Lessons from a Product Manager at Google
Growth @Blind for Rooftop Slushie
I'm currently helping with growth at a start-up called Rooftop Slushie, where we try to make job search in tech more transparent and convenient. It's basically like Fiverr, except employees at big tech companies help you out with interview and career advice.
Essentially, our platform connects job seekers to verified employees within FAANG for interview/career advice.
The problem: some experts who provide quality advice (ex. nailing Google's Product Manager Interview
) - go unnoticed. People usually connect with experts who have already amassed a high number of reviews. (I mean, one must be truly brave to pick an option with little or no reviews)!
So I reached out and interviewed one expert called
Tee, in the hopes of directing well-deserved traffic for this user.
Storytime with Tee: Product Manager at Google
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I went to school for Computer Science after spending my formidable years as a kid in school, tinkering and programming for fun. Throughout my academics and in my early career, I found that I was less excited by the bits and bytes of solving problems optimally in O(log n) time; I was more interested in discovering how humans interacted with technology, where they had trouble, and how I could apply my problem-solving and design skills to architect solutions. So, like a lot of Product Managers, I ended up here by accident, through iteration.
What makes an applicant stand out?
I find that an applicant who leads the interview, and does so without pretense or BS, stands out. In terms of "leading the interview," this means being just as active of a driver (if not moreso) than your interviewer—in real time, collaborate to define and validate assumptions, look at the possibilities you could address, describe them, and pick one together. This verbal/whiteboard equivalent of "show your work" not only demonstrates how you approach problems, but it exposes more about the candidate than simply trying to arrive at the "right" answer.
And, "without pretense or BS" is just as important: problems we give candidates are intentionally challenging and rarely have a single (much less agreed upon) approach or answer. Being honest in how you'd approach a problem with ambiguity, acknowledging where you'd need to validate an assumption, and owning where you're stuck speak more about a candidate's fit than trying to smoosh together words that sound nice or frameworks that might not be the right fit to appear polished.
What is the most desirable skill set that prepared you to become a Product Manager at Google?
The two skills that prepared me for a Product Manager at Google are: soft-skills (which, are really hard; I prefer "interpersonal skills") and strategic thinking.
Your vision, goals and "requirements" only mean as much as the team understands and agrees. If you can't succinctly and passionately communicate and respond to your team, you won't get very far. Being able to be a part-time therapist, conflict mediator and mentor/coach is just as important as crafting a go-to-market strategy and maximizing revenue.
By "strategic thinking," I really just mean the ability to intentionally devise, execute and adapt one's approach to solving a problem, through ambiguity and unclarity, in such a way that produces a result that you think is correct (even if the result is "don't do this idea"). This involves thinking in abstractions, defining concepts in terms of testable hypotheses and finding ways to validate, invalidate or collect more data autonomously.
Pros and cons of your job?
The pros of Google is that you have enormous reach and impact, your colleagues are among the smartest in the world, and you have the tools, technologies and support to try bold things. The work/life balance can get blurred at times, but is much better than, say, Facebook or Uber. The company is great - perks are nice.
The cons are that Google is H-U-G-E. Doing anything takes Herculean effort. Satisfying a process can often become the goal of what you're doing (instead of the impact of the thing itself).
What is the most difficult task at work and how do you work through it?
The most difficult task is creating and maintaining cross-functional and cross-team alignment - as each role and team often has different incentives that drive priority and scope. And, because this is tech, things change and re-organizations happen, and there's a revolving cast of characters with different context at every turn. In every conversation, I assume the other person has next to 0 context, and work on my "elevator pitch" to catch up, and routinely check the pulse of a discussion to make sure we're aligned on the foundation. Many a project has been canceled or changed out from under folks because the person on the other side of the communication didn't have the right background information or latest state - so it's important to take the responsibility on yourself to keep everyone up to date and find ways to make this happen in written and verbal settings.
Got Your Own Questions?
Subscribe to get your daily round-up of top tech stories!