# Cracking the PM Interview ![rw-book-cover](https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41kgVwVcL4L._SL200_.jpg) ## Metadata - Author: [[Gayle Laakmann McDowell, Jackie Bavaro]] - Full Title: Cracking the PM Interview - Category: #books ## Highlights - But in one of the most important ways, the description of product manager as CEO misses the boat: product managers don’t have direct authority over the people on their team. ([Location 222](https://readwise.io/to_kindle?action=open&asin=B00ISYMUR6&location=222)) - As a PM, you’ll need to learn to lead your team without authority, influencing them with your vision and research. Product managers are highly respected at most companies, but not more so than engineers. If you show up and start bossing people around, you’ll probably find it hard to get things done. After all, engineers are the ones actually building the product. You need them on your side. ([Location 224](https://readwise.io/to_kindle?action=open&asin=B00ISYMUR6&location=224)) - All products and features start with research and planning. This is the time when the PM is starting to think about what to build next. The next idea may come from a customer request, competitive analysis, new technology, user research, the sales or marketing teams, brainstorming, or the big vision for the product. ([Location 247](https://readwise.io/to_kindle?action=open&asin=B00ISYMUR6&location=247)) - On some teams, especially shipped software (as opposed to online software) teams at Microsoft, the PM will write out a detailed functional specification (spec) that includes things like: Goals Use Cases Requirements Wireframes Bullet points describing every possible state of the feature Internationalization Security ([Location 265](https://readwise.io/to_kindle?action=open&asin=B00ISYMUR6&location=265)) - Dogfooding comes from the term “Eat your own dogfood,” and simply means using your own product yourself. For example, people at Microsoft run early versions of the next Windows release on their computers every day. Facebook employees use Facebook Groups to communicate. Sometimes teams need to be more creative to find ways to use their own products. For example, Google gives employees an AdWords budget and encourages people to create advertising campaigns to make sure they get enough dogfooding. ([Location 292](https://readwise.io/to_kindle?action=open&asin=B00ISYMUR6&location=292)) - Instead, if you have external deadlines you want to hit, you need to make tradeoffs and negotiate. You either need to cut features or find a way to parallelize the work and bring on more people to help out. Sometimes you can be even more clever and find ways to reduce the rest of your engineers’ workloads, such as getting them out of unnecessary meetings or having them temporarily spend less time interviewing candidates. Not trusting the engineers’ estimates and promising other teams that the work will be done sooner than the engineers agree to is one of the fastest ways to ruin your relationship with the team. ([Location 416](https://readwise.io/to_kindle?action=open&asin=B00ISYMUR6&location=416)) - On the other hand, some companies, such as Apple and Amazon, have a culture where employees are proud of how hard they work. At these companies, it is expected that employees work long hours, and frugality is valued. Employees at these companies are so inspired by the company’s mission that they’re happy to work weekends or take calls late at night. Building an amazing product isn’t meant to be easy. ([Location 504](https://readwise.io/to_kindle?action=open&asin=B00ISYMUR6&location=504)) - Facebook is the most technical of the group, requiring that all product managers be technical. The company values its entrepreneurial “hacker” culture and has a substantial number of PMs who were founders of acquired companies, as well as quite a few ex-Google PMs. They hire new college graduates into the rotational product manager role, which includes 3 four-month rotations across teams. ([Location 513](https://readwise.io/to_kindle?action=open&asin=B00ISYMUR6&location=513)) - Separately, Microsoft hires MBAs into the product manager role, which is a marketing role at Microsoft. Microsoft does well at recruiting internationally and hires many PMs from outside the US. ([Location 522](https://readwise.io/to_kindle?action=open&asin=B00ISYMUR6&location=522)) - To encourage innovation, Google has a program called “20% time.” This is a policy where engineers and PMs can spend 20% of their time on a company-related side project. To start a 20% project, you don’t need any approval; you just start working on it. There are internal sites where you can post your project and try to recruit other people to join you. Many big products at Google such as Gmail, Google News, and Orkut started in someone’s 20% ([Location 552](https://readwise.io/to_kindle?action=open&asin=B00ISYMUR6&location=552)) - The result is that the product strategy at Microsoft within a division is very cohesive. The teams feel like they’re working together towards the same goal, and it’s rare to find two teams that are working on competing features. As your career advances at Microsoft, you pick up larger and larger pieces of the strategy. ([Location 577](https://readwise.io/to_kindle?action=open&asin=B00ISYMUR6&location=577)) - Twitter hires for two related roles: product manager (PM) and technical program manager (TPM). Product managers usually work on customer-facing teams. Technical program managers usually work on platform or infrastructure initiatives, often across multiple teams. ([Location 707](https://readwise.io/to_kindle?action=open&asin=B00ISYMUR6&location=707)) - The PM role includes more product design, while the TPM role involves more project management. ([Location 709](https://readwise.io/to_kindle?action=open&asin=B00ISYMUR6&location=709)) - If you’re looking to land an early PM job at a startup, making a strong impression with your vision for the future of their industry can help you. Shalendra Chhabra (Shalen), now director of marketing at Indix, was able to get hired as an early PM at two different startups by using this approach, despite lacking strong connections to the companies. When he was looking for a new job, he brainstormed a list of startups with a friend. Swype, a company that makes on-screen keyboards for touch devices, was on that list. He was interested in the company and wrote a memo about how he saw the future: touch devices would explode in popularity, and they would want to expand into different languages and add new features such as predictive tap. In the memo, he described how his background and skills would add value to the company. He then was able to get an introduction to someone at the company through a friend of a friend and sent along his memo. Writing the memo took time and effort, but it was worth it. It helped him stand out to the company and gave him a chance to make a first impression on his own terms. When he walked into his interviews, he did so with credibility since people had circulated the memo. Eventually, Swype had a very successful exit, being acquired by Nuance for $102.5 million. ([Location 746](https://readwise.io/to_kindle?action=open&asin=B00ISYMUR6&location=746)) - For example, I get to influence the overall schedule and cadence of the company, what the product’s design principles are, how much effort the company puts into creating new features vs. polishing existing features vs. improving internal efficiencies. ([Location 795](https://readwise.io/to_kindle?action=open&asin=B00ISYMUR6&location=795)) - We look for PMs with a technical background, exceptional product instincts, and an eye for detail. Arash, our founder, will notice if a product detail is even one pixel off, so we expect our PMs to really ‘sweat the details.’ ([Location 819](https://readwise.io/to_kindle?action=open&asin=B00ISYMUR6&location=819))