How to Determine if Product Management is the Right Career Choice by Google PM

By far one of the most frequently asked questions we receive each month is, “How do I know if Product Management is for me? How do I know this is the right path for me?”

We sat down with Shobhit Chugh, a Google Product Manager based in Boston, to bring you guys realistic insight on Product Management and how he approaches this question.

Product Gym: How long have you been a Product Manager before Google?

Shobhit Chugh: 4 years. BA, Consulting firm for a few years, then back into tech.

Product Gym:  What are some of the differences between Product Management and Consulting in your opinion?

Shobhit Chugh: Product Management is super hands-on, unlike consulting. You are also responsible for making decisions around strategy.

Product Gym:  So I see that you have some background in mentoring as well. What motivated you to get into mentoring?

Shobhit Chugh: Two things. First, I wanted to give back. I’ve had a lot of mentors during my career to whom I’m extremely grateful. I want to continue helping and mentoring just as many others have helped and mentored me in the past. The other reason I got into mentoring is blogging. Believe it or not, blogging is a very good way to learn a new skill through teaching, mentoring, or even just talking about it.

Product Gym: Regarding your blog, how do you find the time to write quality content with such a busy schedule?

Shobhit Chugh: I am someone that has a lot of energy to begin with and I thrive from writing quality content. In addition, being creative gives me energy. If I can do something that gives me energy, I can double or triple my output – so it’s totally worth taking time out to blog. Nevertheless, I have a very busy schedule, so I can’t stay consistent all the time. One must learn to accept that.

Product Gym:  When you were a Product Management Instructor, what were some of the biggest challenges members had in transitioning from Product Management boot camp to an actual Product Management job?

Shobhit Chugh: I was able to see that most members had two main challenges.

First, Product Management expectations are widely different from company to company. It is difficult for both aspiring and working Product Managers alike to be able to gauge the expectations a company has for a Product Manager that is hiring. There are always changes and this is something Product Managers must and should accept.

Second, you never really know what it is that you’re getting into until you start working on it. This is similar to the chicken and the egg story. You cannot have one without the other.

Product Gym:  What are some solutions to solving these common challenges?

Shobhit Chugh: Relationships and Quick Wins are the things that will help you succeed. You should focus on bringing people along with these Quick Wins. Another thing you can do is spend time with people in informal settings, and ask direct questions on a personal level. You should really get to know the history of a product. If you know the history of a product, you can understand what you need to do.

Quick Wins are valuable only when they acknowledge one’s contribution. Make changes to how the Product Team is running and managed in the long term, and minimize to short terms. Before attempting anything too big, gain the credibility of the team first and retain that level of trust.

Product Gym:  What advice would you give to people who are wondering if Product Management is right for them?

Shobhit Chugh: Tough one…

  1. Do you like to build and ship new products? Not theoretically, but have you actually done it.
  1. Do you like a variety of challenges? Big picture, long-term, from vision to strategy and roadmap? And figure out what those individual interactions look like? Or comfortable making technical decisions? As a Product Manager, you need to balance all of those.
  1. Are you flexible to do what it takes? The job requires you to wear a lot of hats and take on a lot of responsibilities. If you answer yes to all of these, then it’s something you should push. If not, there are still a ton of other roles that are much more specialized that might fit.

Product Gym: As you know, a lot of people want to work at Google, how did you start working there?

Shobhit Chugh: I actually first came into Google from an acquisition. Nevertheless, the interview process was standard but challenging. Product Management at Google is no different than a Product Management at any other company.

Google wants to know:

  1. If you understand the big picture?
  2. Can you quickly validate product ideas with minimum work required?
  3. Can you work well with a variety of people, such as from engineers to legal?
  4. Can you lead?
  5. Do you understand the initial part of Product Management and how to scale?
  6. What would happen in 5 yrs, 10 yrs, and beyond?
  7. How would these changes occur?
  8. How is this product going to follow market trends?
  9. Can you think long-term?

Product Gym:  Scaling is something thrown around a lot in Product Management. Are there any books that you’ve read that have helped you to think bigger and in terms of scale?

Shobhit Chugh: Not specifically for scaling, but around strategy. I recommend reading for aspiring Product Managers:

  • Good strategy, Bad Strategy
  • Blue Ocean Strategy

Product Gym:  When you are thinking that big all the time, do you ever wonder if what you’re contributing is in the right direction? How do you figure out if you are?

Shobhit Chugh: All the time! It’s like flying a plane, you know where you are going but the plane goes in constant wind direction, you are always making changes to the course direction. And really, that is what Product Management is about — long-term direction makes sense, but you have constant changesProduct Managers often tend to succeed in launching and kicking off the Product, but they should focus on landing too. For example, did you ultimately achieve the business goal? Did you get the customer result you want to get? Did you solve what you wanted to solve? The magic is in these course directions.

Product Gym:  What do you do when you’re stuck or have a roadblock? For example, conflicting ideas from stakeholders, managing the roadmap along with what’s happening in real time? What do you do when you’re running up against a big challenge?

Shobhit Chugh: Sometimes it’s just unsolvable and you just need to cancel the feature or just stop. If you can build the organization on believing in small bet experiments, more people would be behind on that than trying something too big where not everyone is on the same page from day one. Be rigorous and truthful.

About Shobhit Chugh:

Shobhit is a technology entrepreneur and product leader for webmobile, and enterprise software. In addition to his current position, Shobhit is also the Founder of ImmigrantHQ, teaching immigrants what they need to know to successfully transition to and thrive in the USA. His passion project sums up to helping others. Before ImmigrantHQ, Shobhit mentored other startup CEOs and product leaders. He even has a blog where he writes about his experiences in hope to inspire others. With over 10 years of product experience being part of companies such as Adaptly, Lattice Engines, Tamr and now Google, the former consultant tells us his story.

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