Aspiring Product Manager needing advice

I am currently studying and live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Being someone who has grown up around technology my entire life, I’ve been really into the industry and have known for quite some time its what I have wanted to do.

Originally I was a Computer Science major but found I could not keep up with the course load and needed to regroup and find a new major. Now I am in marketing (and minoring in CS because I had enough credits from before). I still practice my coding skills on the side with python primarily and although not great by any means, its improving. I’ve seen as I have matured, that my brain works in a more creative way compared to incredibly difficult algorithms and equations (my adobe + spreadsheet skills > coding). With that being said I think it would actually be cool to have a unique look in this field and I’m honestly really excited to compete for a Product Manager Role at a tech company!

I have had two other internships under my belt now (both in tech but not PM Intern roles; one being a lab IT role and the other a business analytical and design role)… HOWEVER: I know that this type of position is different and after having not great luck so far in applications I was actually wondering what your best advice would be to be competitive for these kinds of positions (or other entry level ones that would help me get there eventually)!


Keep at it. I, in my anecdotal experiences, do agree with your statement that it’s hard to get luck and land a job as a junior product manager from a cold application. I find these positions are often filled with internal people from other departments. Tech to PM transition typically works well. I’ve seen a lot of customer support to PM transition which often works not as well (often it’s hard to understand that support is a cost center).

Product manager is often highly sought after because people think they are going to make decisions without necessarily getting bogged down in the details of the work. IE, they get to do the fun stuff. I find these product managers do poorly. Get familiar with tech and how tech works (don’t focus on algo crap too much, it’s not super important unless you want to work in a niche that needs it). Research different management styles and processes. Pick apart successful vs unsuccessful teams. Read “the new new product development game”, learn how designers work, learn how management thinks, read “are your lights on” a few dozen times. Product managers need to see the whole internal and external playing field. It’s going to take a lot of work to be successful. It’s just a hard job to do well.


@NathanEndicott, Love your last point: it is a hard job that few do well. Including me.

I am a product manager in a global company for a tech product. The amount of things I wished I would do better are endless. Give yourself the time and if you can land a PM job great if not focus on what you want to learn to get better at it. I only entered it after 10 years… and still feel like an impostor.


I have now roughly 10 years experience in the field. Here’s my two cents:

  • Stay in touch with tech, it’s what separates you from the other guys who only have management skills.
  • This also means go to Hackathons, meet ups, conferences.
  • This way you will get to know the right people who can land you a job somewhere.
  • There are companies who are looking for a junior product manager. You will usually support some Head of… We are actually looking, but I am based in out of the USA with a very local product…
  • If you can’t find anything like that, go work for an agency or a consulting company for two years as a Business Analyst or Consultant or Junior Project Manager or something in that direction. You will see a lot of projects, get to know a lot of clients… You know just gain experience.
  • And very important: Get a Scrum certification. First get the Scrum Master and later on the Product Owner one. You don’t need to take any courses and the exam itself is just a multiple choice test for below 100 USD if I remember correctly.

And get your pet project up and running now! This way you gain massive experience and have something to showcase.


Product managers have to fully know the product and take decisions that will impact the product in the long term. So tech companies won’t really hire entry level for a position like this (I went through the same bad luck in applications).

I recommend getting into a role that will help you understand the product well, not a problem if it’s only from a user perspective as long as you’re curious about the way the product works. Then, you can smoothly start to transition to a PM role.


The biggest credential any PM can have is a successful product. It’s a sucky chicken & egg problem but, from my experience, its true.

So, for an aspiring PM, this is what it comes down to: create your own product. It doesn’t have to be for-profit or a side-hustle, but you should always keep a side-project where you can apply PM knowledge and show it to people. Basically, in the lack of experience, interviewers will ask: who are you and what can you show me… so find something to show them!

Even now, as I moved from a PM position to a Senior PM, I still develop and grow my own product, so that, if (or when) I’m back in the game, I have something to show. (PS.: it’s built on Python/Django and I never minored in CS, so if I built it, then you probably can do it much better!)

Secondly, select the industries you like. Some PMs need extensive domain knowledge to make the right bets. (e.g. fintech, medical etc.). The shortcuts you can take and things you can do are completely different from one domain and jurisdiction to another.

Finally, approach the application process as you would approach your product discovery: treat the company as a customer and you as a competing solution. What are the company’s pains? What do they hope to gain with a PM? PMs must deeply understand the company’s and product’s strategic context. Treat the interview as if you already have a stake in the position. If you are already invested in the company, it will value you more.


In addition to what others have said:

Take a Design course or two as well. You have to speak the experience of the customer, and while you may have the fanciest tech out there, it’s completely useless if the customer has no clue what the heck it does. My one design course has been the most valuable I’ve ever taken.

Build up your analytics skills. Know how to run SQL queries; product managers live and breath the tiny little statistical changes that product adjustments do. That is probably the number one filter that is applied when getting in the door - being analytical. Know how to crunch the numbers because no-one else will (or wants to)


Many of the big firms in the bay area are pretty strict about only hiring new grads into product who have a CS/SE degree, Google is one for example. Be realistic in your job hunt but don’t be discouraged because there are firms that will embrace your background.


There’s some good advice in these comments. Take an analyst role which works on product requirements. They often work closely with PMs. Project Management is another good angle to take to get into product management. Product Owner experience and/or certification would be beneficial. If you can afford it, take courses from Pragmatic Institute, they’re highly regarded in the field. You need to understand marketing, sales, engineering, support… everything around a product. In some companies, product management is a marketing role, in others it’s an engineering role. Best case, it’s both. Look at who PdM reports to at companies you’re considering to make sure it aligns with what you’re looking for.


Hello everyone. @BethanyGrey, Welcome to the community. I’m new to this community too and I’m loving it here. Have been going through the posts and comments, others have given some good insight and shared their experiences. You may enjoy the community at Prowess as well for giving a bit more advice while you’re here. You might find this interesting too.

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Welcome to the community @Bethany and @DamianMarshall.

AWESOME. Thank you everyone who responded I really appreciate it. I know it was PM focused and not necessarily a startup focus, but with that being the kind of company I would like to join as well I thought it was a great place to ask about! Seriously can’t thank the responses enough!

Thank you once again to all of you.

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