This week Product School hosted Michael Satyapor current Product Manager at Hulu for an #AskMeAnything session. Michael shared his recommendations for all the Aspiring Product Managers out there as well as advise to make sure you succeed in you Product role.
Meet Michael Satypor
Michael Satyapor is a Product Manager at Hulu. He has experience working cross-functionally to bring products and features from idea and concept to market launch both in the US and on a global scale. Prior to Hulu, he was a Digital Product Manager at WarnerMedia. He was also a Product Manager at Nielson where he led international product launches.
Setting the base for your Product Career
Any advice for an Aspiring Product Manager at a startup?
The nice thing about startups is that there are often more opportunities to interact with different functional roles and teams since it’s a smaller environment (vs a large organization).
- Current Skills: Depending on what team you currently work for, start by considering how that helps you pursue a Product Management role. E.g. Product Manager roles often fall on a spectrum between Technology and Business. So if you’re currently in an Engineering role vs a Business Analyst or Sales role helps determine your point of entry.
- Needed Skills: Look at the role requirements. What skills can you build in your current role?
- Type of Product role you are interested in: Are you interested in a front end product (one with a UI) or more of a backend or data product (data pipelines, shared infrastructure).
- Looking at the world with a Product Manager lens: Think of some of your favorite software products. What makes them successful and what would you do to improve them?
You might also be interested in: The Difference Between Startup PMs & Big Corporation PMs
What’s the most important certification (that HR would care about) for a newbie getting into the industry?
This is a popular question. Thanks for asking. The reality is that I have rarely seen certifications be useful or listed as a requirement for PM roles (i.e. At least in the tech, media, streaming, social space).
So let’s look at it this way, useful skills for getting a PM interview:
- Previous PM Experience – Worked with Stakeholders to build features and products from an idea through execution. I.e. Do you know how to define a problem, work with others to create a solution, and manage and prioritize tasks through product delivery?
- Technical acumen – Knowing how to work with engineers, experience managing a backlog, and defining requirements.
- Industry knowledge – How well do you know the space? It’s likely easier to apply for a PM role in the industry you have experience in VS. switching to a new PM role for the first time AND trying to switch industries.
- Domain/subject knowledge – A subset of the above. How well do you know the subject?
You might also be interested in: How to Stand Out as an Aspiring PM by Google GPM
How did you get your first Product Management position? Why do you think you have been chosen for this role?
The first Product role is always the toughest to land, but be encouraged and keep applying and interviewing because there is a high demand from employers for them right now.
In my first Product Manager role, I believe I was selected because:
- Internal hire: was already working at the company. It was easier to show that I understood the company’s core business and focus.
- Strategic thinking: I had some previous analytical experience. Being able to use data to highlight key points and find insights is a critical part of making the case for a new product or feature. Thus I could demonstrate HOW my thought process works and show that it fits with the Product Manager approach (strategic mindset).
- Research: I had spent time researching our company, industry, and relative position. Thus, there was a baseline understanding of what our challenges and opportunities were and how the product line would help fit into the overall company goals.
What advice do you have from someone early in their career with no engineering experience?
Associate Product Manager is a great entry point for recent grads and those without Product Management experience.
Here is are some things to consider:
- Engineering experience is not a requirement for Product Managers. Many numerous roles don’t require it. The main benefit of the Engineering experience is that it helps you to understand how to be empathetic with your engineer team (i.e. write requirements, understand trade-offs, better participate in design discussions).
- I wouldn’t worry about certifications unless the roles you have seen mention them.
- Shadowing and “coffee chats”: reach out to PMs at your current company. Ask them to talk to you about the skills and experience needed. Reach out to folks in your network or do cold messaging on Linkedin if you don’t have connections. Many people won’t reply and that’s ok because of several wills.
- Skill gap analysis: Make a list of common requirements in the APM roles that are of interest. Determine which ones you have/you need.
- Consider talking to the PM manager at your current company. It’s likely easier for you to become an APM at your current company, getting a referral from a PM contact at another company, and then cold applying as the last option.
- Rotational PM programs. Many companies such as Facebook now offer these programs for new and recent grads to break into PM.
You might also be interested in: Why Becoming a PM Without a Technical Background Is Possible
Tips and Tricks to Succeed
How do you prioritize what to do next? How do you act if your point of view is a bit different from the wishes of other stakeholders?
This is the common denominator in all Product roles. While it can be tricky, the answer is to:
- Goals – Focus on the company goals or objectives: Use your organization or company’s overall Objective to guide what features are prioritized. What will be meaningful vs a “nice to have”.
- Customer-centric: Determine which option will satisfy a user’s need or make their experience with your product easier or more enjoyable.
- Impact – maximize for measurable outcomes. Work with stakeholders to have mutual impact metrics (new users, time spent, time saved, revenue).
Everything in Product Management is a tradeoff between time (to market), cost (vs revenue ROI), and resourcing (people who can work on the project). Guide and facilitate the stakeholders to debate and reach consensus on a) what all the options are, and b) ranking them in order of importance and value.
You might also be interested in: 3 Prioritization Techniques All Product Managers Should Know
Are there specific characteristics or qualifications I should call out that speaks to the digital media space?
Find commonalities: Get a solid grasp of the potential new role and how your current experience translates over. For example, let’s say your current FI role is very heavy on database management and security. Let’s say the media role is focused on Subscriber signup and payment information. You can highlight that you have experience managing large datasets and privacy schemas for user data.
On the other hand, let’s say you don’t have obvious transferrable experiences. It could be tougher so be persistent. Consider:
Do you have any peers or folks in your network who can do a referral?
Highlight your product chops. What products have you built, what problems did they solve, and what was the IMPACT (revenue, user signup, time saved, etc).
Draw the connections in your resume and interview for the media company hiring managers to see.
What should I be looking for or what questions should I be asking my first Product Manager hire?
I would recommend you also interview the potential hire as well as your Senior/jr Engineer.
Here is my view:
- Responsibility level: Depending on how junior or senior you want the first hire to be will determine the questions you ask and what you are assessing. There are lots of general Product Manager hiring questions available such as The Ultimate List of Product Manager Interview Questions
- In terms of specific questions, I would start with what you want them to be responsible for, and then work backward to determine what criteria/questions to ask to assess their fit.
Join us next week for another #AskMeAnything Session for more insights from Product Managers around the world!