We talk to Hemanth Kempanna, an Exponent alumnus, on his journey to breaking into product management and his experience building cloud-based products. Hemanth is currently a PM at Motorola.
Q: How would you answer the “Tell me about yourself” question?
I usually try my best to convey my story and talk about my journey so far. Each of us has a unique story and my journey would be different from yours.
When I started preparing for this question, I asked myself the following:
Why should an interviewer remember me of all the candidates he or she has spoken to so far?
And this is when I realized the importance of purpose in life and how well can we communicate it to the interviewer. With that said, here are some key points that I would like to address as a part of this question:
Q: How did you first hear about Exponent?
Through the Exponent YouTube channel.
Q: Could you explain your interview prep stages from applying to interviewing to landing a job? What were the most difficult stages and how did you overcome them?
Here are some of the key things that I would like to share based on my experience so far:
Q: How did Exponent help with your interview process? Were there specific things that you learned from the course materials, coaching sessions, and the community?
If I have to mention one specific thing that I learned from Exponent, then it is definitely the art of responding to estimation questions. While I was already familiar with developing target addressable market, revenue and profit forecasting, efforts estimate etc, Stephen’s approach of responding to estimation questions was very helpful.
Q: Any advice for aspiring PMs applying, interviewing, and considering offers?
Every individual is unique and what helped me does not mean that it may help others as well, but here are some of the key learnings for me so far:
Q: Virtualization and Cloud Computing pop out as your domain expertise. When did you decide to double down on these fields?
While virtualization was a technology that was forced upon me, cloud computing is something that I enjoyed learning purely based on interest as I strongly believed in its potential.
Regarding the second part of the question, I try to keep an eye out on the current requirements, conduct proactive gap analysis in terms of the skills and experiences needed and if I truly see long term value in gaining that skill then come up with an effective plan to acquire that.
As listed below, there were numerous questions that came to my mind when I started evaluating if cloud is a technology that I should focus on:
And once I started researching on the following topics, it was quite evident that Cloud as a technology is here to stay for 3 main reasons:
Q: How did you cultivate and highlight these specialties of yours, especially in the context of breaking into product management?
First of all, I should admit that being a cloud specialist did help me to an extent landing my first product management job. Having a good understanding of various cloud concepts helped me bring in different perspectives to solve a business problem compared to traditional methods.
I still remember a specific situation when our development teams were spending significant time doing non-core activities and facing significant delays in product launch due to unavailability of multiple environments due to cost constraints and by introducing cloud we were able to launch products in a much accelerated manner by leveraging cloud’s highly automated provisioning, dynamic scaling and cost effective pay only for what you use business model.
While having a strong cloud background helped me land an interview, my ability to think how cloud can address customer pain points and build a business viable product helped me seal the deal.
Q: When you first transitioned into Product around 2011 from your role back then as a VMWare architect, how was the process like?
I was fortunate enough to be working with product managers before I started considering the move to a product management role. Working with product managers for a long time had given me a good understanding of what this role demands and also helped me make a conscious effort to gain the skills needed.
Some of the key skills that I was missing but rather picked up over a period of time through online courses and in-person workshops are as follow:
Q: How is building products for the cloud distinct from other product areas?
Cloud is no longer a disruptor or a niche technology as what it used to be few years back. While cloud offers great opportunities in terms of global reach, it also comes with its own set of challenges surrounding security, data governance and privacy.
Irrespective of the technology, our goal should be to build a commercially successful product for the long term value creation and there are various things to look at and various ways to do it. With that being said, let me highlight the following key learnings:
Q: Do you have any advice for those interested in becoming Cloud-based product managers?
While having a good understanding of technology definitely provides a strong foundation and also an ability to align with the technical teams and technological innovation, it is not sufficient to build successful products. Whether it is cloud/virtualization, your primary goal should be to address spoken/unspoken pain points of your customer either in terms of improving efficiency, reducing costs or improving revenues.
Q: Favorite PM resource or blog?
Sachin Rekhi’s blog.
Q: What is your favorite product and why?
Ola, an equivalent of Uber in India. Following Stephen’s triangle method, here are my 3 reasons:
Q: Who’s a product manager you admire?
Marty Cagan, the author of Inspired.
That's a wrap! Thank you so much for reading.
You can find more about Hemanth on LinkedIn.
Interested in breaking into product management like Hemanth with the help of Exponent's expert interview coaching? Visit Exponent's Interview Course and website to learn more.
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