Associate Product Manager | Placements 2020
Interviewer: Hello, Sahil! I am Ashutosh Garg from Communiqué. First of all, Congratulations on being placed at Flipkart. Shall we begin our discussion?
Sahil: Thank you so much! let’s begin.
Interviewer: Could you explain to us about the field of ‘’Product Management’’?
Sahil: If you look at the profile of product management, it is relatively a very young profile, started around 2001 when the internet came into the picture, and many startups were booming into Silicon Valley in the US. There was a need for a role that coordinated with various teams of a company like the Business team, UI team and Software team. They used to figure out what users’ problems are, what they want from their digital products, what problems to solve, what pain to prioritize, and when there was a need for a person who can do that. PMs are user representative of the company, and they coordinate with all the teams to work on projects that are most important to the company and the users.
Product management is about solving users’ problems through different features and additions to the product.
Interviewer: What was the general interview process for the company you interviewed, and tell us how to prepare for that? Please mention the number of rounds and the nature of the interview process.
Sahil: The Selection procedure of Flipkart will almost encompass a month or a month and a half. It will start from a regular ppt session in which they will tell you about product management.
This time, they had a workshop where they gave the students a basic idea of the kind of cases they will be facing, and they had a case workshop after the ppt. Moving on from that, Flipkart every year has a deck submission to be provided which finalizes you to be shortlisted. They keep a similar problem statement every year, but they changed their problem statement this year due to COVID. So, you have a problem statement wherein you have to submit a deck. It’s a small deck of typically 8–10 slides explaining how you solve the problem with the help of technology. This year we had a shortlist of 8 students. Depending on your buddies and how you interact with them, you will have 3–4 buddy sessions with the 8–10 students selected in the company in the past 2–3 years. They will help you in gaining interview experience. So they will conduct mock interviews. After you shortlist in the final interview, you will have some 15–20 days to prepare well for your interview, and you will give some 2 or 3 buddy sessions in that time frame. Suppose that in Flipkart, you have five rounds to get selected. Finally, each round is an elimination round. The first round is simply problem-solving. The following two rounds revolve around product design and product thinking. The fourth round is a technical round which checks your basic knowledge of how the tech system works and whether you understand them well. The last round is Fit Round. How you are fit for the role and the company. That is how the selection procedure goes for Flipkart. Next is how to prepare for:
1. PPT (Pre-placement talk) of Flipkart: It is essential that you attend that ppt because that clears many doubts around product management, what people look for in a candidate, what exactly is the role, what exactly we are preparing for. Also, from the past year, they have started to conduct a workshop after that ppt. It gives a good head start.
2. Slide or Deck Submission: Last year, the problem set was based on covid; every year, the problem statement will change. But the main thing is to solve a problem using technology. If you have the essential skill of breaking down problems, use technology to solve every pinpoint problem. They are more interested in how you reach the solution. So whatever may be the number of submissions, only 8–10 students will clear that round. So, focus well on your deck submission; you have 10–12 days for that. So break your problem well, don’t try to solve it as a whole.
3. Product case: After the deck submission, I started preparing for the product case post my deck submission shortlist. Whoever wants to sit for placement for non-core roles like product management, product analyst role, business analyst or marketing, I want to encourage them to first prepare for the consult case interview. It will help you understand many aspects of a case interview, help you know how to define a problem, break a problem, and structure your thoughts very well. Even though I have done some preliminary case preparation, at least I cleared the basics, so I shortlisted for Flipkart. That is the time when you should start working on different types of product case rounds. These are divided into 3 buckets: Problem-solving, the other is the product thinking bucket, and the third bucket is the other market entry cases. Now all of those 3 cases, you will have pretty good buddy sessions with your buddy associated with Flipkart so that they will guide you well into the process.
You can form product cases around you, try to solve issues every day. We generally solved two or three cases each day; we used to have 2-hour calls every day to solve cases with each other, and finally, we had buddy cases each week with our seniors.
