Preparation Journey into Product Management
My journey of preparing for a product management interview, along with the resources I used
This post is meant to document my journey and the resources that helped me prepare and
get into a Product Management internship role at a leading B2B SaaS company.
This was part of the summer internship placements process at my B School. This
is a description of my journey, the steps I took to prepare and the resources
that helped me. I hope this might help somebody prepare and take the plunge
into a PM role. There are some aspects of the process which are very specific
to our college, but the general preparation process and resources would apply
Setting the Goal
The first step for me was setting the goal, to put my mind into preparation. I knew
before I even joined B School that PM was where I saw myself. The focus of my
SOP during applications was in fact focused on breaking into PM and making an
impact. This decision came naturally to me due to my background and experience.
This may not apply to everyone. In case you are confused about whether PM is
for you, do some research. There are plenty of amazing articles online about
what PM really is.
One of the features of life in B School is FOMO – Fear of Missing Out and peer pressure.
When you see almost everyone doing something, you are strongly attracted to the
same thing. When you do not get what you want there or do not do as well as
expected, you tend to feel bad. This in my opinion was the biggest hindrance
that many people around me faced. Consulting roles are the rage among most
people and everyone seemed to want that. When you did not get considered for
them, it hit hard. I saw people around me feeling bad and losing the motivation
to continue their preparation due to this. Staying strong and keeping a
positive attitude in the face of this was the biggest challenge. A lot of
times, it is up to you to keep yourself motivated. If you see somebody in your
circles affected, it would help them a great deal to talk to them and reassure
them. But most importantly, take care of yourself and surround yourself with
people who understand and will motivate you to keep going.
The Preparation Process
Preparation I did was a combination of individual preparations and group discussions and practice. Initially, I read up about the process and the kinds of questions
that could be asked in the process from the material provided by our PM Club.
It started with reading up some of the standard books that are recommended for
PM preparation – Cracking the PM Interview and Decode and Conquer. The initial sections of Cracking PM Interview talk more about the different organizations like Facebook and
Google, the PM role there and specific information about their processes. In
case you are not preparing for a specific company, that would not help you. The
real deal comes in from the chapter where they discuss the question types. A
basic explanation of the question and approach is explained, followed by a
worked sample. Then there are some more example questions which don’t have
solutions. The aim here is to practice these, along with others, trying to
simulate an interview setting or brainstorming together. Decode and Conquer
introduces the all-important CIRCLES framework that I found is the guide for
solving most questions in interview settings. There are many solved questions
here which give a complete interview type transcript. Going through both these
books gave me a basic idea of what to expect and some ways to approach
questions. I also worked with my group to discuss them and brainstorm further.
Such sessions helped us stay on track, bounce ideas off each other and learn
The next step was the search for more questions with solutions that I could practice and
compare. I turned to online sources and discovered this great resource – Stellar Peers
which helped with understanding common frameworks under the different areas
followed up with at least 2 sample questions to go through for each of them.
This was a great additional practice resource for me. Then there was the
searching online for questions and problems that led to a large number of
one-off articles and links (listed at the end). I also came across another book
by Lewis C Lin who wrote Decode and Conquer – called The Product Manager Interview, which had more recent questions
and answers. This was a good source of questions.
For Product interviews, an important question that we had to be prepared with was
favourite/most used apps. We need to pick one or a few apps we know well and
use on an everyday basis. Then be prepared to talk about it from a product
perspective, what kinds of pain points it solved, what were some good features
in it that helped us in our lives, potential improvements that could be
introduced and how it would help users. It is always better to have one app as
well as one physical product analysed and ready to answer before an interview.
In each analysis, we need to apply the basic principles of CIRCLES, keeping the
user and their pain points in mind plus how it could be solved better. This
structure and thought process being applied on items from our everyday lives is
what they look for. Such thinking will prepare you for how you need to think on
Another thing I did was an analysis and comparison of apps in different tech sectors.
This wasn’t something I was recommended to do explicitly, but more of practice
for thinking and analysis. I picked a specific area, looked at all the popular apps
in that, looked at them from a user’s point of view and suggest ways to improve
it. This was done spread out over a significant time. I picked one sector for
maybe a week or two. For example, I took up e-commerce one week. Got into
Amazon and Flipkart and completely explored all screens in them. For each of
them, I wrote down what I thought as a user and what were possible struggles I
might face. Then looked at the two sets and tried to write down what each were
doing well and not well as a comparison. Repeat for other things like ride
hailing and so on.
Another thing I did in parallel was follow and stay updated on the latest happenings in
the tech world. The objective of this was to be able to have meaningful
informed discussions about recent happenings if it ever came up in interviews.
As a future product manager, it is a reasonable expectation that you are
interested and passionate about the latest happenings and developments. My go
to places for this were TechCrunch, Wired and Inc42. I subscribed to the
newsletters of all of them. Everyday their headlines were delivered to my inbox
and I made sure to at least look through the titles. If any of them
specifically caught my eye I read them in detail.
Interview Run Up
This part is very specific to the process I went through for my internship interviews. It
was important to maintain confidence and focus in the lead up to the interview
day. I was faced with a situation where there were multiple companies with whom
I could potentially interview. There is always a little bit of company specific
preparation necessary. Right when I got to know which companies I would be
interviewing with, I started out on that. I had some friends supporting through
the process who helped with material for the companies. Some basic hygiene
factors we must know are the kind of products the company makes, who might be
some of their competitors and their business model – whether they are B2C or
B2B, do they operate on ad-based model or subscription model and so on. For the
really big companies we would be familiar already, but there are many for which
we might not know this. Also, a look at their culture, and specific principles or catch phrases they have would be good to know. Using them during your interview will always make an impression on the interviewer.
Like mentioned in the beginning, this was my journey. Everyone has their own unique
experience. We do not all work the same way and come from different
circumstances. But the resources, materials and general approach can help in
preparing for a Product Management role. I hope this gives an idea and helps
you on your journey.
Here are some of the links that I collected for reading up on different topics and
Flywheels of companies – Twitter recommended - https://theflywheel.substack.com/
"Why Zomato is less appealing as a food delivery app” by Karthik Pasupathy https://link.medium.com/Q9dTAEYq4ab
Product prioritization Twitter Thread - https://twitter.com/shreyas/status/1320105221570228224
Product pricing strategy - https://www.lennyrachitsky.com/p/saas-pricing-strategy
framework for decisions- https://twitter.com/shreyas/status/1325621393531138048?s=21
features related reading - https://www.androidauthority.com/whatsapp-new-features-1173239/
Metrics for Products and Features:
PM and Tech, Co-founder of LonePack - youth mental health focused non-profit, Optimist, Startup enthusiast