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My Product Management Journey to Microsoft

Photo by Jexo on Unsplash

Backstory:

How I got into Product management at Microsoft is one of the most popular questions I get asked, and it was about time I wrote in detail about my journey to Microsoft. When I was a junior in college, I found my way to product management. At that point, I did not know what product management was ( I had surface-level knowledge but not as much as I should have or needed to).

My first goal was to explore this role and see if it was something that interested me. I started reaching out to folks on LinkedIn to learn more about product management (pm) for their perspectives and experiences. Then I started reading books about the role(swipe to unlock, decode and conquer, and cracking the pm interview). I watched videos that showed the interview process (most of the videos were on exponent on youtube) — and communicated with my friends also interested in this role. After gathering the knowledge I believe I needed, I devised a game-plan of how to land a pm internship. This game-plan included having a list of all the companies that have pm internship roles and the picking the companies from that list I was interested / felt like I aligned with, and devising an interview prep plan.

Securing interviews:

I started applying to various companies, got a couple of rejections ( I mean what is new), and landed a couple of interviews. The two standout interviews on my PM journey that have lead me here, are Google & Microsoft. I landed my interview with Microsoft through a conference (The Tapia 2019 conference) — I had submitted my resume into the conference resume portal, and Microsoft reached out. For Google, I got contacted for the Software engineering interview, and I found the courage on the call to express my interest in PM and shoutout to my recruiter back then; she helped me start the PM interview process at Google as well (so at Google I interviewed for the software engineering role and PM role simultaneously).

The interviews (First round) :

Starting with Microsoft because it was scheduled first, it was at the Tapia Conference. A funny tangent for the interview, although I was prepared for a PM interview, the scheduling got mixed up, and I was placed with the software engineering (SWE) interviewees — but I had made up my mind I was done with the SWE life, I told the interviewer after he gave me a pen and paper to code that I was not interested in SWE. I believed my passion was the PM route. Shoutout to my interviewer for understanding and connecting with me — he asked me “why,” and I explained it all to him. We did a product execution question, and I passed that.

At this same conference before my first round interview with Microsoft, I had signed up to do mock interviews with google PM’s at the conference (and oh man, looking back at this decision, it was one of the best decisions I made) — I did a mock and the feedback I got was a huge propellant moving forward. The “framework” for answering pm questions, the categories in which you will be judged and more were things I discussed with my interviewer during the mock interview, and it was game-changing for me. The biggest feedback I got was that if the first time you do a PM interview is at your actual interview, your chances of success are pretty slim. The moral here is to do mock interviews!! There is so much to be learned and so much feedback to be gained (this can be with professionals, friends etc.)

My first round with google was about two weeks later, and it was a product estimation question. I was asked to estimate how much Google made from ads in Gmail (I can’t remember over what duration (daily, weekly etc.))

The second interview (Final round) :

Microsoft: This was pre-covid times (November 2019), so I was flown out to the Microsoft headquarters with one of the best services I have ever received. The hotel, the car that picked me up, the experience, everything really, but hey, I digress. I had 4 interviews on the day of my interview, all of which were 45 minutes.

The first interview was behavioral and the interviewer also tested me on a question I am finding it difficult to categorize. The question tested my ability to synthesize ambiguity, tested my execution skills, my ability to find edge cases and more; it was a very interesting question. The second interview was technical ( I did not write code). But, it tested my knowledge of queues, stacks, and a competitive analysis scenario (this was my favorite interview because I could connect with the interviewer). The most senior person held the third interview in the entire process, I got multiple questions in this round and also a fun question that I was sure I fumbled (If you were president of Microsoft for a day, what are some things you would do — that was such an unexpected question, so I didn’t think I did it very well).

Lastly, the final interview was a product strategy question and some other questions that could fit in the 45 minutes (I also did a very streamlined version of “what is your favorite product”). That was it for Microsoft, and well, safe to say I did well because I got the offer, and the rest is history.

Google: After passing the first round interview, the final round was supposed to be onsite as well, but I had traveled to two final round interviews the week before and also had exams because this interview was scheduled for December (And honestly, I was sold on Microsoft and had accepted the offer), so I opted to do the interview virtually instead(in retrospect even with that exam I should have taken a free trip to California and truly enjoy this interview process but hey that besides the point).

The round had 3 interviews, and each interview was 45 minutes. The questions were estimation, analytical/product design (multiple short questions) and finally, a technical question (but no, I did not write code as well).

I did not get the Google interview, but I loved the experience and gained a lot of insights.

If you are interviewing for the Product management roles or are curious about it — I hope this article painted a great picture for you!

As always, may the force be with you, champ!

For more career content, check out my Instagram and LinkedIn

Cheers,
Olaseni Adeniji (#senispeaks)

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Olaseni Adeniji

Olaseni Adeniji

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I write about product management, career and life :) | For more content @senispeaks on Instagram | My opinions are my own