Could you explain to us about the field of ‘Product Management’?
Sure! Product management is about learning what users want, your company’s goals related to a product, and translating those thoughts and ideas into product solutions. You do that through a series of creativity and development processes. One way to understand product management is to imagine it as a juxtaposition of user experience, technology and business. Where all these three things meet, I think that’s product management.
What was the general interview process for the company you interviewed, and tell us how to prepare for that? Please mention the number of rounds and the nature of the interview process.
Generally, there are three rounds of interviews on campus, but these can differ from company to company. Usually, before any rounds of interviews, candidates are shortlisted. You have to make a solution deck based on the company’s problem statement within a specified time frame. Based on the deck and the CV, students get shortlisted for the interview rounds. The idea is during these rounds; you have to answer product and business cases. They might ask guesstimates, product thinking cases, problem-solving cases and strategy questions. There can also be a dedicated round for HR and technical problems. MX Player was the first and only company I interviewed for, and I had to go through 2 rounds of interviews. The first round was about 45 minutes long, and I was asked a guesstimate and some product thinking and solving cases. The whole motive behind this round is to check your logical and structural thinking process. They observe how you respond to questions, process your thoughts and ideas, and reach a solution. The second round was about an hour long. They asked me a mix of product cases as well as HR questions. It ended up with a casual conversation about my CV, and they asked me to elaborate on the relevant experiences mentioned in it. For product management or any managerial role, you need to prepare product and business cases and case studies. Have a good case group to practice cases with and be aware of what’s going on worldwide. It is one of those career paths that are very interesting and complex because you can not learn it academically. It is something that you know with experience, which comes from practice and keeping yourself informed.
One general doubt, is there any technical round involved in the process? And does one need to know how to code for product management roles?
Some companies do have a technical round, but it doesn’t involve coding. They judge your technical understanding and general concepts around the technical domain. Coding is not necessary for product management roles because you usually don’t have to code yourself as a Product Manager. But since PMs interact with developers and technical personnel, you need to be aware of the basic concepts and understand their jargon. So, coding is not mandatory, but it’s a plus point if you have that skill set.
Could you please list down questions were you asked in the different rounds? Puzzles, technical problems, any other discussion in general that you think will prove helpful for students.
During the first round, I was asked a guesstimate where they wanted to know how good I was with numbers and if I could structurally convey that information. The interviewer also asked what my favourite product was and how I could improve it. I was also asked to identify the metrics and KPIs to measure the success of an app. They wanted me to solve a problem regarding the decrease of daily active users. In the next round, they grilled me a little on my CV. They asked me questions like “Why do you want to pursue product management”, “Why this company”. They also gave me a few situational questions and asked how I would respond to those conditions. Finally, they gave me a product strategy case to solve. Since there was a lot to discuss during these interviews, I had to keep track of time and answer concisely. It is essential to think out-of-the-box. To do that, stay updated with what is happening around you in the tech, business and product domain. That is the most critical aspect, and it is crucial to remain aware. Because only if you have spent some exploring products and businesses can you form an opinion about them and discuss them comfortably and objectively with the interviewer.
What are some of the FAQs you face and think students must prepare for in most companies? More specifically, in the context of HR rounds.
One general question is “What’s your favourite product?”. It seems like an easy question, but there’s a lot you can do with it. If answered structurally, there is a lot of knowledge that you can showcase and stand out in interviews. Some other examples can be — “Determine the market for iPhone users in India.” or “There has been a 10% decrease in the daily watch time of YouTube, identify the problem and suggest some solutions?”. To prepare for such questions, some resources give us a comprehensive list of such problems and suggest ways to tackle those questions. For example, books like ‘Cracking the PM interviews’, ‘Decode and Conquer’ might be of use. “Swipe to Unlock” is a great book to understand the basics of tech. “Stellarpeers” and “Product management exercises” are good online platforms where you can find popular questions asked during interviews. These are some of the resources that will give you ample practice. For HR questions and specific situation-based questions, you need to be well-versed with your CV, and you should be comfortable answering any questions related to it. Their motive is to catch your interest and passion about the field — whether it’s an informed choice you have made to pursue it or is it just a backup option for you. With rigorous practice, you can become comfortable in handling cases and case studies. You have to keep on practising with your case group because it is not something that you can learn within a short period.
What are things students sitting for placements next year can do from now until December to maximise their chances of getting through a company in this sector?
For the next batch sitting for placements, the first step should be to identify what field/career they are interested in. Time is of the essence, and you shouldn’t split your efforts too much. If you have already determined that and if you know what you are passionate about, then it’s okay, but if not, you must figure it out as soon as you can. Whether you aim for product management or not, it is essential to practice puzzles and HR questions. As product management is a very competitive field, you must show that you have a genuine interest. Practice puzzles and keep yourselves updated with what’s going on worldwide in the Product and Business space. Find a good set of people with whom you are comfortable, form a case group and start solving cases and guesstimates together.
And how far do the positions of responsibility on the campus help you? How has life in KGP has supported you for this role?
PORs can help you showcase your team leading and teamwork capabilities for product management roles. If you have good PORs listed in your CV, it can help get you shortlisted for interview rounds. If you don’t have any such experience in your CV, don’t be disheartened since companies give weightage to solution decks for shortlisting. The overall campus experience helped me through the placement process. Whether it’s internships, projects or departmental courses, all this allows you to showcase your skills, no matter how far apart your department is from what you are aiming for. The best part of KGP life is that there are so many opportunities and so much you can learn each day. No matter what you are interested in, you’ll find many chances to explore and develop your skills. So, IITKGP helped me explore and meet good people who helped me throughout this journey.
Anything else that you’d want to share with the students?
For any pre-final or final year student facing a dilemma, I would suggest staying calm. It is a phase of life, and I am sure that they will do well if they keep faith in themselves and work hard towards what they want. Placement is all about persistence and perseverance; you have to keep putting in efforts even if you think things are not working your way, without worrying too much about the result. It is also an excellent time to stay connected with your friends and learn together. I would suggest you keep working hard and start early. For the first and second-year students, I think college life is essential for exploring as much as possible and try to make the most of all that KGP offers. Don’t be fixated on placements just yet; and instead, focus on exploring your interests and passion. Don’t forget to enjoy your KGP life!