As I’ve mentioned before, one of the best PM interview preparation strategies is to create a “Big Ideas” list of tech trends. When asked questions like “What is the future of the microwave?” or “How would you redesign the airport experience?” these tech trends can help frame your answer, and demonstrate your forward-thinking skills.
Below is a list of the top five tech trends I bring up in my PM interviews. I suggest you not only make a list, but study the topics deeply and stay abreast of major discussions in the industry.
What it is: Context-awareness is the idea that our hardware and software will be able to understand the context of the users interacting with it. For example, what if microwaves could automatically scan the food placed inside it, and choose the appropriate timing? Or what if your phone could change the home screen app icons depending on your location? In this way, context-awareness helps our technology personalize to the specific context of the user.
Example products: Flux, Google Now
Tradeoffs to mention: While context-awareness is awesome, it also has some tradeoffs. Specifically, machines need to collect more context about the user, which can be a major privacy violation. Additionally, if the machine gets the context wrong, it can be a disastrous user experience: imagine if your microwave burned your food because it categorized your yam as a potato!
What it is: Despite “Big Data” being the most overused phrase of the last decade, it’s continuing to revolutionize the technology industry. Most product ideas can involve some element of machine learning and automatic customization, whether it be in search results page ranking or app notification timing.
Example products: Yelp, Amazon, Spotify
Tradeoffs to mention: Over-applying machine learning to every single problem shows that you don’t fully understand what ML can do. In an interview, don’t say “…and we’ll apply ML to this to optimize it better.” Instead, give thoughtful considerations on how data collection can improve the product in meaningful ways.
What it is: AirBnB started a huge wave of startups in this space. The core idea is leveraging a significant amount of unused potential to serve a current market need. This has a wonderful effect of reducing waste and making the world a more connected place. What if no one needed to own a microwave, but instead could borrow microwave usage time from their neighbor?
Example products: AirBnB, DogVacay, Uber/Lyft, TaskRabbit, GetAround
Tradeoffs to mention: Safety is a huge concern for the sharing economy. How can we ensure these stranger interactions are reliable and trustworthy? Additionally, product quality is important — when items are shared, users still expect them to be high quality, or if they’re not high quality, how can the product communicate this to the user?
What it is: With products like Google Home, or the Facebook Messenger Bot Platform, technology is increasingly interacting with us in a conversational manner. What if you could text your microwave to cook your food before you got home? Or book flights via voice UI in your car?
Example Products: Facebook Messenger Bot Platform, Google Home, Amazon Alexa
Tradeoffs to mention: Conversational UI can be clunky if the right user experience isn’t considered. When discussing the implementation, consider edge cases and ways that the product can “nudge” users in the right direction.
What it is: Smartphones are the “remote controls” for the world. At any moment, you can get yourself a movie, a cab, or even a new microwave. When designing products, consider how the product can provide services to the user with the simple click of a button. Applying this principle to various industries can help disrupt the current model of distribution. For example, what if you could easily and automatically get a massage by telling your Amazon Alexa “Get me a massage, please.”
Example products: Uber/Lyft, Amazon Now, DoorDash
Tradeoffs to mention: Often, on-demand apps require additional context about the user in order to provide the customized experience. Try to minimize user input by using context-aware clues, like GPS location. One really cool example of this was the viral app, Push for Pizza, which asked the user zero questions, and just deliver pizza ASAP.
If you’re interested in professional product management coaching, you can reach out at https://www.pmlesson.com/.
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