What's it like and how to get hired?
You probably found this article by searching on Google. How did that happen? Well, there’s a product manager (actually a bunch of them) at Google who developed a series of search algorithms and product features that make Google what it is -- magical.
Well, the same type of people also work at Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Slack, Instagram, and every other tech company we interact with every day.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a product manager at one of these companies? It’s pretty awesome.
A product manager bridges customer needs and the product while keeping everything aligned with the company’s vision. The responsibilities of a product manager range from leading the product team to maintaining communication among multiple stakeholders.
In this article, you’ll learn about the role of a product manager in the top tech companies including Google, Amazon, and Facebook. Moreover, we’ll dig into what it takes to land a job at one of these companies.
What Does a Product Manager Do at Big Tech Companies Like Google, Amazon, and Facebook?
Roles of a Google Product Manager
Google has multiple levels of product manager roles, such as Senior Product Managers or Group Product Managers. This is common for companies that have a broad range of products.
However, Google’s culture is more similar to startups than that of other large tech companies. Product managers in google have more control over strategies and key decision-making about the product. Think of product managers at Google as mini CEOs of their business unit.
A product manager in Google may find themselves fulfilling the following responsibilities.
Creating Product Roadmaps and Developing Ideas
Of course, one of the most exciting aspects of being a product manager is coming up with new product ideas. This is a core responsibility of Google PMs. They look for new opportunities and develop ideas and pitch them internally to other stakeholders. Once approved, these ideas are then translated into concrete strategies by the PMs.
After they have shaped the strategies, product managers create a product roadmap to outline the entire process of product development to launch.
Staying on Top of the Market
Google PMs conduct extensive market research to stay on top of the market range. One way they do this is talking to customers. They look for opportunities to enhance and optimize existing products and come up with completely transformative ideas.
A Google product manager needs to have a good understanding of the market, competition, and its users. Knowing the user is an integral part of everything a PM in Google does, from creating product strategies to designing the product.
They also need to be aware of the market trends, to constantly keep their products relevant and be in a competitive position.
Acting as a Bridge Between Teams
A product manager role in a big tech company like Google requires efficient collaboration among multiple teams. Teamwork is an important part of any product manager role, but in a company like Google, it is integral.
A product manager at Google needs to link multiple teams together, including the design, engineering, marketing, and finance teams. They need to keep everyone focused on a common goal.
Conducting Product Features Testing
Product managers at Google have the essential job of extensively testing new features to find any bugs or scope of improvement. This happens right before the launch of a product or a feature but is also an ongoing process.
With the help of volunteers around the world, PMs lead the process of gathering feedback. Once they gather enough information on the user experience and functionality, the product team gets back to work.
Google PMs need to be efficient with handling the debugging process. This process of finding bugs and improving features continues even after the launch -- gathering feedback from both internal and external sources.
Roles of a Facebook Product Manager
Facebook products extend far and beyond social media. Product Managers at Facebook work with teams of expert engineers, data scientists, and marketers. They are responsible for a range of managerial and product-related duties.
Data Decision Making
Facebook is an extremely data-driven organization. PMs at Facebook have varying roles based on specific areas that are religiously tied to performance metrics. Some product managers focus on collecting and analyzing data, while others are more design and feature-oriented.
Together, these product managers work as a team to define, develop, test, launch, and evaluate everything they create -- from a simple dropdown menu to a complete advertising platform.
Flexible Roles for Adapting
Facebook product managers don’t always work on projects from the start. In many cases, they may join a project after it’s been live for a few years. This requires PMs at Facebook to be very flexible and able to pick up new concepts quickly. Moreover, some product managers will be laser-focused on a particular feature whereas others might focus on the development process or the overall roadmap.
The product managers at Facebook are particularly collaborative in this way. They don’t have to manage the whole process alone, and Facebook is too big to do that anyway. They have a knack for breaking down product initiatives into bite-sized chunks to efficiently achieve a specific goal in the product development process.
Keeping the Product Team on the Same Page
Good teamwork is crucial at Facebook. Product managers play a pivotal role in managing and delegating tasks to team members.
PMs make sure that the engineering managers have access to all the resources they need. They also collaborate with designers and specialists to create bug-free products efficiently.
Moreover, Facebook product teams need to interact with multiple departments before and after releasing features -- from marketing to sales, customer teams, and executive committees. They are the glue that holds the organization together.
Facilitating Smooth Completion of Projects
Facebook is huge. They likely have 100 product initiatives going on at any given time, or more. Product managers are primarily responsible for getting things done and getting them done on time. This is one of the things that product managers at Facebook report as so satisfying. They have a level of impact on the organization that other roles don’t.
