In Fall 2017, we launched Indeed’s rotation program for Associate Product Managers (APMs). Our mission: build a world-class training program to transform aspiring product managers into product leaders who will build the future of the hiring industry. Here’s how we designed and built Indeed’s APM Rotation Program, and where we hope to take it in the future.
The foundation: Our shared beliefs and culture
Indeed’s company mission is straightforward: we help people get jobs. Every day, we connect millions of people to new opportunities. Succeeding means solving challenges throughout the entire hiring ecosystem for job seekers, employers, and hiring teams. We need strong product managers to get this done.
As we built our APM Rotation Program, five shared beliefs surfaced and serve as the program’s foundation today:
- True leaders find and pursue the best solutions. True leaders do not need to come up with a solution to champion it.
- Structured and spontaneous learning can (and should) coexist. Learners with initiative will accelerate their career growth, but it’s unlikely they’ll identify everything they need to learn on their own.
- Cross-team empathy is critical to long-term organizational success.
- Disciplined hard work is a stronger indicator of success than a college major.
- Nothing is perfect the first time. Continual innovation and testing are musts.
Indeed’s culture of continuous learning and mentorship provides a healthy environment in which our program can thrive. APMs can learn from versatile leaders across the company who invest in them through knowledge-sharing and mentorship. Because we hire APMs with differing perspectives, strengths, and academic backgrounds, they will learn as much from each other as they will from us. And Indeed’s business as a whole will benefit.
The design: Vision for success
To craft our program’s culture and set up APMs for success, we ensure that:
The teams that APMs lead provide equal opportunities to succeed. Indeed’s growth — coupled with the program’s small cohort sizes — let us place all APMs on high-profile projects with managers and mentors dedicated to coaching them.
We hire APMs who demonstrate advanced capabilities in core product skills. Rather than scanning applications for the most impressive resumes, our process allows all candidates to demonstrate their capacity for problem-solving.
We value all academic backgrounds. If you are passionate about solving user problems with technology, then we encourage you to apply. We aim for diverse cohorts because we know that diversity yields stronger global solutions. We want all APMs to contribute their unique perspective to help make business decisions and to learn from each other.
The architecture: Our recipe for success
After we hire capable APMs, we provide experiences and support so that they can grow.
Many comparable programs offer multiple 6-month or 1-year rotations. We include two 1-year rotations in our program to offer these benefits:
Managing a product through several stages provides valuable insights. It can take 3–6 months to fully understand a product, internalize stakeholder needs, and gain confidence in making good product decisions. If an APM leaves a larger project after 6 months, they miss the opportunity to learn from the results of decisions made in that time. Additionally, by staying on the product for an entire year, APMs have the opportunity to take on greater responsibility, and experience their product in a new stage of growth.
A product manager’s role can change depending on multiple factors, including the product’s stage of development, if the optimizations are more technical or design-driven, and other factors. By leading two products for a full year each, our APMs can experience different product needs and learn to adapt as they develop successful approaches under varying circumstances.
Product managers benefit from experiencing multiple sides of their company’s business. Multiple rotations give APMs a broad perspective of the unique problems job seekers and employers face. And by placing APMs on projects across the company, APMs learn about other parts of the business through each other.
Some lessons are best learned through conversation, others on the job, and still others through simulated environments. Our framework blends all three. The program also considers the purpose of the content when we select the format: to spur an APM’s immediate growth, or to provide information that APMs will find to be valuable references in the future.
We hire APMs who ask important questions and are determined to find the answers. Research suggests that people retain more information when what they’re learning meets their curiosity. We’ve designed the program to keep them curious.
All Indeed product managers share common skills. Our training focuses on these areas early, coaching APMs to achieve competence in every facet of their work.
Functional and cross-functional training
Our program incorporates opportunities for APMs to step away from their functional responsibilities and learn from their cross-functional partners. This provides APMs with a broader perspective and deeper empathy for their cross-functional partners. APMs are also empowered to tackle those periphery tasks with confidence when the need arises.
Why do we commit to cross-functional training? APMs are responsible for the success of their products in the same way the CEO is responsible for the success of the company. As the CEO strives to cultivate innovation across the company, APMs strive to create innovative solutions for the specific problems our users face daily. Research has shown that leaders with experience across multiple fields foster more innovation than those with more specialized backgrounds, particularly in organizations comprising varying teams.
Advancing to the next level
As soon as APMs perform at the next level, we change their title to match their increased impact and responsibility. Even if this happens before they complete both product rotations, APMs continue to participate in the APM Rotation Program.
Looking ahead: Evolving the program
In the two years since I was hired to launch the program, my excitement with what we’ve built and how we’ve learned from it has not stopped growing. The people I work with at Indeed inspire me daily — especially our APMs. It’s incredible to watch them grow into product leaders with such passion, humility, and commitment to one another.
We measure and iterate on nearly everything at Indeed, and the APM Rotation Program is no different. We will continue to evolve the program as we learn from our decisions. Follow our blog for more posts about Indeed’s APM Rotation Program.
Before joining Indeed, I managed Yahoo’s APM Program. A year after Marissa Mayer became Yahoo’s CEO — and ten years after she built the original APM Program at Google in 2002 — several former Google APMs re-established the program at Yahoo. For more about the original APM Program and its history, listen to How to Make the Star Employees You Need, Marissa Mayer’s interview on Reid Hoffman’s Masters of Scale podcast.