Tag Archives: internet

No longer on Quora

A while back, Quora flagged my account as using a pseudonym and not a real name. Apart from flagging it, they suspended my account.

The process to get it reactivated seemed cumbersome, unnecessary and intrusive. I use this moniker in various other places which have not had a problem with it so far. And while social media is useful, the privacy issues have not been satisfactorily addressed so far(in my opinion).

Net result, I decided to delete my Quora account.

At some point, the processes and rules to manage a cloud service must co-exist with the rights of individual users. To flag a long term user as a violator of “Terms of Service” could be interpreted in various ways.

I still get email traffic from the blog asking for my opinion on various topics, and I plan to continue responding to these emails.

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10 Reasons why “MBA preferred” appears in Product Manager recruitment ads

10. The recruitment team wants to shortlist candidates from thousands of applicants for an entry-level role, and MBA/PMP is chosen as a criterion. This is fairly common in large firms.

9. The Product Manager is actually required to have business modeling/statistical analysis or product pricing/marketing skills. This is very rarely needed in India, for both offshore roles and for Indian market facing roles.

8. The “MBA preferred” lets the recruitment team decline internal applicants who want to move out of an engineering role into product management.

7. The head of product management/hiring manager has an MBA

6. This product management role reports to the local sales head, and it is actually a category/brand management role for India/Asia-Pacific. Such roles are quite prevalent in hardware/mobile firms.

5. The role requires the product manager to work with vendors/clients/account teams etc. based in India, and a person with an MBA might have an edge in relationship building and management, as per the hiring manager.

4. The ad wants applicants with a full-time MBA from a top business school, but the recruitment team was not sure if they would actually get many applicants. This is often the case with senior level positions.

3. The PM head wants a “business oriented” product manager, even though the role is actually completely engineering facing, and requires strong domain knowledge. This often happens in offshore R&D centers, and often leads to a bad hire.

2. The “MBA preferred” can be interpreted as a code for highly paid candidates to apply for the job.

1. (My favorite) The ad was copied from a standard template and it contained the words “MBA preferred” in the original ad.

Marissa Mayer should read this blog

[All respect to Ms. Mayer, she’s accomplished a lot in the technology industry]

I have blogged earlier about how a PM must tackle challenges to his authority from a strong engineering team. Well, if you read this article from the Business Insider called “The Truth About Marissa Mayer: An Unauthorized Biography” you would realize that these inter-personal conflicts occur in almost every firm, right from a 5 person startup to the largest internet giant.

[ The Business Insider article is also a must-read for the details it offers around the activities of a web PM in a senior role]

The article also mentions how her run-ins with engineering led to her ultimately being sidelined into a different role at Google. In fact, as many can attest, this is a common theme in technology product management. If you come up against a powerful engineering lead, then the person most likely to move out is the one who does not write the code, even if she is closer to the customer.

A couple of references from my blog here. Here’s the first post where I described how engineering and product management can have creative conflicts.

Here’s another post where I specifically mention why obsession is important for a product manager. As per the unofficial biography, in Marissa’s case, her obsession with details caused resentment in engineers and other stakeholders who did not agree with her vision. Another issue was that her obsession was primarily about data analysis and the value of that analysis, without understanding the impact of her decisions on others. And that was a key factor in her getting sidelined. The article also mentions how this obsession had also alienated a lot of people at Yahoo!

Without getting into the merits of this debate, I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

By the by, I have posted earlier on why analytics is important for a PM today, but that is not specifically about the UI analytics, as was discussed in the Business Insider article.

Web Recruitment Ad – 6: For A General Manager

Now this is an interesting recruitment ad on LinkedIn (job posting is removed):

Designation: General Manager-Web Publisher Products

Location: Bangalore

And here’s the interesting part, in the description of Professional Background and Experience, the ad states that “A degree in Computer Science or a related field is highly preferred”.

It is remarkable that for selecting a person in such a senior role (at least in the Indian arm of Amazon), the undergraduate major is “highly desirable”. Does this mean that a top manager without a computer science or related background is unlikely to be hired, or may not have a good career at Amazon India? And perhaps this also indicates their lack on interest in hiring MBAs in such roles.

Now this may be a typo in the ad, and I do not have the inside information on why they would insist on this, but if you add in this news report that the Yahoo CEO is looking for computer science graduates from top colleges, then things become murky.

Here are 3 things to ponder:

a) If you are a product manager in the web world and do not have a computer science background, are you likely to hit a glass ceiling?

b) How is a computer science degree correlated to success in a general management role?

c) Is this ad a self-selective ad, which indicates that IITians with a computer science background, who have been successful in their careers, are what Amazon is actually looking for among the applicant pool?

Disclaimer: I have a lot of respect for Amazon.com and the work they do in India and overseas. I was just curious about this report on Yahoo and the Amazon recruitment ad, and hence this blog post.

A Program Manager Can Be More Powerful Than A Product Manager

The title of this post may seem illogical to some. After all, the Product Manager (PM) is the one that leads product releases and is often responsible for product P&L (profit and loss). And a program manager (pm) simply tracks activities in MS Project. So how can a pm be more important than a PM?

I first heard this from a Director of Engineering at Microsoft, Seattle. He explained that in consumer products, it is very important to get the pulse of the market, and hence everyone listens when the PM talks about features, use cases, revenues, competitors etc. Whereas in enterprise products, there is often a vast pool of resources to manage that work to deliver a single product release on time and within budget. Hence the teams of pm become very important to the product line. And since they have fewer releases per year of enterprise products, the program manager has a more significant role to play there. Of course, the pm in Microsoft has a different role than a traditional industry pm. [ A description of MSFT program manager’s role in India is given here.]