For preparing for all these three types of interview, a lot of resources are available. There are many good books, like cracking the PM interview, preparing for the Product Interview, or Decode and Conquer; youtube channels like Exponent or StellarPeers or Product Management exercises are available. Watching mock interviews are a great source of learning. So I think there are resources available online.
As some essential preliminary case interview, you can start going through them and look for problems on each bucket and then solve them, solving as many cases as you can. I will recommend solving 2 cases per day to crack the APM round; other than that, Flipkart also has some technical rounds. This technical round checks fundamental technical understanding, so there is an excellent book “Swipe to Unlock”, which you can refer to, which will walk you through the basics of all the technologies around you. Working in Product Management, you have to interact with the software engineers. You have many videos on youtube; you can refer to them to understand how basic things, like how WhatsApp messaging, how google drive or some basic questions like how the google search works, so that is it & the last round is off.
4. Product fit round: This round is like any other round where they will ask you fundamental questions like what will you do in future situations, like when you have to help your Colleague who is facing some issues or why Flipkart, why the APM role, so all of those questions.
Interviewer: One general doubt, is there any technical round involved in the process? And does one need to know how to code for product management roles?
Sahil: Yes, the technical round is there, but coding is not required in this round. When you go even into your role as APM or as a product manager, there will be shipping features, you will be primarily working on digital products, and you would have to shift elements with your software engineers. Shipping features is like releasing a new update, even when you feel like daily, the Flipkart has is you were using from the ten years, you have seen a lot of changes in that. You can see many changes in the interface, so the people responsible for that changes are product managers, but they should know how these changes will come into place and how they have to share their product features with their software team. How they communicate with them, How they build and ship these features. You should understand how fundamental tech works, so you should understand the problems, how you manage the database, how the essential search works, and the difference between the back end and the front end. A lot of these crucial things so that you can ship and communicate with your software engineers better. Coding is not required.
Interviewer: Could you please list down questions were you asked in the different rounds? Puzzles, technical problems, any other discussion in general that you think will prove helpful for students.
Sahil: Flipkart doesn’t have any puzzle round; those are all product cases round and the technical and finally the fit round.
So my first round was problem-solving, and the problem that I dealt with was that some offer going in the Flipkart with the advertising revenue was not increasing. So I had to find a problem and then give some solutions to counter that.
My second round was the problem thinking round. I had to improve the experience of the people age above 45 on google pay; this is my second round.
My third round was thinking round, where I had to go ten years back, around the time when Ola started. Then I had to build the algorithm for matching a user (customer) to the driver.
In my fourth round, there were fundamental technical questions, like types of databases, how ads work, how to replace an application and a browser, or what technology to get a better experience on Flipkart. The final round was fit, a behavioural round as they set the questions like why APM? Why Product Management? How will you help your Colleague? What is that one problem you observe in Kharagpur? So I think after you clear the four rounds, your 5th round shouldn’t be that hard, but you should be sincere in that round, or you should stick to your strengths and your weaknesses while you share any thoughts in that round.
Interviewer: What are some of the FAQs you face and think students must prepare for in most companies? More specifically, in the context of HR rounds.
Sahil: Not just for the context of the HR round, but the point is, there are no frequently asked questions. Questions depend on what company and what role you are interviewing for; the HR questions revolve around them; why this profile? Your profile seems like this, then Why not go for this?
I see many people who are very talented going to interview panicking and not able to interact or share their thoughts with the interviewer.
This finally leads to their rejections, so I would urge everyone sitting for placements to dedicate some time to think of how the interview will go into your head and what kind of person you want to show about you.
Every HR question, every interview starts from “Tell me about yourself”, “Why this role?” So every question has its story behind it. The interviewer who is sitting in front of you has to take 20 or 30 interviews, and if you go on to ramble your CV and go on to tell something that you have learnt in your mind or try to speak it out continuously, it won’t separate you from the crowd. So you must prepare your story well, schedule your personal opinion on yourself. Another important thing I have seen happening with many people (KGPians) was fear of the interview and panic in many discussions with Flipkart.
