Creating Google’s Next Big Product

This week, Product School hosted Sai Boddupalli, a Product Leader at Google, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Sai answered questions regarding transitioning from a junior level to a mid-level PM role and how to make an organization more KPI-focused.

Meet Sai

Sai Boddupalli, product leader at Google

Sai has vast experience within the mobile game industry, payment platforms, and buyer experience. Prior to working at Google, he was Head of Product at Glu Mobile, led a team of PMs and Data Analysts for India operations, and was responsible for the growth of three major titles out of India.

In his current role, he’s led projects like Google Pay for India & ROW. He loves the challenges of a product management role and the freedom it allows him to identify problems and create new things.

Before you get the job

Group of students in graduation ropes throwing their caps into the air

What type of degree would you say is the most suitable to become a PM?

I am happy to report that good PMs I have worked with have come from all backgrounds. However, the most common types are folks with either an engineering or Data Analyst type of background, followed by marketing.

What advice do you have for someone with limited experience who wants to get into a product management role at a company such as Google?

Firstly see if you can find a role that has some attributes related to Product Management.

For example, I started out at Accenture in tech consulting and a lot of my time was spent working with my clients to understand their needs and then building a PRD for engineers to consume.

I was able to use this as evidence to help my aspirations of becoming a PM. Also, depending on the company it can be difficult to transition internally to a PM role, so if the opportunity arises to be a full-fledged  PM anywhere, take it.

A lot of students out there create PM clubs. Is this a good addition to a resume?

It is, but do it because it’s worth doing and not because a recruiter will like it 🙂

Do you recommend any books?

I personally liked “Cracking the PM Interview” and “Decode & Conquer.” Anything by Sachin Rekhi is also a valuable read. He has a blog that he’s had up for a few years now and I continue to use that as I grow in my career.

Smiling woman receiving stack of papers

What advice do you have for product managers in the early stages of interviews at Google?

I can’t really give any Google-specific information, but overall PM interviews anywhere hinge on Product Design and Strategy. Any FAANGish company will focus on that in up to 70% of the interviews, so spend your time on that area accordingly.

At Google

What is Google’s next big product?

Top Secret 🙂

How does your typical day look like as a Product Manager at Google? 

I think the fun part is there is no typical day 🙂

The question that I do ask myself everyday though is, “what can I do to unblock my engineers and get the ball rolling.”

That involves many possibilities—finishing up a PRD, concluding an experiment, getting buy-in from an executive, reviewing a design doc, or getting approvals from legal, privacy etc.

I do have to convince someone pretty much every day to buy into my product vision. This is a role that requires you to have a stomach for hearing the word “No”.

What are the major differences between a day-to-day PM responsibility in FAANG vs Gaming?

I found that the PM role at a gaming company is more heavily weighted towards a stricter set of KPIs that are all tied to revenue. In some of the other areas where I have done Product work, it is a little more nuanced, and PMs get to spend a lot more time on design (which tends to go to game designers in gaming companies).

Check out: Being a Product Manager in the Games Industry

Level up as a Product Manager

Red and yellow fireworks explodin g

What differentiates a great PM?

Great PMs IMO find ways to get things done. They don’t wait for someone to tell them what needs to be done and they love the challenge that comes with the role.

Top 5 skills for a Product Manager to excel in their career?

Good question. In no particular order:

  1. Grit
  2. An understanding that you don’t know everything and hence need an open ear
  3. Ability to assimilate a lot of information quickly
  4. Ability to work across different functions
  5. Ability to influence

How do you push a company to be more KPI and OKR driven?

Tough one. Some companies are naturally more data-driven than others. One thing I do is that I say that a feature is never complete unless there are metrics in place. We can’t ship unless we can measure its performance.

You might also be interested in: These Are the Metrics Great Product Managers Track

What advice would you give a mid-level PM who gets the feedback of “you come off as junior”?

When you start off you tend to rely on others within your ladder to advise you on the more tactical day-to-day problems. Once you level up, the expectation is a higher level of independence and a focus on longer-term problems.

At a junior level you are expecting someone else to hand you a problem area. If you are getting that advice one way of handling it is to think about whether you are spending enough time identifying and defining a long-term problem that is worth solving.

Does solving a problem with a conventional framework give off a bad impression? Is it better to create your own?

I’m happy to say that I’ve used frameworks that lead to good outcomes (though not necessarily groundbreaking). Find one that works for you and stick to it!

How would you say PMs should balance ownership of issues and escalation to leadership?

What works for me is having a clear discussion with my manager and review what kind of situations I should involve them in. Ideally, the guidelines should come from them but if not I would make it as clear as possible with them.

Any final advice?

This is a great field for anyone who has the drive to create something out of nothing 🙂 But it takes patience hard work and discipline. Find a role in any company where someone is willing to bet on you and make your move from there.

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