The Summers of 2018 is a miniseries about the various categories of roles offered by companies for summer internships. The author talked to interns from Consulting, Finance, Marketing, General Management, Product Management, Operations and International Intern roles to understand a bit more about their work life. The articles are meant to give the reader a glimpse into the life of an intern, and maybe help the reader understand their own fit in that particular role. This article, the fourth in the series of seven, describes the life of a product management intern.
Contributed By: Bharat Khanna
Edited By: J K Varshika
PRODUCT MANAGEMENT IN MICROSOFT
I interned as a Product Manager (PM) in the Office 365 vertical at Microsoft India Development Center (MS IDC), Bangalore. Office 365 Suite is one of the largest revenue generating components in Microsoft’s product portfolio, and therefore, a huge emphasis is given on innovation in this vertical. This reflected in the culture of the team as well wherein I found every member to be highly driven and creative when it came to solving customer problems and making the product better. The intern orientation lasts just one day, and the products are assigned on the second day itself. The product assigned to me was a relatively new product offering, and therefore had a huge scope for experimentation. As a result, the problem statement for my project was quite open-ended, i.e., to design features to differentiate the product from competitors and to drive adoption.
Microsoft as a company treats its interns as full-time employees when it comes to giving the ownership of the project. I had to come up with an execution plan of my own and determine the resources I needed to deliver the project within 8 weeks. Based on the execution plan, a product team (comprising of engineers, designers, customer advocates and product marketing managers) was staffed on my part of the product. As a product manager, I had to ensure that all the stakeholders were clear about the product vision and roadmap right from the planning phase. The project involved a lot of secondary research, customer interaction sessions and discussions with the product team. After various rounds of discussions and debates, the final product specifications shaped up, which were then designed, developed and delivered by the product team.
As a PM, communication skills play a vital role at every step. As every Microsoft product has millions of users, the impact of every product decision, positive or negative, is huge. A PM has to ensure that the exact set of problems are addressed by interacting with the customers and customer advocates to get their insights. Most of the times, each customer has either a unique demand or a large number of feature requests. A PM’s job is to ensure that that only the necessary features are included in the product and that all the features cater to the largest possible number of customers. On the other hand, sometimes, even the customers do not realize what they need, which is when the PM needs to take a call on their behalf. The PM also has to keep the product team updated with the product strategy, as they are the ones who would execute it and deliver the final results. This is, however, the most challenging part of a PM’s job as the product team goes deep into the minute details, ranging from User Experience to technical architecture of the product. This is why good PM’s are often recommended to have a strong technical background.
The internship at Microsoft was intense yet fun. Microsoft as a company places huge emphasis on its work-culture. The workplace was quite relaxed, owing to the plethora of entertainment options available in the office. You could be playing basketball, cricket, pool, foosball, latest X-Box games, or hitting the gym or even taking naps in nap rooms. The office timings were flexible, with no minimum number of hours to complete. However, as half of my product team was based in US, it resulted in a lot of late night meetings due to the time-zone difference.
I found the internship to be quite an enriching experience. Negotiating product features with engineering managers who have as many years of experience in the industry as your age, can become challenging at times. As technology changes rapidly, one needs to stay updated with all the latest advances in technology, to provide a cutting-edge experience to the customers. PM role tests one’s passion for technology and provides a great opportunity to use it to transform the way businesses and individuals work. I look forward to joining the company back next year as a full-time PM and as the company’s mission states, “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more”.
Stay Tuned for more Internship Experiences. Read part three here – http://b-heard.in/2014/the-summers-of-2018-finance/