Tech Product Management Starter Pack

“Build a better bus system.” In 30 minutes!? Public transportation is a big policy problem in the United States and…Wait, this is a product management interview, the tech industry’s equivalent of casing—trial by fire. In a brief 30-minute interview, case questions are supposed to evaluate your product design sense, your understanding of strategy, and sometimes, analytical skills. As I thought about the hours I poured into interview prep my first year, I knew as Booth Tech Group (BTG) co-chair, I wanted to create an even better Tech PM Workshop this year.

The percentage of Boothies who enter tech has nearly doubled since 2013, from 12% to 20%, and BTG has seen our numbers double, too. We’re proud to say we match Management Consulting Group in number of members. In general, we are seeing more students interested in tech. Specifically, they’re looking at product management, that popular role for new MBAs at Google, Amazon, Facebook, and others. But what is product management? And do you need a computer science degree?

During the first week of school, we had hundreds of first years asking for all the information we could possibly provide about product management. Although we organize events for education and interview prep, BTG co-chairs only have about a year of experience each. We needed real experts! That’s where the Kilts Center for Marketing came in.

The Kilts Center was a great partner in seeking out alumni in product management to help us develop holistic programming and set the tone for a great Tech PM Workshop. While Kilts advised us and our alumni on workshop material, Shota Ido and I still had plenty of work to do. Have I introduced you to Shota? Shota Ido is a powerhouse of project management. I’m convinced he has a direct mental connection to Slack and email—and replies using only his mind. He also has a Spidey-sense for free pizza.

Master of logistics, Shota coordinated between Kilts, the alumni, Gleacher Center (our downtown campus), catering, and myself to ensure that everything and everyone would be where and when we needed to be. Did that sentence make any sense? Shota could probably untangle that, too.

And me? I spent the first few weeks of the quarter nervously compiling every scrap of information about interviewing I had from the prior year, from my friends, from every product management guide written in history. But it was much more material than could be covered in one day, even with four powerhouse alumni in our corner.

I wanted to arm attendees with a starter kit and some opening moves before they did the work of interviewing. Between conference calls and tweaking the workshop schedule, I put together my PM starter pack—a black hoodie, jeans, and some sample interview questions.

All the pieces fell into place by November 10th as our workshop kicked off. The attendees had a short presentation on their starter pack, then Kilts moderated and livestreamed our 4 honored guests who shared stories from their careers in product management. Afterward, for the rest of the day, groups of 30-40 students rotated between the alumni, practicing their first cases and gleaning insights from these industry leaders. I’m so proud to have planned an event where so many players—Kilts, alumni, BTG, and all the students—were able to share knowledge and challenge each other on a brisk Chicago Saturday.

Curious what the alumni panel had to say? Watch it here.

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