Tag Archives: product manager India

Product Manager Recruitment in India is in Trouble

Some issues which I came across, and have posted about before:

  • Candidates barely get to speak to hiring managers during the recruitment process. A colleague mentioned how he was interviewed by a solution architect and the HR manager for a PM role in an IT services firm.
  • You are likely to find a “young inexperienced star” running the product function in many startups today, who then looks for senior, experienced folks to report to him.
  • Hiring managers in most startups are unable to understand the job needs and make generic job specification (very common across e-commerce websites).
  • Resumes are so filled with jargon that they give no sign of a candidates skills, capabilities or achievements.
  • 90-95% of applications on job portals may not be viewed by a human.
  • PM training is reduced to a few certifications or some short term courses.
  • Promoting from within (along with limited PM training) is reducing the firm’s ability to actually deliver great products.
  • Recruitment teams are not able to filter good candidates, which is why candidates should start networking with anyone at the firm who can promote their application.
  • Many business analysts or solution architects are positioning themselves as product managers, without having the necessary skills to do a good job.

More to follow

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Resume Variants You Need as a Product Manager in India

ResumeVariantsMost interview preparation sites will say that you need to customize your résumé for every job application. This is correct because if your customized resume does not contain keywords a recruiter is searching for, you are unlikely to get shortlisted for an interview. However, what they often neglect to mention is the need for multiple resume templates for applying to product management roles in India. This is even more important once you gain some years of experience in product management.

[In large firms, your résumé is typically scanned by a recruiter, shortlisted by an HR manager, forwarded to the hiring manager and then scanned by the interview panel. It may also be scrutinized by a background checking team after you accept the job offer]

You should remember some points while creating a resume template for each category. Remember, the template is the master list of all work related activities, you need to trim it and customize it for every job application.:

Offshore Enterprise Product Management

  • Highlight cross-functional, program management and engineering work experience
  • Show details of customer and account team engagement or work as a Business Analyst
  • Add keywords that match the technologies advertised (security, virtualization, networking etc.)
  • Based on the job description, you may want to highlight work done within Asia-Pacific for sales support, RFP response and so on

Offshore Consumer Product Management

  • Show patents, innovations, work on new product design etc.
  • Show experience in UX design, product release etc.
  • Also mention if you have conducted customer interviews, done customer data analysis or have worked with web analytics

Market Facing Enterprise Product Management

  • Show financial skills (you can decide what flavor you wish to add)
  • Show pricing, sales support and marketing experience
  • Add points to show that you are tech. savvy (but you need not show engineering experience)

Market Facing Consumer Product Management

  • Show brand names you have worked with
  • Show impact on profitability, sales, customer acquisition or other relevant metrics
  • Add details of your MBA projects, data analysis skills and interpersonal skills
  • Add details of team management if done earlier

Your résumé is the key to your success in the technology industry in India. You must make sure that it lets the reviewer get a grasp of your relevant experience in the first glance. There is no such thing as a catch-all resume that can be used for applying to any product management role.

Is There A Dress Code for PMs?

I have seen multiple articles in various media about the dress code in different offices. An article in Esquire mentions a lot of options for formals, business casuals etc, and you can read it here. However, that is more applicable to the US and less for India. A quick search for the dress code at Infosys reveals this article. And this is more applicable to Indian offices. However, it is common to see engineers walk in wearing flip-flops and old jeans in top engineering R&D centers. Given these options, what is the dress code that one should follow as a product manager in India?

Based on my experience of various firms and sectors, even for product managers it varies from slippers and ratty t-shirts to spiffy formal suits. The dress code depends on

  • The type of firm’s business (enterprise software, telecom firm, dotcom, app development)
  • The nature of the product management role (customer facing, offshore center, market facing)
  • The closeness with customers/market
  • The occasion (external meeting, internal meeting, travel to an industry conference)

So how do the above impact the PM’s office attire?

Enterprise software and telecom firms are often huge organizations with many layers of hierarchy. Someone in middle management or a junior product manager is expected to dress smart. The smartness however, depends on the geography. Folks in the US will often be clean-shaven, wearing formal shirts and if there is a customer meeting, a tie or suit as well. And for day-to-day attire in India, formal shirt and trousers seem to work well. And this also works when people are meeting other groups within the company, or over video conferences. Not surprisingly, these are also the most common meetings a product manager attends in larger firms.

On the other hand, I have seldom come across an e-commerce product manager who even owns a suit. But in industry conferences, I have seen them occasionally wearing fresh jeans and polo shirts with clean-shaven faces. And engineers who switch to product management might also be seen in sandals and cargo shorts. From what I understand, this is perfectly acceptable in such firms or startups.

And there is a rare product management director who will not be seen in a t-shirt with his company’s logo. As I understand, this is them trying to look cool on Fridays.

As a product manager, there are many things to look out for, when working in India. Suitably dressing up for the workplace will enhance your presence and positively impact your abilities to influence others.

[The rule of thumb is to dress as your director or manager does. It makes life a little easier. In case they are of the opposite sex, look for other folks at their seniority level within the firm.]

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.

Evangelizing Product Management to Stakeholders – 4 Tips

In my career, I have attended a mind-boggling number of meetings where my stakeholders are absolutely clueless about the role of a product manager in India. And these stakeholders have been from engineering, sales, field marketing, program management and many other teams. So a lot of time in these meetings is then spent on explaining what a PM does and why that is useful to their team/their own goals.

[Hint: most of these guys are superbly competent in their own field, but have a very narrow view of the business, product portfolio]

 Here’s my approach towards enlightening the clueless stakeholder verbally. [Sending out introductory emails can be a blog post in itself.]

