This week, #AskMeAnything welcomed Carlos Villaumbrosia, Founder and CEO of Product School. Product School is an education company that offers Product Management courses in 20 campuses worldwide, including San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Toronto and London. Carlos has founded 3 companies in the education space and has 8 years of experience building teams and digital products in Europe, Latin America and the US. Read on to hear his responses to community questions about his Product Management journey and maybe join us next time?
Prior to founding Product School, Carlos was the Lead Instructor at General Assembly, responsible for curating the course content and teaching product management. Prior to joining General Assembly, he co-founded Floqq, the biggest marketplace for online courses in South America. Before founding Floqq, he worked as a Product Marketing Manager at Involver (acquired by Oracle), a startup that created the world’s largest social marketing platform. He has a Computer Science Degree and a Management Engineering Degree and a Certificate in Global Business Management and Marketing from the University of California, Berkeley. Carlos is the author of The Product Book: How to Become a Great Product Manager.
How did potential employers take into account your past managerial experience and what roles did you come into when they brought you on-board?
I’m sure a lot of the things you’ve done in previous roles are related to product one way or another, so you’re technically not starting from scratch. I would recommend to look for those similarities first and then look for companies who appreciate what else you bring to the table. For example, larger organizations tend to have more PM openings than small startups. Larger organizations will also have openings in the product team that are not just “product management”.
What is the ideal PM role and how does one determine that when talking to a company about their PM role?
Each company may define product in a slightly different way. Here’s a presentation I created to explain the 3 most important skills needed and how to go about picking the right company: www.slideshare.net/productschool/becoming-a-successful-pm-with-product-schools-founder
What are the requirements of a minimum viable side project?
Having side projects is very important, especially if you don’t have an official PM job title yet. This becomes less relevant once you get a PM job and are trying to get your next one. Side projects can go from a deck with a prototype, to a personal website, to a store on eBay, to a hackathon product to a fully-functional product. My advice is to start small so you don’t give up and then you can grow your side-project as much as possible. Who knows, it might even become your full-time PM gig 😉
How common is it for companies to ask for a portfolio when looking for a Product Manager? What would you include in a portfolio and what would you do if much of your work is client confidential?
Very common, especially if you’re applying to your first PM job. When companies ask you to prepare something for them as part of their interview process, they don’t do that because they want to steal your ideas or have you work for free. They want to see how you work and how committed you are to get that job. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide how much time you want to invest in each interview process, and how much information you want to disclose from previous experiences. No company will want to sign an NDA just to check out your portfolio. At the same time, try not to disclose any confidential information from previous clients.
What is the best way to empower and influence your team and the people that are working with you?
At the end of the day, it all comes down to people. You need to be equipped with the right knowledge to earn the respect of your team, so they know you know what you’re talking about, but that’s not enough. You also have to develop soft skills like empathy to establish a trusting relationship with each member of your team. Each of them may have different motivations and you can’t always apply a rule that works for everyone.
I always say that as a PM, you’re the one who brings the donuts, the one who listens and helps from behind the scenes, the ones who gives credit to the team when things go well and takes responsibility when things don’t go well. I wish there was a magic formula 🙂
As a digital marketer, how can I break into Product Management? Is it better to look for a role in startups or a mid-size company?
Marketers tend to make good PMs. I would look at 2 things:
1 – Product Marketing opportunities in mid to large organizations, so you can make the switch in 2 steps.
2 – Acquire some coding and data skills to help you get a stronger technical background so you can engage with your engineering team.
How relevant is it to show potential employers that you have a PM certification and to have on LinkedIn to demonstrate that you have proven skills?
The Product Management and the Full-stack Product Management certificates are a great way for you to validate your knowledge and interest in product: https://productschool.com/product-management-certification/
Obviously, you also have to be ready to prove that you can deliver results. No certificate will guarantee you a job, but getting a certificate is a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition (other candidates), get the skills that you need to actually do the PM job and access a network of mentors and hiring companies.
What are some things I can do along with my team to turn the company’s focus to building features that our users will love?
It depends on the company size. If the company is too big and the culture is very ops-driven, it’ll be almost impossible to influence that much. If the company is relatively small, I would talk with the leadership team to truly understand the motivations of their approach to product, and for them to learn more about your point of view.
These type of changes/influences come from the top. For example, Facebook is a very product-driven organization, while Google is a very engineering-driven organization. There are other companies like InVision that are very design-driven organizations
Do you have any key steps you constantly include in your work and that for you are fundamental 99% of the times?
I wrote a book called The Product Book, to explain the PM process from end-to-end using very practical examples so you can use it as a reference and then adapt it to your own scenario.
Many of our PM Instructros from Google, Facebook, Airbnb, Uber, Paypal, etc. contributed so we could come up with a framework that has been validated by different companies and product leaders. You can get a copy here.
What is the typical hiring process once I complete PM course at Product School? What else do you recommend I should do to get a software PM role?
We will help you gain the right PM skills and show them by building your portfolio, adapting your resume and LinkedIn profile, preparing interview questions, identifying 30-50 companies that are a good fit for you, and facilitating connections to some of them. Depending on your previous experience, this process can take anywhere between 2 to 6 months.