So… I did a thing. I joined an 11 week Product Management Fellowship and This Is How It Went🌱
I currently attend Drexel University in Philadelphia as a Junior (4/5 years) majoring in Information Systems and minoring in Human-Computer Interactions & Technology Innovation Management. Product management wasn’t something I heard of until I did my second co-op (6 -month internship) at Comcast on the Xfinity Mobile Product Team as an Associate Product Manager (APM). I was in wonder to work alongside other Product Managers, Engineers 💻 , Design 🖌, and Business 📊. After my co-op ended in March 2020 (the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic) and I was doing Zoom University, I started poking around LinkedIn to find product communities to join. I came across the Product Buds Community🌱 in June 2020 and was hooked ever since.
What is Product Buds 🌱
Product Buds (PB) is a community where budding product managers sprout, grow, and flourish. The community offers PM Interview Preps, workshops to increase PM skillsets led by industry PMs (anywhere from Associate PM level to Director/VP level), Protothons, and so much more.
The Post 😯
It was January 2021 when I was scrolling through my LinkedIn feed and stumbled upon a post about applying to the first Product Buds Winter ’21 PM Fellowship 🤔 Interesting. I was intrigued. It peaked some excitement. So I shoot my shot 🏀 not expecting much really. On February 5, 2021, I received this in my inbox
I couldn’t believe it. I must’ve read it over three times to make sure it was what I believed. My journey into Product Management was really happening.
The Start of Something Great 🎈
Out of 300+ applicants, 30 unique fellows were chosen to make up the inaugural PB Winter Fellowship Cohort. Most of the activities occurred Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for an hour.
✨The Goals of the Fellowship are:
- Understand whether PM is something you want to pursue
- Leave the program with basic PM skills
- Create a network of aspiring PMs and mentors
🗓The Fellowship is 11 weeks of:
- Product-focused workshops to build your toolkit
- Fireside chats from product managers in startups, mature companies, and different industries all around
- A case study project for your resume
- 1:1 mentorships with experienced PMs
- Learnings and homework provided by RocketBlocks
Building Your Toolkit 🧰
What is a PM and what is not a PM? How do you identify problems and form solutions? What's the Product Management Lifecycle? Who do PMs work with? How do I start building relationships with those at my dream companies?
Questions on questions that were answered through workshops presented by members of the PB executive team and by leaders from Microsoft, Instacart, Salesforce, Wonsulting, etc.
- Product Management Lifecycle
The PB team was very hands-on in setting us up to understand the basics of the Product Management Lifecycle first. For instance, finding a problem and forming a problem statement. Then from the problem statement, work with the team to create mocks, build, and release.
- Working Cross-Functionally
Being a product manager is about working cross-functionally, meaning that PMs are the connection between the teams who build, design, market, sell, and support what you envision. So, being able to understand and pick up tactics to how PMs communicate with designers, engineers, sales, marketing, and support has equipped me to see from their point of view.
- Networking, Preparing for Interviews, Recruiting
Ok, I was learning a lot about product management so far. But how was I going to build bridges with other PMs in the space, prep for product interviews, and improve my resume and CV to convey my experiences and accomplishments? By applying Wonsulting’s Networking & Recruiting Strategies, completing RocketBlocks Assignments, reading up Product Manager HQ’s blog posts, and watching over PM Diego Granados content. Thank you Jonathan Javier & Jerry Lee for providing me with key insights to better my professional presence and expand my network. Thank you Kenton Kivestu for the access to the RocketBlocks portal so that I can work out different PM interview questions and watch mock interviews. Clement Kao, thank you for reminding me that I am a product too and that I’ll find my product/market fit someday. Lastly, Diego Granados thank you for informing me of the expectations of a PM, interview prep timeline, and much more.
Fireside Chats 🔥
The fireside chats were meant to be an open space for the fellows and guest panelists to talk about the different types of PMs in distinct niches, what a PM at a smaller company looks like compared to a PM at a mature company, and the various qualifications to be successful in the journey into PM.
