What does a product manager do? Bhavna talks about her responsibilities and compensation as a senior product manager in the Bay Area.
I'm Bhavna Muthangi. I'm a senior product manager, and I make about $160,000 a year. My role as a product manager is basically to collect requirements from customers, from salespeople, come up with features by looking at the feedback that customers are giving me, as well as looking at the general market trends, looking at what competitors are doing. I gather all that data, I come up with new features that we should be adding into our product, and I take that to engineering, and I work with them in order to break those requirements down into technical tasks. In a typical day, I'll probably start off with meeting with my engineering team and just looking at the status of our current projects and looking ahead to the next few weeks to see what they'll be working on. Then during the day, I might have a call with a salesperson in order to discuss what kind of concerns customers are bringing up. I might have a presentation, where I show our product directly to customers. Then I might also be talking to senior managers in order to get budgets for future projects. A big part of my job is also getting the resources we need in order to build things. I need to justify anything that the engineers are working on, in order to make sure the project proceeds, so I will build a presentation, based on feedback that I've gotten from customers and sales, based on market research and what competitors are doing, and I use that to justify what the engineers' time is being spent on, to senior management. When I first came out of college, I was in an entry level marketing role, so in tech, same industry, and I was making about $80,000 a year. Then I went to business school, and I went into product management, and then I was making $115,000 when I first came out of business school. Over time, as I got more and more responsibility, I was able to get raises. At this point, I think I would need to get a promotion in order to get a raise because I'm pretty much at the higher end of my salary range. I think the biggest thing as a product manager that you need to be able to do is communicate with a variety of different people. You are working with sales, you're talking to customers, you're talking to engineering, and sometimes you're even talking to finance and legal. It's important to be able to communicate effectively with all of those groups. Another important skill is just PowerPoint because a lot of the time, that's basically how you're communicating your ideas, especially to senior management, in order to get budget and buy-in for your projects. The two big skills are just communication and presentations. In order to do this job well, you need to be able to understand the point of view of a lot of different people, so you need to be able to understand what sales wants in order to be able to sell to customers. You need to be able to understand how a customer will use a feature and how badly they want it or need it. You need to be able to understand all of the different stakeholders in your company, sales, engineering, finance, legal, your senior managers, and execs, and you need to have relationships with all those people and be able to persuade them to your ideas. I would say for some product management roles, you do need to get very deeply technical, and in that case, a computer science degree is, it's very useful, and in fact, some companies, like Google, they have their product managers do technical interviews as well. My worst days are if I've been working on a project for a long time, and I've gotten a lot of, I've gotten approval from all of the required parties, and then suddenly there's a management change at the top, and then the strategy changes of the company, and then that project is scrapped. I think that's frustrating because you've already gotten all this buy-in, you've moved ahead, you've become very committed to this project, and then you don't get to go anywhere with it. I would say the best days are really when a product that you have come up with is launched. That's the best, especially if there's a press release associated with it, that's a lot of fun.