Product managers need a range of skills to be successful at bringing products to market at Facebook. They facilitate collaboration by maintaining steady communication among the teams. They need to be able to see the big picture and nearly predict how users will react and use what they build. It’s exciting, but also stressful.
Roles of an Amazon Product Manager
Amazon is particularly unique compared to Facebook or Google because consumers largely pay to use their product. As an eCommerce company, Amazon has set the bar for quality, user experience, and trust for every other e-tailer on the internet.
Product managers at Amazon have a heavy responsibility to maintain this level of excellence. Of course, Amazon isn’t only a place to buy things. They have 100+ other business units including advertising, logistics, tech infrastructure, retail brick and mortar, and many more. To that end, product managers at Amazon generally focus on specific areas rather than the entire business.
Knowing the Market
eCommerce isn’t new tech. Amazon has thousands of competitors nipping at them. So product managers need to keep up on market trends and competing products. This means they not only talk to customers like most product managers do, but they frequently do deep dives on competing sites. If Amazon doesn’t come up with the next big feature in eCommerce, you can bet they’ll know about it before anyone else and launch their competing version.
Making Informed Decisions Using Data
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is notorious for making smart decisions but also not getting paralyzed with fear. Product managers at Amazon know how to use data to get close to 90% confident they’re making the right call, then they pull the trigger and execute.
In a company like Amazon, nearly every decision is crucial and has a major impact on the business -- both positive and negative. So, the product managers at Amazon often use a scoring model to reduce the likelihood of bad product decisions. This data-driven process spans from products and features to growth strategies and corporate culture.
Facilitating Product Launches
Amazon, more than any other eCommerce company, devotes an enormous amount of resources to improve its core products. How many times have you logged into your Amazon account only to find a new bell or whistle? Product managers are at the heart of these feature launches, from planning to QA and everything in between.
And even though Amazon is a huge company, valued at over 1 trillion dollars, when it comes to product launches, the company moves with the nimble precision of a startup. And it’s the product managers who carry a large portion of this responsibility.
Keeping all the Stakeholders Involved
A product manager at any company should be able to keep executives and stakeholders updated on the roadmap and launches. At Amazon, product managers play an even more pivotal role in communicating with stakeholders because the company's success rides on the tech products they deliver.
Take Amazon Web Services (AWS). How does a shopping site become one of the biggest tech infrastructure platforms, bigger than Microsoft and Google? It’s because the product managers saw an opportunity, developed a plan, and executed it perfectly. One can only imagine how they must have presented the idea to executives and the CEO. “Hey, I know we’re a shopping site, but we can do hosting way better than anyone.” And the rest is history.
Keeping the Customers Happy
Amazon knows that customers are the lifeblood. Have you ever tried to return something? Of course, you have. It’s a piece of cake. Customer-centricity is not a policy in Amazon; it’s an obsession. Product managers in Amazon need to ensure that everything related to the product is customer-focused because customers will decide whether the product is a success or a failure.
Amazon PMs oversee the product development process to achieve customer satisfaction. This goal is based on objective user experience data to gather, analyze and communicate with their team.
Roles of an Apple Product Manager
Apple aims “to bringing the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software, and services.” Its product managers are therefore responsible for creating user experiences that live up to its reputation. In one word, Apple products are transformational.
Seeing Into the Future
It’s no wonder being a product manager at Apple is both glorious and incredibly stressful. Imagine the responsibility of creating the first handheld computer (the iPhone). Apple PMs need to keep a keen eye on competition and market trends, but they also need to see into the future.
This is a characteristic of Apple PMs that sets them apart from other tech companies. The company has a history of launching products nobody even knew they needed. To do that, product managers need to experiment and test tons of ideas before they even consider launching something. This makes the R&D budget at Apple bloated, but it also has enabled them to create new markets that didn’t exist before.
A Culture of Perfection
Most people will agree that innovation is at the heart of Apple. Product managers are seen as rockstars at Apple, and in many ways, they define the culture there. Steve Jobs himself was essentially the first product manager. He didn’t build the first PC but without question, he created the vision.
One of the things Steve was notorious for was perfectionism. He regularly sent teams back to the drawing board because something was 99.9% perfect, but not 100%. This culture of perfection has carried on since his passing and will continue long into the future.
Landing a Product Manager Job at Google, Facebook, and Amazon
What Does Google Look for in a Product Manager
Product management as a career path is now in such demand that some colleges are offering degree programs. Having a PM degree, engineering or even marketing can give you a competitive edge, but might not be enough to land a product manager job at Google.