- Different Niches of PM
Product Management is a very nuanced profession, with many gray areas. So, it was astounding for me to be introduced and informed of the specialized roles from the panelists. For instance, Technical PM, Data/Analytics PM, Growth PM, Strategy PM. Depending on my interest and skills, it was reassuring to know that there is a multitude of PM types to help me see where I’ll match.
- PM at a Startup vs PM at a Mature Company
Companies of all sizes across industries look to hire product leaders. When it comes to product management roles in startups vs. large enterprises, there tend to be a few key differences between the company cultures, resources, specific demands of the roles, and set of skills. To grasp what it’s like in the startup realm, three PMs from different startups came and shared their experiences of exploring different areas and wearing many hats. In contrast, a LinkedIn PM and a Microsoft PM described how their lifestyles look like with more resources to work with, collaborating with management, and the types of projects they’ve worked on. At the end of the day, I was able to find out more about my right-fit role in PM.
- Getting A PM/APM Role
It’s not easy obtaining a PM/APM role out of college. The field is highly competitive and it was difficult for me from time to time to remind myself that “I can do it.” I was in the Fellowship, but imposter syndrome and doubt were hitting me like a truck. However, it felt comforting to hear how Ami Patel, Grace Yeung, and Rithika Raghav all paved their own paths and overcame their hardships to land roles at Microsoft, Salesforce, and Google. This goes to show that challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes them meaningful. Jae Taylor was another guest for a fireside chat where I was reminded to either create my own opportunities or actively seek them because nobody’s going to do it for me.
Case Study 📝
Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn — Ben Franklin
Throughout the Fellowship, I learned how to find a problem, coming up with solutions, prototyping, strategizing for the go-to-market, building a roadmap, and pondering on the next steps. I took what I learned and applied it to a 10-week case study. Week-by-week, we had workshops dedicated to our case study and deliverables to do. Each of the fellows was paired up with another and I am entirely grateful to have been paired up with Rahma Hussein. We both have never done a case study before. So, we were pumped and ready🤩
We began our case study journey together hopping on video calls to brainstorm companies we were interested in from big-tech, like FAANG, to unconventional companies. We chose Facebook because it personally impacted us. After choosing a company, the research begins by analyzing its business model and defining a problem to help solve. Upon identifying a problem, we went straight to work on the prototypes for low, medium, and high fidelity to showcase our solution.
There were a lot of highs and many lows when it came to this case study. I was still in school juggling 18 credits of classes and working part-time. Because Rahma was in another time zone working full time, we would stay up hours on end to complete our weekly deliverables, which will then be put together into an 8-minute presentation. I can recall towards the end of March into the middle of April I was stretching myself too thin with my responsibilities cornering me. Nevertheless, it was completely worth it until the very end to see everything finalized. I couldn't have done it without Milap Patel, Randy Shao, and the entire PB Fellowship Team 💕
And that being said, I present to you Facebook Travel
Please feel free to look through our deck, video, and prototype 👇https://linktr.ee/facebooktravel
For each of the 30 fellows, we were matched with a full-time product manager to guide us through the 10 weeks, to learn from, and to discover more about PM in the industry.
Thank you, Balaji Ananthanpillai, for your time and wisdom.
The End Was But A Beginning 🥂
I cannot overly express this enough that the Fellowship has been one of the proudest experiences to me so far. Not only did I learn more than I thought, but I was also given a community of fellows from all over the globe from diverse backgrounds. I haven't spoken to every single one of them, but I can just tell how dope they are by their engagements in the workshops. One huge takeaway from the past 10–11 weeks is building genuine relationships. The power of building bridges can bring you very far in life.
What’s next for me 🤔
As I will be graduating undergrad in June 2022, my full-time job searching journey starts NOW. With the case study finished, I’m going to take it with me into every interview that’ll come my way. The 10–11 weeks of intense learning will not go to waste because now that I have a community, I’ll bound to do more case studies. From the number of people I’ve come across, I’m going to schedule those coffee chats, actively listening and engaging with them. I’m going to continue researching for APM programs and other opportunities in product. But most importantly, I’m going to say true to who I picture myself to be. I’m going to make the future version of myself proud.
Wherever you are on your journey into product, Keep It Up & Good Luck 🤗
If you have any questions, want to share your thoughts, or just want to chat, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn with a personalized message 😆