How to Become a PM with No Experience
The answer could change your life
In Today’s Newsletter:
Is the Third-Party (3P) App Dead?
The Ultimate Guide to Getting a PM Job
🔒 How to Become a Product Manager (PM) With No Experience
Is the Third-Party (3P) App Dead?
The ‘big thing’ in tech this week was that 75% of Reddit went dark to protest increases to its API pricing. Something like that had never happened before.
As of this writing, the percentage has dropped to approximately 25.4% and continues to decrease:
The protests had only organized to go dark for 48 hours! So one quarter still being dark is a lot.
Nevertheless, Reddit doesn’t seem likely to budge from its price increases. Both Facebook and Twitter have massively damaged companies built on their APIs:
Facebook nerfed Zynga and Farmville. It took years for the company to recover.
Twitter fully killed Tweetdeck.
These were widely used third-party apps. People were upset at the time. But, ultimately, the winds blew over.
Reddit is following in Facebook and Twitter’s footsteps. It’s likely that Apollo and Reddit Is Fun still both shut down at the end of this month. The math just doesn’t work out. Apollo, for example:
Has over 50,000 users on yearly plans that pay $5/month.
But their new Reddit API bill would be $20M, which it cannot afford.
The question is: What does this mean for the future of third-party apps?
We can safely say that all third-party apps built on top of another social network are always living in existential risk of being shut down. Facebook and Twitter set the example for everyone. Social Media 3P Apps should always consider themselves on life support. The lower priced the product - like Apollo was at $5/month - the more at risk an app will be. Typefully, unlike Apollo, actually survived the Twitter API price increases, because it was already pricy ($15/month is lowest plan).
Even beyond social media, building a business on free API access is fraught with risk. The economic incentives are such that, the more successful you are, the more likely the company that runs that API will build your product. So always be wary of being built on top of something free. It could become paid at any moment.
The 3P app is far from dead. Many companies have thriving 3P Apps: Salesforce, Google, and Apple among them. But all three of these companies have regularly stolen functionality from apps in their app exchanges and built it in-house. Interestingly, this very dynamic is what incentivizes major platform companies to create marketplaces for 3P apps: so that they can service their customers in the short-term with the third-party solution, and then build it themselves in the long-term.
The reality is that third-party app developers should always build risk mitigants for existential risks. Apollo and Reddit Is Fun, for instance, may have added provisions to be able to increase the price suddenly on yearly customers if API prices increase. They could also have considered introducing higher-priced plan products earlier and expanding beyond Reddit.
Third-party app developers should pay especially close attention to the winds of their industry. When news of Twitter's API price increase surfaced last fall, Apollo should have taken notice. Their roadmap should have been adjusted to account for these potential risks. So don’t fall in their shoes. Stay close to the dynamics in your industry. If a risk like this could pop up, make sure you have the right estimate of its probability.
My Other Writing:
PM: My 14 Rules
Welcome to over 2,500 new subscribers since last week 🙌
Book Announcement: The Ultimate Guide to Getting a PM Job
Product Management pays well. At the “top tier” (like FAANG), total compensation is much higher than most realize.
Nikhyl Singhal, VP at Facebook, shared these mind-blowing stats:
The high end of companies pay 10x! In India or the Philippines, a PM at a startup will earn $10-$50K. That’s 1/10th of these top-tier firms, where they earn $100-$500K.
Even in the US, there are entry level PMs who earn $80K and are happy they work at a cool startup. But similarly tenured PMs at FAANG can earn as much as 6x that, $480K.
Here’s the takeaway: Getting into a higher part of the distribution could change your life. And that’s the point of my new book:
The Ultimate Guide to Getting a PM Job.
The book is going to help you go one tier up, wherever you are.
Having transitioned from a small startup in Michigan to Google, I have firsthand experience climbing these tiers. On top of that, I’ve always been working with hundreds of fellow subscribers over the past few years to get them jobs.
For the book, I’m putting together everything I’ve learned into one package.
This will be releasing on ProductHunt next weekend. I will be sending an e-mail then asking for an upvote, and I would love your support!
How to Become a PM With No Experience
Is PM the most guarded career or what?
Especially in this market, it seems virtually impossible to get a PM job without experience.
This has been the number one thing you all have been reaching out to me about recently.
Well, I’m here to tell you: You can get a PM job without any experience, without an MBA, and without a CS degree.
I first put out this roadmap 1.5 years ago. Since then, I’ve worked with over 50 of you to successfully get PM jobs. Here’s what some have said:
“No one else is quite as clear with what you must do, as far as tactics and strategy.”
