This week Product School hosted Kapil Gangane, currently a Senior Product Manager at Expedia for an #AskMeAnything session. Kapil talked to us about defining the role of a Product Manager, transitioning into PM, and having a healthy work life balance.
Kapil has solid professional experience in Information Technology in various domains. Currently, he is enjoying being a Senior Product Manager at Expedia Group helping teams to go from idea-to-impact by enabling them with ML-based products. Prior to this, Kapil was a Product Manager of the Machine Learning Platform at Hotwire.
“What would be an ideal strategy to move to a PM role?”
I was a software developer in my previous life (I still code on the weekend for fun), having a software development background helps in software product development. IMO Product connects Business + Customers/ Users + Technology. If you are trying to transition – based on my experience – start with the basics of Product (product lifecycle, Product-Market Fit, etc.) and find an opportunity that connects Product and Software.
“Coming from a mechanical engineering background, can you share some pointers for picking on the PM space?“
Manufacturing/mechanical engineering is pretty cool! I did PM certification to learn and understand the basics of product management. I suggest looking at what products you would like to build and how to get there. Certification or further studies will certainly help, IMO. There are many books on the subject (I will ping you a list of books that helped me). Also having a mentor helped me a lot, maybe look into that.
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“How different might the role be for an MNC vs a startup and how can one patch up that void when transitioning into an MNC based product role?”
Startup life could be fun if the culture is right (and the same is true MNC). It depends on what is your career goal. If you want to make products that matter then company size does not matter. If you are trying to transition – it definitely not tough and can be done. I did it. Build your career profile around the product work you did and any MNC will be more than happy to hire you if the mutual interests match. Look into what roles are open and why they are open and how you can leverage your startup experience to jump there.
“Do you foresee product manager roles getting more technical in the future? For instance, it’d be a must to know python or SQL to become data-driven product managers?“
Product role is already evolving in recent times. Product Manager, Technology, Tech PM, Product Ops these are the different roles already being used in various orgs. We usually work in a team set up with science, analysts, and such, as a PM you should know how to leverage these teammates and use the data to drive the decision. If you know SQL, Python that will be a great benefit. You can unblock yourself in some cases, build the data set, and work on it. Having knowledge of coding helps simplify the user stories to the software teams. I do see coding or tech knowledge being a plus for some jobs and for pure tech Product roles it could be a basic ask.
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“What’s the hardest part when product managing ML products and what makes it fun and rewarding?“
ML Products have some very difficult barriers to clear. The hardest part that I find lack of ability democratize ML to the non-tech or non-science folks. e.g. in my previous project, an analyst had an idea in mind to run about email marketing but had no infrastructure to collect data set and run a simulation. They were blocked at the first step – access to a cloud computing system. The fun part – If as an ML-PM I am able to help someone go from Idea to Impact in a short amount of time that is a product I helped shape that mattered.
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“From your experience what kind of companies provide better work life balance for PMs?”
I was in a stat up life. That is a beastly nature of start ups – heavy lifting with limited resources. IMO the work-life balance is about the company culture and not necessarily product or any role-specific. The best way to find about the work-life of any company is to make connections with people who actually work there and find out. Also, the team set up matters. Manage is the best ally in any job and any company. I would suggest The Product Manager’s Survival Guide by Steven Haines on this. He had a similar experience but in a bigger company. As for the PM role and the balance, it could be the nature of the product you are managing. Sometimes the Ops and other things take up a bigger chunk of product manager’s life that create a burden.
Join us next week for another #AskMeAnything Session for more insights from Product Managers around the world!