In offshore roles in India, the prominence of the role of a pm and a PM depends on their level of independent responsibility. If either the pm or the PM’s reporting hierarchy is to the product line management (typically in the US) instead of India operations teams, then they have a strong and important role. Otherwise, given the typical scenario where you have offshore engineering centers, a pm coordinating engineering projects is sometimes more powerful than a product manager. In fact, having both product and program managers report to an Engineering Director is also not uncommon. This can occur in both consumer and enterprise software firms, and in both cases the pm can have a more prominent role than a PM.

So, if you’re researching on alternates to an operational product management role in India, a pm’s role is worth a closer look.

Web Product Manager Recruitment Ad – 5

On Feb 8th, Ebay posted a recruitment ad for a Director, Product Management in Bangalore.

The complete JD is available on the link above. In December 2012, they had hired Ramkumar Narayanan, VP Product Management, Yahoo!, as the GM for their India center, so their focus is shifting to Bangalore. Should be an exciting time to join them.

Location: Bangalore
Desired Qualification: Long list of experience, capabilities and personality traits listed in the ad
Desired Experience: Not mentioned

Here are some points to consider about the role and the firm:

  • This looks like a new, senior level role in their eBay India Center of Excellence.
  • The ad mentions the job title as Director, Product Management 1 – Tech. so it is definitely for someone with a strong product engineering background.
  • Networking skills and industry reputation will be the key to getting an interview for this role.
  • Based on data available on glassdoor.com and other internet sources, the typical salary for this role should be more than 45 lpa CTC. This would exclude RSU/Stock Grant/ESOPS or other bonuses. The ceiling could be a total package of Rs. 65-70 lakhs all inclusive for a very, very good candidate.
  • Roadmapping is a key requirement for this role, and hence someone with an MBA and many years of product management experience should be an ideal fit.
  • The role will involve building and grooming a team of product managers. Given that such roles typically go to people with an MS/MBA from a top school in the US and significant US work experience, the product managers hired later would likely have a similar profile.
  • You can expect ads for junior level product managers once this position is filled out.
  • India engineering, US senior management and India leadership team will be the key stakeholders.
  • This role is unlikely to carry P&L responsibility for a product line, but would probably focus more on building the product management competency in India.
  • Growth after this role could be to another organization in the e-commerce space or an IT consultancy or strategy firm. Or you could join a startup as a CEO, CXO etc.

Disclaimer: I have a lot of respect for Ebay.com. This post is only provided to prospective PMs to help them to interpret job ads for product managers

If you have applied/joined somewhere for a web PM role similar to this, then drop me a comment, and we can discuss the same.

The Startup PM Recruitment Scam in India

So you are a Product Manager looking for an opportunity to work in a small team, and you see a job ad for a startup. It says that they need a product manager and the job description is really exciting. You immediately customize your CV and shoot it over to the recruiter and start preparing for the interview call. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases in India, it is a scam.

An employment scam in the simplest form is a recruitment event where there is no intent to hire a candidate. It can be related to a general recruitment drive, where the intent is to obtain payments from candidates. This practice is illegal and widely covered in Indian media, here are one, two and three stories from the past month alone.

The Startup PM Recruitment Scam

A related scam that has come up now is in the field of Product Manager recruitment by startups in India. The way it works is this:

  1. The startup release an ad seeking resumes for PM roles
  2. It keep the job requirements vague to attract widest variety of resumes
  3. Candidates are shortlisted if:
    1. They are working for or have recently worked for a competitor
    2. They have useful domain knowledge or are from a top college (IIT/IIM/ISB)
    3. The hiring manager is curious about them, their salary etc
  4. After getting shortlisted, the candidates are called for an interview

The interview is actually an opportunity for the hiring manager to learn about the competitor, to get ideas for implementation in his firm and to research how other firms are solving problems in a specific domain (e.g. web analytics experiment design in e-commerce).

How to identify a fake interview?

A huge red flag in such interviews is the focus on questions such as “identify 3 issues with our current website/product and how you would solve them”, or “work with us as a paid consultant for 2-3 days to identify a new market opportunity in the VAS space” or “write-up a detailed proposal on how you would introduce a service into the Indian market” or “find 2 ways to improve our product/feature”. The idea behind these questions is not to test the candidate, but to actually get new ideas for product development.

After the interview, the candidate gets a polite rejection letter and the cycle restarts with the next candidate. This is completely unethical, and a startup e-commerce firm in Bangalore, a matrimony portal and some product development startups are known to indulge in this practice. A quick scan at the company reviews on glassdoor.com will reveal which firms use candidate interviews for ideation only.

Also, in case your compensation comes up in the shortlisting process, and you know that you are highly paid (you can check this on glassdoor.com, payscale.com etc) as compared to the hiring company then it is very likely that you are going to have a fake interview, which will not proceed beyond a phone call.

How do you avoid this?

It is pretty simple actually, if called for an interview you must:

  1. Review the feedback of other candidates called for interviews
  2. Decline all questions related to the live product, or analysis of a new opportunity in the same domain
  3. Explain that you cannot reveal confidential details about their competitor (your former employer), and they should focus on your skills and expertise
  4. Insist that they focus on case studies or other methods of interview (competency based interview etc) at this time
  5. If they want to work with you for a short while to check the “fit”, then ask for a 3-month, consulting assignment at a reasonable pay. This will give you time to search other jobs, and keep you working in the same domain

The pressure to agree

In this slowing economy, when interviews are hard to come by, it is very hard to not agree to almost anything asked by the recruiter. Just remain confident that the people who are actually hiring, will hire you in a professional, ethical manner, and if you are seeing these red flags, then you are extremely unlikely to be hired anyways. Maintain your poise and calm and this will actually help you in the long run.

In a future post, I will explain why this scam is less prevalent in established firms.