“By far the most realistic advice out there. Thank you!”
“Thank you, Aakash Bhai, for changing my life.”
“I just doubled my TC!!!!”
What I’ve worked on with these 52 folks is six specific things:
Executing the plan
LinkedIn & Resume redesign
How to find the right jobs
Over time, I’ve refined the systems and market-tested them to perfection.
In today’s piece, I’m finally ready to break down the exact systems I have used to get people PM jobs. Even if today’s piece doesn’t apply to you, this is the definitive piece you can forward people to when they ask you.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it.
Your self-assessment should follow 3 steps: learn where you stand, identify an appropriate target job, and then work backwards.
Step 1 - Learn Where you Stand
Your first step should be to get a realistic understanding of where your gaps are to become a PM. Let’s give you a quick primer on how different backgrounds affect your chances to become a PM.
There are four major types of backgrounds that enable you to approach this process differently. I’ll refer to these as ‘archetypes’ throughout the rest of the piece. Let’s figure out which you are:
Product Adjacent Experience
Irrelevant Degree & Experience
Archetype 1: CS Degree
If you have a computer science degree, you’re significantly ahead of the pack:
You can build apps to actually manage a product.
You can understand technical concepts, so you can work on technical products.
If you’re in this group and have work experience, you may be able to secure an offer at one level lower than you are now. So if you are a senior individual contributor (IC), you may be able to come in as a normal IC, versus having to be a junior IC.
Archetype 2: Product Adjacent Experience
If you have been working in technology with Product Managers, you also are going to have a different path to get ahead. Here are the rules of thumb for different types of adjacent experience:
Former CEOs can bag VP level offers.
Developers & Designers can often bag offers at the same level they are at
Marketers, BizOps, and finance folks who worked with PMs can sometimes bag offers at the same level they are at
If you haven’t been working with PMs, this archetype doesn’t really apply to you, because you don’t have the knowledge required and aren’t going to be able to leverage those experiences as stories in your interviews. You fall in the next bucket… 👇
Archetype 3: Irrelevant Degree & Experience
If you have a non-CS degree and experience where you didn’t work with technology product managers, you don’t need to fret. You just need a completely different strategy from the above groups.
You’ll have to dramatically change your pitch to make it seem relevant. And there will be a lot of extra long-term work you need to do. More on that soon.
Archetype 4: Student
If you are a student, then you have a very unique set of challenges. You have no work experience. But you also have a unique set of opportunities, including having by far the most time to work on this search. So students are the fourth and final archetype.
You are going to need to target an ‘Associate Product Manager’ position.
Step 2 - Target Job
Now, you need to figure out your target job. Here is roughly where all the leveling advice I teased on the archetypes works out:
Then, you need to think about the various types of PM jobs that exist. The 2x2 that I think is most relevant to think about is size of company and whether it’s B2B or B2C. Think through where you are most qualified for and what you want to do. Then map it out:
Here’s what that looks like with a couple examples in each group:
Don't stress about getting pigeonholed. Choose a target, any target, to help guide your next steps. However, keep in mind the job you ultimately land may be in a different category than you initially targeted.
Step 3 - Work Backwards
The main activity in the self-assessment is to think realistically about the gaps in your candidacy. The hard thing to do here is to be realistic. That’s why we’ve had so many formal steps and definitions so far.
What you need to do is to understand: what are the key skills that you need to have that you don’t?
Do two things:
Frankly think of your main weaknesses as a PM candidate.
Pull up a job description of your target role, and start to work backwards.
Then converge towards your top 2-3 gaps.
Let’s work through an example to better illustrate this process. Let’s say you are currently a Venture Capital (VC) associate with 3 years of experience in B2B SaaS, and 2 years of experience before that as an Investment Banker. You have a dual economics-CS degree from a Top 25 university in the US.
What are your strengths?
B2B SaaS knowledge
What are your gaps?
Haven’t worked on building a product at work
No tech operator experience
As a result, position-wise, you should target a B2B large company position.
Level-wise, you fall into the ‘for everyone else’ category. With 5 years of experience, you should pursue a PM position.
B2B has a lot fewer experts in a position like you
Big companies are going to be able to meet your compensation expectations
So you have the target role: Big Company B2B PM role. Now you can start to work backwards for what is needed for that position.
Let’s hop over to a Google Cloud PM position to realistically evaluate your fit with the responsibilities:
Combining the weaknesses we identified above and the gaps, we can identify the clear improvement areas in the long-term plan. Working with the cross-functional teams to ship features, and building out milestones are the top two gaps for you.
Now, it’s time to build a long-term plan to flip those weaknesses into strengths 👇
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