For Aspiring PMs
Be methodical — come up with a list of interested companies
Making a list of companies (typically I separate companies by sector, funding stage, interest in the founders) with the criteria you want to satisfy is a great way to have a methodical way to proceed through interviews. This will help solve a lot of the early questions, such as, “What kind of startups do I like? Which industries?” And this will even come in handy when you’re wondering who you should be networking/meeting with for a job referral.
Don’t be shy — reach out to people you know, even if it’s through a mutual connection
Both Nitin and I were transplants to SF…therefore new to the startup scene. While we both had contacts we knew working at the big tech companies (think Google, Facebook, LinkedIn), for startups we had to rely on the 2nd connections and friends of friends we could get intro’ed through email or could get to respond to us on LinkedIn. For starters, make sure your LinkedIn message is personalized for the contact you’re trying to reach…here’s an example:
Would love to get your thoughts on moving from a startup to a larger company like LinkedIn and still maintain impact in the products you’re building. Here’s something that I’m doing related to Campaign manager…would you have some time to chat?
Don’t be overly prescriptive, don’t try to force a framework if it doesn’t fit the situation
Typically successful candidates Nitin and I have seen are those who truly understand the problem given to them during the case interview and use logic and reason to solve the problem. They go from: framing the problem >> asking questions on inputs necessary to solve the problem >> providing their recommendations in a succinct manner. But if you want to force fit a framework to a case question, in my experience it doesn’t end well…instead of making yourself appear confident and experienced, it’ll make you appear rigid and inflexible by applying principles/frameworks that aren’t a near fit in order to make yourself sound ‘more like a PM.’
For Current PMs
Plan ahead for promotions — keep a running journal of accomplishments
(This may not apply for smaller startups.) Drawing upon Nitin’s experience at LinkedIn, as the Head of Campaign Manager, he’s clearly successfully gone through a few promotions. What’s his secret to success? To keep a well-documented list of major impact projects (and remember, metrics is important!). And from my own personal recollection of ‘promotion (i.e., perf) time’ at Google — this list is very important because it gives you a roadmap for your own career. You’ll know exactly what you need to do to get to the next level…and be able to have constructive conversations with folks who are likely going to be on your promo committee — before the official decision is made.
Be your own advocate
A wise mentor of mine once said, “No one else will be a better advocate than yourself.”
Very true. How can someone else describe the strengths and weaknesses of you as well as you can? That’s why the earlier point about keeping a meticulous record of all of the things you’ve done is key. It helps you track and be a better advocate for all the impact you’ve had.
Make your mark — let your voice be heard!
Even if it’s something as simple as starting your own newsletter within your company, it’s an outlet for others to be aware of your thoughts. During our chat, Nitin brought up the example that someone in LinkedIn had started their own marketing-centric blog — and it had gotten so successful, it was getting a few hundred followers within the company and was getting leadership attention. So start thinking about ways you can differentiate yourself from the pack; in a way it’s very much like your college apps: how did you write about yourself in a way that made you stand out? Why did you get admitted to that prestigious university?