Wharton Tech Toks
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Wharton Tech Toks

MBAs in Tech Series — Product Marketing Manager

Author: Sakshi Soorma | Editor: Siyu Chen, Ibrahim Bengali

Editor’s Intro: PM, PMM, Strategy, Corp Dev, BD….and what, BizOps? Strategic Partnerships?

We walk into Wharton telling everyone that we want to work in tech (please, take me). But what exactly do we want to do? What types of roles and responsibilities are out there? There are so many options and we get overwhelmed, OVERWHELMED, I say!

In this MBAs in Tech series, we are chatting with 2Ys who interned in tech over the summer to reveal the day and life of various roles and functions.

Product Marketing Manager (PMM) Overview

PMM is one of the unique roles in tech firms that “talks” to the market, inbound and outbound. The nature of the work depends on the product life cycle and team structure. One of our 2Ys wrote a piece of marketing content (which is live online!), whereas another provided feedback to 3rd-party creators who did the actual production. Some 2Ys took on qualitative assessment of a market, while others focused on the quantitative side of modeling and metrics tracking. Due to the structure of the internship program, it seemed common to have defined projects and present the deliverables to senior leadership at the end.

Here are some example projects that our 2Ys worked on over the summer:

  • Create online marketing content for a key product portfolio
  • Assist in new product launch, e.g., evaluate pricing strategies of competitors, model financial outlook based on different pricing options, and update go-to-market plan in the pandemic context
  • Collaborate with product managers to build use cases for a new computing paradigm
  • Identify engagement metrics for different user segments and build dashboard to track these key metrics
  • Conduct win-loss analysis of major product lines and share insights with leadership on why we are doing well in certain areas vs. not in others

Who we talked to

PMM interns at big tech, hardware / networking solutions, and gaming.

What we found in common

1.Cross-functional is not just a resume buzz word

While the responsibilities and daily deliverables of a PMM role vary across companies, it usually requires close collaboration with other teams, e.g., product, sales, engineers, and the broader marketing team. It’s especially important for new PMMs without deep technical knowledge about the products. For mature products with multiple teams, a PMM needs to identify “who can help with what” to get things done quickly versus taking on everything.

This also means that the PMM role presents the opportunity to use all the amazing skills you’ve picked up in your Influence and Negotiations classes!

2. There are many career switchers who leaned on prior experience

Out of the 2Ys we talked to, all of them were new to a product-related role with many working in other industries pre-MBA. The learning curve was steep, but they leaned on prior experiences in client interviews, data analyses, etc. to smoothen the transition. If you are trying to break into PMM as an industry switcher, we recommend leaning on your prior expertise and skill sets to shine.

Remember, your experience got you here. So, it is damn good. Don’t forget that as you repackage it for recruiting. You bring your own superpower to the role that will make you unique.

3. Work-life balance depends on the team

It turns out that the common theme between work-life balance is that it depends on the team and manager. For some, there is great flexibility in how to get your work done — all that is needed is proactive communication with the manager. However, if the product is close to official launch, things can get quite different, and you need to aggressively prioritize (e.g., skipping meetings where possible and appropriate) to manage a reasonable lifestyle. There are also teams that land on the intense side and reward you for longer hours.

A day/week in the life of a PMM (intern)

Disclaimer: a full-time PMM day or week can look very different. For the 2Ys we talked to, they had a clear scope and a structured project to deliver.

Example Days

High moment: “I just completed something I have never done before. There is great senior exposure!!”

Low moment: “I feel very lost. I don’t know what each person owns and who I should talk to. Am I even on the right track?”

Advice for recruiting

We are going to state what is hopefully obvious — recruiters are looking for people who are passionate about the product. Invest time in researching about the product life cycle, the customer journey, and how we may reach the customers to address their potential challenges along the journey. Learning about the product will pay dividends when you walk (or Zoom) into that interview and ask meaningful questions.

The format of interviews varies between companies: some are casual conversations about Why Company, whereas others include behavioral questions based on prior experience plus case interviews.

For the behavioral part, be prepared to talk about your leadership style and experience of working in cross-functional teams. For the case interviews, leverage resources from the consulting club and get a few reps in! All the time you spent learning about the product should help you tackle the open-ended questions aimed to test your creativity.

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