In this guest post, Rudra Roy Choudhury, Product Manager at Tubi, shares his story on breaking into product from research.
Transitioning from the research domain to product management is a journey filled with excitement, challenges, and boundless opportunities. As a researcher, I was immersed in the world of exploration, experimentation, and knowledge creation. Now, as a product manager, I have stepped into a role where I bridge the gap between cutting-edge research and practical applications that solve real-world problems. This transition allows me to leverage my deep understanding of technology, analytical skills, and passion for innovation to shape products that have a tangible impact on users’ lives.
While the transition came with a learning curve, it also brought the thrill of translating complex research into actionable strategies, collaborating with cross-functional teams, and making data-driven decisions that drive product success.
In this article, I will explore the unique challenges and advantages of transitioning from research to product management, uncover valuable insights, and provide practical guidance to navigate this exciting career shift. Whether you are already on this journey or considering the leap, this article will equip you with the knowledge and inspiration to thrive in the dynamic world of product management.
How I learned about product
My journey began with a solid foundation in Electrical Engineering, completing both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the field. Eager to apply my technical expertise, I joined Siemens Healthineers as an R&D engineer, where I played a vital role in designing and developing hardware and software solutions for medical devices. This literally involved wet lab and benchwork including building electronic circuits, conducting experiments, and analyzing data. Working alongside talented engineers, I gained invaluable hands-on experience and witnessed the intricate process of bringing innovative products to life.
However, amidst this technical realm, I realized that my curiosity was drawn more towards the business side of product development. Intrigued by the strategic decision-making, market analysis, and customer-centric approach, I sought insights from seasoned product managers within the company. Through these interactions, I came to a resolute decision: to redirect my career path towards product management. The prospect of blending my technical foundation with a broader understanding of the product lifecycle and market dynamics ignited a passion within me to create meaningful impact and drive innovation at the intersection of technology and business. With newfound clarity and determination, I embarked on a transformative journey to pursue a career in product, armed with the goal of leveraging my engineering background to shape and deliver exceptional products that meet customer needs and drive business growth.
The Product Management process (Source: starvisionpartners.com)
Laying out plan A
Upon discovering the exciting realm of product, I devised a well-thought-out roadmap to facilitate my transition from research to product while simultaneously pursuing my dream of moving from India to the USA. Determined to equip myself with the necessary knowledge and skills, I boldly decided to leave my position at Siemens Healthineers and embark on a new adventure. Recognizing the value of formal management education, I enrolled in the prestigious Masters in Engineering Management program at Cornell University. This academic pursuit offered me the perfect opportunity to grasp the fundamentals of management, complementing my technical background. Extensive research on platforms like LinkedIn revealed that many successful professionals had successfully transitioned to Product Management after completing similar academic courses. Excited by the possibilities, I delved into my studies at Cornell, immersing myself in various business courses and engaging in real-life projects that honed my strategic thinking, communication, and leadership skills.
The experience at Cornell was nothing short of remarkable. Collaborating with talented classmates from diverse backgrounds, I gained invaluable insights into various industries and business domains. The coursework encompassed a wide array of subjects, including marketing, finance, operations, and innovation management, all of which were vital components of a successful product manager’s toolkit. Through hands-on projects, case studies, and engaging discussions with professors and industry experts, I deepened my understanding of market dynamics, customer behavior, and the intricacies of product development. The program also provided a platform for networking and connecting with industry professionals, enabling me to expand my professional circle and gain valuable mentorship.
Throughout this transformative period, I remained focused on my ultimate goal: to leverage my technical expertise, business acumen, and passion for innovation to drive product success and create meaningful impact. Armed with a comprehensive understanding of management principles, hands-on project experiences, and a robust network of professionals, I was ready to take the next step in my new career as a product manager.
Create a plan that suits your background and experience (Source: Google)
Navigating challenges – creating a plan B
After graduating from Cornell, I held high expectations of securing a product manager (PM) role easily. However, I soon discovered that a steep uphill battle lay ahead. Exploring job opportunities, I realized that the lack of prior experience posed a significant obstacle. Furthermore, the absence of direct software or computer science (CS) experience was a hindrance, as most product roles were based in the tech industry where software engineering was fundamental. Faced with these challenges, I devised a personalized plan B to navigate my way into the product realm. As an international student with visa time constraints, I needed more flexibility. Consequently, I accepted a role as a lead engineer at HCL America, leveraging the opportunity to develop business skills by collaborating with cross-functional teams and leaders.
During my time as a lead engineer, I gradually acquired valuable insights into project and program management, stakeholder and customer management, and the construction of analytics and dashboards to measure business metrics – all essential aspects of a successful product manager. Recognizing that consulting had served as a pathway for numerous professionals without a CS/software background to transition into product roles, I made a pivotal decision to transition into a consulting role after a year.
Embarking on this new journey, I gleaned knowledge and expertise in diverse industries, working on challenging projects and solving complex business problems. The experience gave me a holistic understanding of various domains and fortified my skill set in areas crucial to a product manager’s success. My primary objective remained consistent throughout my initial foray into the industry and subsequent consulting role – building the requisite skills through hands-on involvement in industry projects and addressing tangible business challenges.
