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Senior product manager: How I got my job and where I'm going

What education and training are required to become a product manager? Bhavna talks about her path to become a senior product manager and opportunities for growth in this tech field.

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Video transcript

I would say the two main ways people become product managers is one, they can either start out in software engineering and then decide to eventually go into product management, or two, they get recruited out of an MBA program. I don't have a computer science degree. I was recruited out of an MBA program. I went to the University of Pennsylvania for my undergraduate education, and I did two degrees, one in engineering and one in business. It was a management and technology program. I think a lot of my choices in my education were influenced by the fact that I grew up in the Silicon Valley, so I pretty much, technology was kind of a natural career path to go into. Looking back, I don't know if I would've done the chemical engineering degree. I think I would've probably done computer science, because it would've been more relevant to what I do day-to-day. I think your first job, usually you're recruited right out of school, so it's ideal to go to a school where there's a lot of recruiters, and they're training you for interviews. One of the things I'm most grateful for that my college provided me was they had career coaches who would do mock interviews with you. They would review your resume, so you were really prepared for the job search. I think coming out of college, I was able to get a job through the recruiting system. My first job was at Cisco, and they happened to be recruiting there. Beyond that though, I think you're very reliant upon your network, especially in technology, so it's good to keep in touch with your former coworkers and your bosses over time. Penn, I actually ended up graduating early because a lot of my AP credits from high school actually transferred to college, so I was able to graduate a bit early. With that extra time, I decided to just start working. I had interned at Cisco right after my junior year, so they hired me full time. I actually entered as part of a new grad program called Cisco Choice. As part of that program, they had established milestones for me, and it was a really good way to enter the working world. It was a structure program. I had a great boss going out. That was how I started in the working world. While I was there though, one of my bosses, she really encouraged me to apply to business school. A lot of business schools at that time were looking to recruit younger students. I decided to apply because if I didn't get in, then I figured I could just apply a few years down the road. I ended up getting in, so that's how I went to business school a year into working. Then, after business school, Cisco was recruiting again, and since I'd already worked there, I kind of was preferred by the recruiter. She got me in touch with the hiring manager. I went through a series of interviews. I kind of ended up back at Cisco by accident. I had interviewed at a lot of other roles, but Cisco was the one that really offered me the most responsibility. That's how I ended up back at Cisco, but now in product management. Then after that, I worked at Cisco for five years, and I was promoted to a more senior product management level, and then I started working at Symantec. I actually stayed at Cisco for quite a long time by Silicon Valley terms. Five years is a long time to stay at a company. I just wanted to get a sense of a different company culture. I was actually quite happy at Cisco, but I wanted to get a different perspective on my field, which is security. Cisco really focuses on large enterprises, but Symantec is more focused on consumer security, like the software that's installed on your desktop. I just wanted to get a sense of that market and understand priorities there. I would say the biggest piece of advice is just build as many relationships as you can in your first job. Build a relationship with your manager and his manager, build relationships with salespeople, with engineers, and when you're straight out of college or straight out of business school, people are really happy to help you, and just take people out to lunch and just hear about their day. People are always willing to talk about their jobs. You just never know where your career's going to take you. At a later stage, one of the salespeople you know might become VP of Sales at a startup, one of the engineers you know might go on to found his own company. Even if these people aren't directly working with you, or under you, it's good to know them because it'll help you in your future career.