How to have a successful product management internship

I interned with Microsoft last summer in the Program Manager (PM) role. Like many MBA students, it was my first opportunity to switch tracks to product management. After a successful internship, I am joining Microsoft as a full-time PM this June. I want to share a few pointers to maximise your chances of having a successful PM internship.

0. Communicate

First, understand the expectations of the project. Keep track of the progress. You can do this by scheduling recurring one on one meetings with your mentor and manager. Secondly, keep no surprises. Always communicate. Let your mentor or manager know what you are working on. Your early weeks will involve a lot of communication, that is normal. Mismatch of expectations can happen if you do not communicate often. A good PM will be an excellent communicator.

1. Respect others time

Your mentor and manager will be busy. Do not overwhelm them with your queries. Please respect the time they spend with you. Do some research on your own before reaching out to them. Always channel your work through your mentor to the manager. Mentors will help you avoid making rookie mistakes. Keep a notepad. Always take notes during the meeting and collate your queries in the notebook. A good PM will make the interaction productive for everyone.

2. Seek feedback

Feedback is vital to growth. Feedback comes in various forms-appreciation, criticism, suggestion. Seek all types of feedback and put efforts into using them in work. A good PM should be coachable.

3. Talk with data

Always seek metrics that will support your research, assumptions/hypothesis. Analyse the telemetry dashboards of your product, read customer reviews, customer call transcripts, industry reports, go through the presentations of your product in the team repository. A good PM should be data (evidence) driven.

4. Talk to your engineers

Until the fifth week of my internship, I did not talk to the engineers in my team. I took every question to my manager or mentor. Manager asked, “why don’t you ask this to your engineers”. It struck me then, “why am I taking all my questions to him; instead, I can ask the engineers”. I set up a few meetings with the developers, and they helped a lot in getting the technical perspective. Try to utilise all the resources at hand, including the engineers in the team.

5. Make connections

Talk to fellow PMs in your organisation to understand the work-culture in the company. It’s essential to find a good fit for you and the company. The company is evaluating you via the internship. Set up lunch or snack time one on ones with senior PMs. Understand how their careers pan out, seek advice or suggestions for your PM career. You may even get a mentor beyond the internship.

6. Be Proactive

Finally, you want your internship to be successful. Show the intent on your action. If you don’t have an assigned mentor, ask. If you don’t have access to a tool or a channel, ask. A good PM will be proactive in getting things done.

All the very best on your PM internship.

Let me know if you have any queries.


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The Art of flattening the internet demand curve

Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube are modifying their streaming service to ease-off the pressure on telecom infrastructure. Why would they do that? And how does it work?

Why

Telecom service providers are very similar to grocery store owners. Grocery stores procure products and sell it to customers. Similarly, telecom service providers buy/lease electromagnetic spectrum bandwidth and make it available for their subscribers’ use. Your voice calling, internet connectivity happen over the spectrum band.

During a global pandemic like the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak, the customer demand fluctuates a lot. You are working from home — you visit the grocery shop to buy vegetables, but they are all sold out. Similarly, if everyone uses the internet at their higher bandwidth capacity, the telecom infrastructure will break down. Nobody will be able to communicate. Without the internet, all of our lives will become meaningless.

Most of us resort to sparing use of vegetables at home during these times. But what about the internet? Video streaming accounts for more than 60% of internet traffic. As we spend more time at home, we tend to binge on our favourite sitcom, run the Prime Minister’s speech live and look for the dinner meal recipe on that YouTube channel. To better handle the demand, the video streaming sites have agreed to reduce the bit-rates of their default stream quality.

For example, YouTube’s default video quality is 720-pixel high definition. They have decided to change it to 480 standard pixel resolution. But the higher resolutions are not going away. The users will still be able to change it to 720 pixels or 1080 pixel quality if they want. You may ask, “Then how will we keep up with the demand?”

How

Do you know Google paid $12 billion in 2019 and $9 billion in 2018 to Apple, to remain as the default search engine in Safari browser? They are capitalizing on a fundamental internet consumer behaviour. Among billions of internet users, most are not tech-savvy. They tend to use what comes as the default option. Therefore, it makes sense to Google to be present at the forefront of the millions of Apple devices that run Safari as their default browser.

YouTube, Prime Video, Netflix and Facebook are all counting on this user behaviour to mitigate the surge in demand. Although some people will change the video quality, many are expected to stick to the default option. It will help telecom companies to flatten the curve of internet demand.

The internet infrastructure is a finite resource like any other commodity. During the time of pandemic, if we can make a little compromise on the quality of our video streaming — we all can survive our meaningful virtual life without break down.

Stay at home and do wash your hands often!


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