Each year, we see some candidates getting intimidated by the interviewer, so it is essential to stay calm. The interviewer is a guide; when you go for an interview, the interviewer is there only to guide you through the process, think of him as a senior who is helping you to work with a problem and helping you solve it. Suppose you think of him as someone who is here to reject you or someone far higher than you. In that case, people life will be panicking.
The critical skill is having your stories defined well, expressing who you are and what you are really and communicating well with the interviewer, and answering your questions well in a good state of mind. These two things will fly you through any HR round and not this HR but any other round if you have any technical knowledge about them.
Interviewer: What are things students sitting for placements next year can do from now until December to maximize their chances of getting through a company in this sector?
Sahil: First, this must be about the time of the mid-Feb end, you start preparing for your interview, for your placement in your head, so, first of all, you need to understand what profile you want to target, and then stick to that profile, because you will need a time frame for preparing for any role. It would be best to understand whether I should go with the functions of software or roles that are more inclined towards the non-core roles or more inclined towards the core engineering role.
The most important thing people have to keep in mind is that they have built a lot of noise around you while going through the process. Let say you are preparing for the non-core, and your friends keep telling you that. Oh, Dude! You are so poor; you really won’t get placed. One of those is True. Just stick to your strength. So I never coded, never went far for any software role, nor was I giving that test. I don’t want to go for software roles in my future, and I don’t think of myself as a Software Engineer. I know that I want to go for some non-core role, like product management, or consult, or a normal position, like a business analyst or product analyst. So you should know that and stick to it because you will have enough company for each role, stick to two or three core profiles, which you want to target and then go work around that. I think this year. Placements were online, so many people working from home might say that peer pressure was unnecessary because you are at home. Still, you don’t know how the other person is preparing and what other people are doing, so if the next semester you come to the campus, another factor that is a considerable impact is peer pressure; many people are preparing for placement.
So think, keep in touch with your peers; peer pressure is significant, but don’t get intimidated by any person. Placement is a very long process, and it starts with the overall autumn semester; remaining calm in the whole process will work, and at the end of the day, you will get good results; you will get good placement, no matter what.
Interviewer: And how far do the positions of responsibility on the campus help you? How has life in KGP has supported you for this role?
Sahil: In my first year, I wanted to work on my communication skills, so, I went for every audition that I could find in KGP; I wanted to go in these auditions, talk in that selection round so that I could speak up, I could share my opinion in English, even though very basic. I was a part of E-cell for a year-and-half, I took two positions of responsibilities. They help you a lot in understanding how to present yourself professionally, how to talk to people. I was in the sponsorship team, so I had to make a lot of phone calls. It makes one realize how to present yourself, know their persona, and handle different companies.
So if you are looking for the POR as a way to boost up your CV, like a lot of people think of POR as a judging base as a shortlist, it’s not true. Some companies may have some inclination towards POR, but mainly after going through all the placement process, I have seen shortlisting on ideas based on tests and, in some cases, based on consult. A lot of other things matter, your CG, extracurricular activities, internships and not just POR.
POR is a way to improve yourself, improve your communication skills, professional skills, and not get your CV shortlisted. Finally, the POR helps you in the interview. So my POR was of E-cell; I learnt how the startup works and how the organizations function. How different roles made each other. So that helped a lot. But I have not seen anyone getting a job just because of their POR.
Interviewer: Anything else that you’d want to share with the students?
Sahil: So the most important thing is to be cautious while the placement process is going on. There will be many ups and downs, starting right from when the test starts (some tests begin in June). The shortlists will start coming. Initially, some companies come on Day 0.
The important thing is to remain calm throughout the time frame. Some intense buddy sessions are also required; we worked day and night on product cases, 2 or 3 cases round each day professionally. A serious buddy session will determine what profile you want to go for.