- I am a fairly new PM at YouTube. I work on its Premium subscription business. The scope of the role is both internal and external focused.
- What is the product : YouTube Music and Premium is a subscription based service (typically monthly recurring subscriptions) which gives users ads free, backgrounding , downloads and some other features on the YouTube Apps.
- Whats my job :
- User facing : My job is to drive awareness, adoption and engagement with features other than just ads-free.
- Internal role : I build reliable, scalable and useful data infrastructure that can be used for decision making. For example, building robust data sets that can be used for business metric reporting, for building product insights visuals, for ML models etc.
- Although I’m new to PMing, I’m not new to Google. I’ve been at Google for 8+ years and at YouTube for 4ish.
How/why/when did I decide to switch to PM
I’ll be sharing another post with my journey so far. But the short version is that I had this realization while helping out my PM on YouTube. The PM team was short staffed at the time.
I had the creative, analytical and technical skills to share the PM’s load. And so I did. And boy I loved every minute of it. I had found the sweet spot ; a perfect role where all the things Im passionate about co-existed.
After a few months of helping, I spoke to the PM manager to see if I could do a rotation (where you work with the team part time and get experience on paper). The manager one upped me and just asked me to start preparing for the interviews. They believed I could crack it and if not they were happy to let me to do a rotation as fall back option.
I made the switch after 4 weeks of prep and it was the best thing that happened to me.
Thoughts so far
- Loving every minute of it!
- PM skills = life skills
- Empathy ✅
- Prioritization ✅
- Tradeoffs ✅
- Effective communication ✅
- Negotiation ✅
- Critical thinking ✅
- Time Management ✅
- Risk Management ✅
- Lots and lots of meetings – get used to it (at least at Google)
Since making the switch, I’ve been helping other aspiring PMs figure out a path to PMing.
If you are one of those people, then here are some tips and resources on how to prepare. If you need help, please reach out to me on Linkedin.
How to prepare
First of all, there is a ton of work and luck involved in the process. This is a highly coveted role (that has been my perception at least). Fortunately, there is a huge repository of resources to help you out – books, podcasts, videos, articles – you name it.
Secondly, don’t doubt yourself – you can do it! I’ll share all the resources I found helpful and hopefully those resources will in turn lead you to more resources. Pick and choose what works for you.
Thirdly, I was already at Google when I made the switch. If you are an external hire and/or are looking to become a PM at another company, I’d encourage you to get in touch with someone with the relevant experience.
Here goes :
- Understand what you’re being tested on : There are standard questions that test well understood attributes e.g. questions will test your product strategy, product design, technical expertise, analytical etc. The recruiter will help you here.
- Develop a framework to answer each question : Please don’t overdo this!! Its enough to have some loose frameworks such as “whats the problem –> who is experiencing this problem –> why are they experiencing this problem –> what’s the solution”. Interviewers can tell if you have memorized the framework, so don’t fall into that trap. Keep the answer simple and the framework organic.
- Build user empathy : Always place the user first when answering any question. If you are asked to design an alternative to a walking stick for the blind, take a minute to imagine what it might be like to be that person. It’s not easy but try. Make sure you build and show user empathy.
- Practice creative aka 10x thinking : This is another highly valued attribute at Google. Google is looking for outlandish as well as practical ideas. Read the futuristic reddit threads, watch videos on YouTube, draw ideas from science fiction – anything goes. Try and incorporate them in your answer. Even if an idea is ridiculous you can always simmer it down as you work on picking the right solution with the interviewer. Just try to insert some of this 10x thinking in your answers.
- Treat your interviewer like your teammate : When answering the question, think through how you would work on a solution with a teammate :
- tell them “Here is how i am thinking of approaching the problem – what do you think?”
- “here are the different types of users who we could design for. Im thinking let’s design for user A and here is why. What do you think?”
- You don’t have to ask this after every question but its important to bring the interviewer along on your thought process.
- Don’t overdo it to the extent of asking your interviewer to make a decision for you. You are the one being interviewed – so show your decision making skills. But keep checking in with the interviewer to make sure they are following along.
- Look for cues to get back on track : Your interviewer may try to steer you in a certain direction if you are going off rails. Take that cue if it seems reasonable. This will have to be a judgement call. Maybe the interviewer is just trying to pressure test your idea. Whatever the case may be, any push back from the interviewer is an opportunity to re-assess. Whenever that happens take a moment to think and don’t think of it as a personal attack.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat : The answer may be very clear in your head but make sure its clear for your interviewer too. Periodically take a few seconds to recap where you are in the answer so far.
- you could say something like “so this is the problem we are solving, this is the user base, we thought of 10 ideas and now im going to narrow it down to 2 ideas that I want to execute – how does that sound”
- Just make sure your interviewer knows exactly where you are in the answer and how you landed there. This is critical when giving remote interviews
- Wrap your answer in a blanket of data: If time permits make sure to close out your answer with an overview of how you will measure success. Design a few metrics if you have the time OR tell the interviewer that if you had the time you would have come up with metrics.
- Tradeoffs : When answering questions there will be a point where you have to consider tradeoffs between various solutions. For example, should you spend time upfront and automate a solution or should you just start scrappy, test the solution and automate later. You should make that call but tell the interviewer that these are the tradeoffs if you go with Option A vs Option B
- Practice clarity of communication : How effectively you communicate your idea is as (or maybe more) important than the quality of the idea. Get lots of practice – do mocks, video record yourself, practice in front of a mirror. There’s no right answer. Do what helps you improve.
I learn best from textbooks so I’m including them here. But choose your own adventure if books are not your preferred learning medium
- Books :
- 🤓The Product Management Interview by Lewis C. Lin
- 📲System design by Alex Xu
- 🔐Decode and Conquer – didn’t read it but i’ve heard its good
- Cracking the PM Interview by Gayle Laakmann McDowell – didn’t read it but i’ve heard its good
- YouTube videos and channels
- Exponent – a repository of mock video recordings. I personally didn’t feel the need to subscribe to their paid version.
- 🔥System design by Gaurav Sen – whatta guy, whatta channel
- 🤯System design by Mikhail Smarshchok – if you have to study one thing on system design, watch this video
- Product Management Exercises by Bijan
- Product School
- Newsletters, websites
Technical interviews at Google is something I get a lot of questions on. If you study the System Design book and watch the videos I shared above you should get 90% of the way there. In addition to that, you can always practice pseudocode – you don’t need to know the syntax of a programming language to do well in the technical interview.
And of course reach out on LinkedIn if you want to chat.