1) Identify the type of stakeholder

Without stereotyping too much, an engineering manager would have a very different personality and skill set from an account manager. So we need to identify what facet of a PM’s role he would be interested in. For e.g., if an engineering manager wants the product roadmap, he is probably looking for details on proposed features, that his team needs to prepare for. However, if an account manager wants to know about the roadmap from the PM, it is likely that he is looking for a competitive edge while positioning the product to his account. So you should focus on only that aspect of the roadmap

2) Prepare for the geographical/market context

If you are part of a new setup in India, then you may only need to mention this fact, and that you will be carrying on all existing activities and initiatives. For most stakeholders, this is enough. If you are working with remote stakeholders then be ready to do a lot of follow-up over emails and IM and meetings. I have found that those stakeholders are the hardest to influence.

3) Sell the role

If you meet a sceptic, then the best option is to offer examples and success stories about the benefit of having a product manager in their midst. The challenge here is that you might need to make space to accommodate your role, which means reducing the role of someone else. That someone else is unlikely to ever become your champion, so you need to keep a close eye on such stakeholders.

4) Sell the personality/capability

End of the day, a PM is expected to lead the virtual, cross-functional team towards successful software and hardware releases. If you have something distinct that you can share, which might help them relate to you, then you must do so. I remember a time when I was asked why I’m the right fit for the role in the first meeting. In response, I listed down multiple planned improvements for the product, and the high level PRD. This gave that team the comfort that I am capable of doing the work. Sometimes, that is all you need.

 For some people, negotiation or public speaking classes can help them increase their communication effectiveness. If these courses are available to you, do check them out.

Fashionable Feature Sets

In technology product management, it is easy to get tempted by the fashionable trends of the season. Today it is features related to “Big Data“, earlier it was “Web 2.0 Features or SLATES” and the latest trend is to add mobility features and access to your offering.

When such buzzwords become commonplace, the products promoted using this terminology during sales pitches or marketing events also gain credibility in the eyes of the layman. However, the product manager should not be swayed by these fashionable feature sets. It is always the buying customer and his product reviews that are the key to gaining marketshare and increasing revenue.

Fundamentally, nothing has really changed. As a product manager, your vision and roadmap will contain features that are useful to woo customers to try, buy and keep using your products. And these features are either going to give you a competitive edge, retain existing customers, or attract users who are not yet using the products.

If these reasons attracted you to these fashionable features(and of course, the side benefits of tempting developers to build them out and of influencing senior management on thought leadership), then consider this blog post, that talks about the diffusion of innovation, and product adoption. I will leave you to understand the implications, but the key takeaways from this include:

a) Adoption rates of most consumer technologies in this century follow a similar curve

b) There is a real adoption chasm that exists in most product categories, beware that your product does not fall in that chasm

b) Innovative features take time to identify, design and develop

FashionSo how can you cater to the fashion sense of the day, and still follow the established strategic principles? That requires building consensus, and having a market research driven approach to identifying the best features for the various consumer or user segments.

In fact, gaining consensus on the product roadmap is a vital activity, and it takes a lot of time. I will address this in a future post.

Web Product Management and JavaScript

If you ask any product manager at a web firm if he does coding, he will respond with a firm “NO”. Then ask him what his work consists of, and he will explain about  use cases, features, experiments and other common responsibilities. At this point, you should ask him if he knows JavaScript and/or HTML and CSS. 90% of web product managers, whether in local market roles or offshore roles, will respond with a “YES”.

Today, it is almost mandatory for web product managers to have knowledge of web software development. And this knowledge is necessary not for software development, but for meaningful conversations about architecture, design and deliverables with the software team. [It helps a lot if you can speak their language!] One of the key components of this lingo is JavaScript, which is surprisingly easy to learn and fairly difficult to master.

In my opinion, JavaScript and Java and 2 programming paradigms similar to RISC and CISC microprocessor architectures. In earlier times, CISC dominated and it required a strong mastery over the instruction set, to construct good quality programs. Later, RISC (and parallel processing in multi-core microprocessors) made life easier for not-so-skilled programmers to churn out software. However, to build really good programs for RISC chips, you still need to learn a lot of “other” constructs apart from the chip’s instruction set. These other constructs are similar to the vast amount of libraries for JavaScript, which make life easier for a master programmer, but difficult for a product manager, if he wants to master coding. Even then, this is far simpler than the hundreds of patterns, libraries and classes that you will need to work on for many years to become a master at Java programming.

More formally, JavaScript is a client-side scripting language, which can be learnt quickly, and will definitely set you apart from the “non-techie” product managers. There are several tutorials that explain the syntax (Hello World!, decisions, loops etc) of JavaScript, and after that, it is just a matter of practising these learnings. Of course, you must have a basic knowledge of software development to fully “speak Javascript”.

So how does this help you as a product manager? As I mentioned before, it is useful in 3 scenarios:

1) Prototyping

No matter which prototyping tool you learn to use, a mockup will rarely be interactive unless you add JavaScript. HTML forms, pages and dialogs will become more clear than basic wireframes when you present the concept to the engineering team. This may even allow them to improve on your efforts during development.

2) Discussions

When your engineering team starts explaining  the benefits of designing “multi-threaded JavaScript objects” running parallelly versus a simple object pool, you should be very sceptical. And knowing JavaScript basics will allow you to research on the net why this could be a bad idea from a time, complexity and engineering resource point of view.

3) Career Development

While a JavaScript certification may never be a career changer, having JavaScript in your skill set, even with an MBA, will set you apart from the other product managers. It’s easy to learn, you can practice it on any laptop and use it practically when needed.

Apart from JavaScript, it is useful to learn HTML and CSS. And recently, there has been a lot of talk about “Big Data” technologies such as Hadoop, Hive, PIG etc. More on that in a later post.