Nessa Clark

The Product Diploma: Breaking Into Product Management Out of College

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The complete guide on landing a job as an Associate Product Manager (APM). Two former Google APMs share the secrets of breaking into APM programs at companies like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

The product manager role has become one of the most coveted and prestigious jobs for ambitious college students, but it is also one of the most competitive and misunderstood. This book gives all the answers we were looking for when we were trying to break into product management, and addresses the questions we frequently get asked by aspiring product managers.

Exploring the Field: A breakdown of exactly what the product manager job is and whether it’s right for you. You’ll see what a day in the life looks like and get a crystal clear understanding of the job responsbilities.
Preparing for the Job: A step by step guide on how to develop the skills you need to excel as a product manager during college. We’ll highlight classes, clubs, and personal projects you should be pursuing, plus answer common questions like how technical you need to be.
Getting the Job: A deep dive on how to master the product manager interview, from high level strategies to sample interview questions.

In 2002, the product executive at Google and future Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer created Google’s Associate Product Manager, or “APM”, program. Her pitch was radical at the time: what if Google hired entrepreneurial and talented computer science majors straight out of college and taught them to be product leaders? Google would create a small, close-knit community which could learn the role together as they rotated through different teams in the company. Those in the program would be transformed into the type of product leaders Google wanted – people who could speak in both business and technical terms and who could take products all the way from a high-level idea to a launch.

Fast-forward fifteen years and the Google APM program has become one of Mayer’s most indelible contributions to the search giant. Google APMs have gone on to become Google VPs, C-level execs of tech giants like Facebook and Asana, and founders of numerous successful startups such as Optimizely.

Mayer’s program was such a success that it has been adopted by almost every other tech giant as well as many successful startups. Today, companies like Facebook, Uber, Dropbox, Workday, and LinkedIn all hire product managers out of college into “APM”-like programs. Although there are some subtle differences between each program, they all have the same foundational goal of finding and developing the product leaders of tomorrow.

However, while the number of APM programs has exponentially increased over the past decade, the amount of information on how to become a part of one has not kept pace. When we were in college, we were frantically asking questions like: “Should I be a software engineer or PM out of school?”, “What do companies look for in new grad PMs?”, “How do I prepare for the interviews”, and “What does a PM do exactly?”.

This book gives you the answers we were looking for; we’ve synthesized everything we learned through the job search, application, and interview process along with everything we’ve learned on the job. We discuss what it means to be a product manager and why you could be a good (or bad) fit for the role. We talk about what to do during college, across classes, extracurriculars, and internships, to develop the skills that will help you excel as a PM. Finally, we teach you how to land and then nail a product management interview.

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