Tips for Entry-Level Product Managers

This week Product School hosted Merina Khanom, a Product Manager at BBC for an #AskMeAnything session. Merina answered questions on everything from product culture, understanding the product and user needs, tips on entry-level PM interviews, key metrics, and transitioning into PM.

Meet Merina

Merina is a user-focused professional with experience in Product and Service Management across the Public and Private sectors. Currently, she is a Mobile Product Manager at BBC iPlayer, a UK video streaming app competing with the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime. According to her colleague, Merina is passionate about her work and thorough in her execution. Every conversation is meaningful, and the decisions and ideas she contributes are data-driven, unbiased, and very well thought-out.

Prior to this, Merina was a Product Manager in the Charity sector and a Management Consultant at PwC. Merina’s proficiency in intelligence analysis and her unique understanding of UX makes her skillset perfect for Product. Moreover, she graduated with a Master’s in International Politics and Economics from The University of Manchester.

“Key tips for entry-level junior product manager interviews?”

Be yourself and be confident. If you are seeking your first product role, own the transferrable skills and experience you already have. It doesn’t need to have been in Product or the Tech sector etc.

Check this : The Ultimate List of Product Manager Interview Questions

“How does a customer support role be helpful towards having a career path in PM?”

First-hand experience in customer support is a huge asset as Product Managers need to be closely connected with user feedback on an ongoing basis to understand what things are working for customers and what things are making the experience sub-optimal.

“Do you have any tips for first-time product builders, how to get my first 10 customers?”

If it is a brand new product, you need to start with yourself and ask:

  1. Would I buy this?
  2. What problem does it solve for me?
  3. Who else do I know that my product would solve a real problem for and would they buy it?

You should be able to identify your first 10 customers from your early user research and from there word of mouth will hopefully get you your next 10.

You might be interested in 5 Tips To Start Rocking At Your New Product Manager Job in 2021

“As an APM, what are the primary things I should look to cultivate/learn?”

You need to be curious and willing to understand and appreciate things from other people’s perspectives. This is important since Product Managers are not only the voice for the customer but for any key stakeholders who are not present.

“What is the best ‘Product’ advice you have been given?

Always know your ‘why’. Simon Sinek’s infamous TED talk goes into detail on this, but you’d be surprised how often Product Managers get lost in the excitement of building a new feature and forget why they are doing it and can articulate what value it really delivers.

“As a PM of a streaming service what are the key metrics that you care most about?

There are the obvious metrics e.g. how many people are watching content on your app and how often, but some of the less obvious things that are important to measure include perception scores – i.e. is your app the place customers want to go when they want to find something new to watch?

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“What advice would you give to someone who is looking to move from PM in the e-commerce space to streaming space?”

You already have the raw and transferrable skills to do Product. You should just spend time getting to know the video streaming market – first and foremost from your own perspective as an audience member and then from a zoomed-out lens to understand where each of the main players in the industry has its competitive edge.

Looking for a path to product? Check out our certifications!

“What are your essential apps/tools for cross-functional collaboration?”

I use Slack and Jira. There are many tools out there and I don’t think there’s a perfect solution. The right solution however is the one that you and the whole team find easy to use and actually make use of to collaborate.

Check out: 10 Tools to Make a PM’s Life Easier

“How do you go about introducing yourself to the Engineers when you start a PM position?”

I really like this question. When I worked in the National Health Service, we were told Doctors were the awkward stakeholders, so to introduce ourselves in a no-nonsense tone so that we would be taken seriously. Likewise in Tech, some Product Managers treat Engineers like the the awkward stakeholders and can come across as a bull in a china shop when they introduce themselves.

I think you should discard any horror stories of power struggles and start as you mean to go on – so if you want to work in partnership with your Engineers, then be yourself and get to know them for who they are and hopefully they will reciprocate.  You are both equals and have awesome things to learn from one another.

Join us next week for another #AskMeAnything Session for more insights from Product Managers around the world!

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