Landing the dream product role
As I gained valuable business experience in my role, I also embarked on preparing for product management interviews. Recognizing that product interviews followed specific frameworks and approaches for solving product case studies such as product design and product strategy, there were three things that I did,
- I delved into studying the book “Cracking the PM Interview,” which proved to be immensely helpful.
- I referred to online resources (for e.g. Exponent/ PM School videos, etc) to learn about frameworks and methods
- Additionally, I maintained close contact with my PM mentors, who generously shared their interview insights and aided me in my interview preparation.
After investing considerable time and effort into interview preparation, the day arrived when I received a call for a Product Manager role at Tubi, a leading player in the AVOD streaming space. The interview consisted of five rounds, and a conclusive call with the HR department occurred on a Thursday. The anticipation grew, and the following Monday, while I was engrossed in my work, a Gmail notification chimed on my phone. Opening the email, the words “Congratulations! We would like to extend to you the offer for the Product Manager role at Tubi…” greeted me.
In that moment, a wave of emotions washed over me, and I found myself at a loss for words. I read and reread the email at least five times to ensure I received the offer. From that point onward, the course of my professional journey took a significant turn, as I accepted the offer and embarked on an exciting chapter as a Product Manager at Tubi.
Prepare for the PM Interview by learning about frameworks (Source: Google)
Growing as an early career product manager
Stepping into the role of a Product Manager at Tubi marked the beginning of an exciting and transformative chapter in my professional journey. Over the course of one year, I had the opportunity to grow and develop as a product leader, navigating the dynamic landscape of the AVOD streaming industry. This article recounts my experiences, challenges, and the key milestones that contributed to my growth as a Product Manager at Tubi.
Embracing the 30-60-90 Day Plan:
From day one, I recognized the importance of setting clear goals and establishing a roadmap for success. Crafting a comprehensive 30-60-90 day plan allowed me to outline specific objectives and milestones to accomplish within each time frame. It provided a structured approach to onboard, understand the organization, immerse myself in the product, and contribute meaningfully to the team’s goals.
Learning the business and the product organization:
As a product manager, gaining a deep understanding of the business and the product organization was paramount. I engaged in immersive sessions with cross-functional teams, collaborating closely with engineers, designers, data analysts, and stakeholders. It enabled me to comprehend the intricacies of Tubi’s product offerings, market dynamics, user needs, and business strategies. By actively seeking opportunities to learn, I established a solid foundation to make informed decisions and drive product success.
Acquiring essential skills:
I realized the importance of continuously building and refining my skills to excel in my role. I actively sought learning opportunities, leveraging internal resources, attending industry conferences, and participating in relevant training programs. Focusing on data analysis, user research, strategic thinking, and agile product development methodologies, I honed my skills to translate market insights into tangible product enhancements effectively.
Building trust with peers and leaders:
Building trust and establishing strong relationships with peers and leaders were critical components of my growth as a Product Manager. I actively sought feedback, actively listened, and embraced diverse perspectives. By demonstrating a genuine willingness to collaborate, learn, and adapt, I fostered a sense of trust and credibility among my colleagues. This foundation of trust paved the way for effective cross-functional collaboration, enabling the team to collectively drive product innovation and deliver impactful solutions.
Driving with honesty, transparency, and initiative:
Throughout my journey, I firmly believed in the power of honesty, transparency, and taking the lead whenever opportunities arose. I proactively communicated updates, challenges, and progress to stakeholders, fostering an environment of open and honest dialogue. By assuming ownership of projects, demonstrating initiative, and seeking out opportunities to contribute beyond my immediate responsibilities, I showcased my commitment to the team’s success and earned the trust and respect of my peers and leaders.
Embracing a growth mindset:
Central to my growth as a product manager was cultivating a growth mindset. I embraced challenges as opportunities for learning and improvement, approaching setbacks as stepping stones toward success. By seeking feedback, being open to constructive criticism, and actively seeking out stretch assignments, I pushed myself to expand my capabilities and tackle new and complex problems. This mindset not only fueled my personal growth, but also contributed to a culture of continuous learning within the product organization.
In conclusion, my transition from research to product management has been a transformative journey filled with challenges, growth, and ultimately, success. Over the course of three years, I dedicated myself to honing the necessary skills, acquiring business acumen, and building strong relationships with peers and leaders.
Through my 30-60-90 day plan, I immersed myself in the business and product organization, learning about market dynamics and aligning my goals with the company’s vision. I actively sought opportunities to gain the skills required for success through formal education, mentorship, or on-the-job experiences. By putting in an honest effort, being transparent, and taking the lead whenever possible, I was able to earn the trust of my colleagues and make a meaningful impact on the products I managed. As I reflect on my journey, I am proud of the growth I have achieved and the value I have brought to the organization. Moving forward, I am excited to continue pushing boundaries, driving innovation, and delivering exceptional products as I further evolve in my career as a product manager.