, then make sure you call that out. 

Showing impact is really important, try and quantify that impact so that it’s clear that you understand how product managers are evaluated. 

Any examples you can also provide where you presented any strategy or changed thinking for senior executives will also be valuable.

How did you talk about your time as a Data Scientist during interviews to prove that you would make a great Product Manager? What transferable skills did you emphasize and sell to the hiring manager to make you extra appealing?

Being a data scientist or having any kind of analytical experience is actually a huge bonus for a product manager. A lot of product managers have creative thinking skills but when it comes to metrics or understanding what calls to set or how to measure them back for the product they fall short. In today’s landscape knowing how to use analytical tools appropriately knowing how to troubleshoot problems with the data is actually pretty critical for a PM. 

The best way to frame your data science skills for a PM job is to show that you are able to think creatively about a problem, influence design and research but then also bring that analytical thinking skill to create meaningful impact and measure it.

You might also be interested in: Product Management Certificates

Don’t miss out on our next AMA sessions to hear more from Product Managers! 

Glossary: 100 Must-Know Product Terms to Become a Master

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