You’re going to need some practical experience in product development, design, or marketing. Most PM’s learned skills from other tech companies before joining Google.
Google is a bit different than other companies. They don’t look for specialists. Instead, they look for candidates who have basic knowledge in multiple areas such as product development, product design, user experience, marketing, and more. They want team members to be great at a lot of things, not just one specific thing.
Sujay Maheshwari wrote in an article back in 2017 that Google looks for PMs who are strategic thinkers and are equipped with technical understanding and business knowledge. In other words, Google values generalists who have a diverse skillset that spans from technical skills to business acumen.
Google prioritizes candidates with experience in managing technical products. Product teams at Google are flexible and can work with a dynamic range of products. This is why they prefer candidates who have the basics pinned down but can adapt to just about any function or role.
What Does Amazon Look for in a Product Manager
Amazon probably won’t hire you without a bachelor’s degree in a technical field or business, along with five years of experience in product management.
The interview process at Amazon is known to be grueling and for good reason. Amazon looks for Product Managers who can think critically and are a good fit for its customer-obsessed culture.
Amazon specifically looks for candidates who can imagine, build and launch products -- the initial idea to final delivery.
The company values skills that allow the candidates to work with stakeholders. You’ll need to be able to influence senior executives and lead a cross-functional team.
Having an innovative mentality and being able to think out of the box will give you an advantage. In a nutshell, Amazon looks for candidates who can consistently deliver results even amidst intense pressure.
What Does Facebook Look for in a Product Manager
While academic requirements are not the same for all product manager positions in Facebook, most of the roles will require at least a bachelor’s degree. But like Google, Facebook doesn’t explicitly require a college degree. If you have enough practical experience, passion, creativity, and smarts, you might land the job.
For some PM positions at Facebook, candidates are required to have a specific technical background, which includes experience in system architecture, UI design, and now even artificial intelligence (AI) experience adds to the mix.
Facebook also values candidates who bring an action-focused attitude and have an interest in making positive social change.
How Do You Prepare for a Product Management Interview at Top Tech Companies
The interview process at top companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, takes weeks or even months to complete. The competition you will face in this process can be overwhelming. So it is necessary to be well prepared before you start the grueling process.
Know the Company, The Vision & The Culture
Before you begin the interview process you’ll want to understand what they do, why they do it, and how. Google, Facebook, and Amazon are unique in every respect and it’s your job to dig into what makes these companies tick before you go applying for product manager roles there.
Learn how the product range of the company fits into its mission and vision. Try to understand “why” they do what they do and “how” they make money doing it.
Go through the annual reports and strategy presentations created by the company. Companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook release periodic documents for investors, which are excellent resources for you to learn about the financial aspects and organizational culture of the company.
Sharpen Your Product Knowledge
When you are relatively early in the product management arena, you need to make sure you have brushed up the basic product management knowledge.
You might have practical experience working in product management, but none that will matter if you can’t keep up during a discussion about products. Interviewers will consider your inability to hold your ground in a product discussion as a red flag.
Your goal should be to have enough knowledge to provide specific feedback about any product and explain how to improve the product.
Get Your Skills In Shape
Some companies like Google prefer generalists with a broad skill set, while other companies, like Facebook, sometimes prefer technical specialists. But some skills are universally expected from a product manager.
Skills like prioritization, basic technical knowledge, critical thinking, efficient communication, and more are essential for any product management role.
Find which Product Manager skills you need to brush up on to stand out from other candidates. For example, if you have a business background, you might want to sharpen your technical skills and vice-versa.
You should aim to approach the interview having your skills in the best shape.
Product managers are the new rock stars. Working at Google, Facebook, Amazon, or Apple as a product manager might be akin to being Jagger at the height of the Stones.
The average Google product manager salary is nearly $200,000. Other major tech companies, including Amazon and Facebook, pay $120,000 to $200,000 on average for product management roles. And some of the very top-level product people at these companies make north of half a million dollars a year, plus stock. It’s no wonder that the process of getting a job at these companies is so competitive.
You might be intrigued by the culture of these major tech companies and want to pursue a high-paying career as a product manager. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Julia Austin outlined three primary factors when evaluating a product management role - core competencies, emotional intelligence (EQ), and company fit.
So get to know the company, brush up on your skills and prepare to embark on an exciting journey as a product manager. Even if you don’t end up at Google or Facebook, being a product manager is a lot of fun. You’ll have a ton of impact and can make a great salary too!