Aspiring to be Product Manager

MA: How did this journey begin? Were you always inclined towards Product Management?

Varun Joshi: I'm a B.Tech in Computer Science and was a Software engineer at Adobe. Hence, the orientation towards tech was always there. But beyond developing a product, how do you translate customer needs into products and features is what interested me even at Adobe. I really wanted to work on that piece of the story and hence the interest in a PM role developed. MBA seemed like the best Segway into this role

MA: From choosing the subjects in college to now working in the field, how does this transition feel?

Varun Joshi: Product Management is really nontraditional. The standard - finance, marketing, operations, etc. do not really translate into becoming a product manager. More than the subjects though - the methodology that B schools use to teach subjects, the case-based approach, lets you develop the ability to think in accordance with first principles and really break problems done into solvable units. That has made product management approachable for me rather than the subjects themselves.

MA: Can you tell us about your job role?

Varun Joshi: I'm a PM with Microsoft Stream which is Microsoft's Enterprise Video Solution. From one on one discussions with customers, ideating solutions addressing their need gaps, working with design on the best potential user experience, working with engineering to figure out technical feasibility to finally designing the product/feature roadmap with timelines based on all of the above, a PM here is supposed to do all this.

MA: What do you think are the qualities that are needed for someone who wants to excel in this field?

Varun Joshi: The primary job for a PM is to use the "user scenarios" customers give to understand tangible goals they need to fulfill and develop solutions around those. So PMs should be able to give structure to problems and should be able to break them into smaller manageable pieces that can be mapped to solutions.

MA: What skills should these people develop to grab their dream roles/jobs?

Varun Joshi: People should start by working on their case-solving skills. One of the better resources to do that is Decode and Conquer by Lewis C. Lin. It covers case categories commonly asked in PM interviews and initial frameworks people can use to solve these cases. To really imbibe these abilities, post completing the book - work with a group to practice mock cases. After a point, case solving becomes second nature. For question banks, there are a large number of freely available online resources. But ideally, try and cover the introduction Decode and Conquer provides to get into those. Secondly, get a feel for the business side of tech. What decisions necessitate a certain technology, what does the future for tech look like. It allows you to move beyond a developer mindset and get a high-level view on what makes a tech company tick. A good book to start getting conversant with this is - "Swipe to Unlock". You'll find other resources too, but this is great to start with.

MA: What message would you like to give to the Product Management enthusiast?

Varun Joshi: It is demanding, there are high expectations, but the learning and growth are huge. A caveat - a lot of startups in India require PMs, the role is set to see a boom, but the expectation is to be a lot more fluid in startups. You could be wearing a lot more hats than in an established org with a defined PM role. A good way to understand these demands is to understand business models for companies ( is a good resource to do that) and then trying to see where all can the PM fit in as per general definition

About the Author

Varun Joshi  (MBA IIM Calcutta 2018-20, Program Manager 2 at Microsoft)

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