Hey Alexa: What’s it Like to Be a Product Manager at Amazon?

This week, Product School hosted Nidhi Chaudhary, a former Product Leader at Amazon, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Nidhi answered questions regarding what it was like to work at Amazon and shares her expertise from 13 years of product experience. 

Meet Nidhi

Nidhi Chaudhary, former Technical Product Manager at Amazon

Nidhi Chaudhary is currently working in Product creating Cloud Solutions at Bell. Before this, she was a Senior Product Tech Manager at Amazon.

Originally trained in engineering, she transitioned to Product Management and held positions at several companies. She’s taken part in developing many new products that are now big successes over the course of her career.

Nidhi is passionate about solving customer-related problems in Business-to-Business and Business-to-Consumer scenarios, and enjoys prototyping and monetizing new ideas.

What kind of strategy management were you involved with at Amazon?

At Amazon, I was fortunate enough be to a part of 2 teams: the Alexa group and the AWS marketplace group.

The job of an SPM at Amazon is to basically build the complete business case, execution strategy, delivery strategy from start to end and that’s what I did.

Bird's eye view of an Alexa on top of a stack of books

How do you juggle between a priority that comes from leadership versus what the engineering says and what you have in your backlog?

I don’t. What I mean by that is, unless something is a compliance/legal requirement, that will make my business go red completely, I evaluate all requirements by its impact on the consumer rather than the source of the requirement.

Another factor that I consider is whats the effort required in it. I usually prioritize low effort+high impact items first.

What market research would you do before finalising the scope of a change?

Great question. That totally depends on a) nature of scope change b) nature of the industry in context c) know-how of the PM executing that on the subject.

Check out: Product Management Skills: Market Research

Is there any framework or set method you follow to predict the impact of a feature or a product?

Impact can usually be of 2 types – qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative would mean anything that you can’t measure directly. Like an improved UX and C-sat because of it.

Quantitative however, can be measured directly in terms of $$, # hours saved, # transactions etc.

I have a specific question: what are the key things you look at when integrating your product with a payment gateway?

Wow. that is specific.

I’d say first I’d evaluate what all do my customers needs are. Sometimes, customers in a particular geography may need access to a particular payment instrument or a particular routing algorithm or a particular level of security depending on the domain etc. I’d list all of that out and then start evaluating available solutions.

Keep in mind, in some extreme cases, you may have to go with a hybrid model with 2 or more vendors.

How do you weigh the pros and cons of reaching out to customers to turn on/enable location services in an app?

I must say this is a great interview question. One of the frameworks that works for me is a) pick customers that are eager to try new things b) see if its a one way door or a 2 way door? Read more about that here.

Map in warm lighting with colored push-pins on top

What does Amazon look for in a Tech PM?How do you manage the inner struggle of contributing your two cents on the tech front as a Tech PM?

I’m an engineer by education so there aren’t really as many internal struggles for me. In fact, I enjoy the technical part of the equation because that’s where I can see all the magic actually convert into reality.

Amazon or any other company for that matters look for someone who can play a liaison role between business and technical teams and understand tech framework/strengths/limitations at the same time to get to a much more productive outcome.

You might also be interested in: 4 Tech Horror Stories: When Products Go Bad

What skills and accomplishments are important when applying for the position of Technical Product Manager?

In general, I look for these things:

  1. Ability to be curious and continue learning
  2. Adaptability
  3. Coachability (especially important for a junior level)
  4. Soft skills.

When applying for jobs, how do I evaluate whether a position aligns to my scope while still giving opportunities for growth?

I’d say map your career backwards. First identify where you want to be in 5 years. Second, what all skills you require to get there and how/where can you learn them along the way. Third, target those positions only.

Check out: Our New Favorite Book on Launching a PM Career

During the interview, what metrics does Amazon look at for an APM? While onboarding?

While onboarding? None. While interviewing? Tons. Mostly around Amazon leadership principles

 If I want to have a career pivot to PM, how do I transition from sales to PM?

The following approaches certainly work:

  1. Try to move internally within a company rather than finding a job outside
  2. See if you can shadow a current product manager for a few days
  3. Find as many product mentors within the group and get their help in making the move a reality.
Two one way signs pointing in different directions

What are tips for transitioning into a PM specializing in data/AI/ML? Does an MBA or data science-related background help?

Getting a relevant education certainly helps. Its not mandatory though.

Check out: Transitioning to Product Management From ANY Background

I read that you did your MBA from UCLA. What were the key benefits you got?

I completed an executive management qualification called PGPX that’s targeted for senior professionals. It was a good experience overall and helped me refresh my skillset tremendously.

After becoming a PM, has your perspective changed for other apps?
Do you enjoy reviewing new apps?

It’s interesting that you ask this. Because on one hand, I certainly review the apps as a consumer. But on the other hand, I’m much more interested to know how a decision was made and why – how did the team prioritize/execute this?

Before we go, do you have any final advice for aspiring Product Managers?

Talk to as many current PMs as you can. Get mentor/s in the industry – that is a blessing.

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