PM Interview Prep Plan: How I got PM offers from Google, Expedia, Microsoft, and Facebook

Amazon / Product God-father
Jul 30, 2018 107 Comments

Five months ago I got fedup with the crap culture at Amazon (needs a separate post) and decided to start working on my game plan for interviews at tech companies. Now, I have three offers from the tech companies - Expedia is travel not in the same league I know. No trolls please.

Profile: CS Engineer and Ivy MBA
8YOE
L6 PMT
TC 240K (Luckily with stock appreciation. Original grant was just 115K over four years)

Expedia: 220 TC all cash - M5
Google: 380 TC (MV) - L5
Microsoft: 250 TC (Fucking lowball) - 64
Facebook: They asked me to come back for one more rounds of product sense and execution. I refused - no gas left in the tank.

My goal was to land a PM role at Google. This post is about how I prepared.
----------------
Technical
At Google PM interviews, you may have some coding or algorithmic questions, but likely not a lot and possibly none. My friends who recently interviewed got system design Qs and basic data structures like what data structures for implementing load balancer etc. Since, I have CS engg I prepared extra hard to feel super confident going into tech interviews.

1) Week 1: Basic technical prep:
Wanted to get my technical basics refreshed on programming to make sure I can answer questions on recursion, encapsulation, pointers, object oriented programming etc. Read: Let Us C++, a basic undergrad book used in India - free PDF copies circulating online. Took extensive notes on each topic for easy refresher.

2) Week 2: Data Structures deep-dive
Learnt four things: 1.Insertion, 2.Deletion, 3.Search, 4.Sort for these data structures and their time complexities: Queues, Linked list, Stack, Hash Table, Array etc. I watched this YouTube channel https://bit.ly/1ElhMUl and read this http://bigocheatsheet.com

3) Week 3/4: System Design
There are two types of system design Qs
1) Design problems related to real life websites. These problems apply scalability theory, load-balancing, redundancy etc. For example Design Facebook, Design bitly, Design Quora, Design Uber etc.
2)Design Elevator system, design valet parking, design restaurant system etc.

Read about Pub-Sub architecture, Producer Consumer architecture and what AWS services can be used to build them.
This is gold mine to learn about system design.
https://bit.ly/2u72rH7
Practice these problems after you have learned the concepts. https://bit.ly/2hgv0KW
Master scalability concepts such as these
https://bit.ly/1Vc3KNj

My interview Q was design an architecture for video sharing website. It is similar to Netflix that I practiced.

Week 5: Machine Learning concepts
I prepared for it because it is a hot topic. I was lucky that I did because one of my technical interview Q was - If you have records of all tennis matches in the history how will you build a ranking algorithm. I was able to leverage this knowledge.
Read:
1)https://bit.ly/2M3tOso
2)https://bit.ly/2vLrNMU

I took Week 6 just to recompile everything I read so far.
------------------------------------------
Product Design:
Week 7-9
Read 1) Decode and Conquer and another book from Lewis C Lin's website on Google PM interview - this book is good.
Practice with people I used this Slack channel to find partners https://bit.ly/2OuQnI8
I found a friend who was also interviewing with Facebook/Google and instead of interviewing each other we collaborated and solved every product sense question that existed on Glassdoor for FB and Google. This gave us two advantages we were using two smart people's brain to solve problems and learn from each other. Irony to say he got FB offer but not Google and I got Google but not FB.

Product Strategy: Just read some blogs online and revised my Strategy frameworks from Bschool class 3Cs, 4Ps, Porter etc. The Lewis Lin book helped me provide structure to some of these questions.
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Week 10: Behavioral
All standard Amazon Behavioral STAR. Having that internal Qbank (perks of Amazon) helped me. Atleast prepare 1)a failure story 2)diagreement story with manager or team member 3)disagreement with Dev team 4)short time prioritization framework 5)not meeting deadline 6)what makes a team successful 7)what are your design principles. I was able to handle all of my behavioral questions from these 7 stories.
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Week 11: Estimation
I was really good at this but I still ended up spending this week focusing on it. My friend had this book Interview Math by Lewis Lin it helped me give structure to my thought process.
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Week 12: Revise everything

Week 14-16 I did all of my interviews

This is no way an ideal plan but what I did to prepare. By sharing this I wanted to help fellow Blinders.

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TOP 107 Comments
  • Atlassian YfEJ12
    Wish we had more of this on Blind. Kudos!
    Jul 30, 2018 1
    • Amazon / Product God-father
      OP
      Thanks!
      Jul 30, 2018
  • New / Product
    nicebot

    New Product

    BIO
    Smash that Private Message button
    nicebotmore
    Congrats on the offer. You totally deserve it. Did FB interviews have technical questions because of your CS background? What did you mess up? These details will be very valuable as well imo.
    And if you think it'll be worth the time to type it out, I'd be eager to read about the issues you faced at Amazon. Keep up the good spirit!
    Jul 30, 2018 7
    • Amazon / Product God-father
      OP
      All other four interviews were good so they asked me to come back for another round of product sense and execution which I refused. Actually I felt of all four companies FB Interviewers were the worst. No ability to connect and empathy. Also we had to change the room in the middle of my product sense since recruiter screwed up with booking the room. It impacted my tempo.
      Jul 30, 2018
    • Amazon / Product God-father
      OP
      Culture and company research - Man! you're on Blind ask folks around.
      Jul 30, 2018
    • New / Product
      nicebot

      New Product

      BIO
      Smash that Private Message button
      nicebotmore
      Figured as much. Was wondering if you had any other sources as well. Thanks a lot for the responses :)
      Jul 30, 2018
    • Deloitte / Consultant )(
      Slightly different role but I interviewed for product strategy types roles (consultant with strong tactical data knowledge but no cs or data structure design exp) at Google FB LinkedIn. I also felt that FB interviews were the worst in terms of connecting with interviewer etc.
      6d
    • New uPqF72
      How much of all this prep actually came in handy? Did the interviews actually consist of such questions other than system design questions ? I am very impressed with your prep but is this the bar for TPMs nowadays? I am soon going to be interviewing for a TPM role at amazon and don’t even know 15% of what you listed above. Are my chances super low?
      4d
  • Microsoft UMbR31
    Bro you the real MVP
    Jul 30, 2018 0
  • Intel / Product 1moremonth
    Thanks for the informative post. Hats off ! Was this much technical preparation required for a PM role? Did you have technical rounds ?
    Jul 30, 2018 3
    • Amazon / Product God-father
      OP
      I had a CS engg background and I wanted to be over prepared for it. Also the more solid you are on the technical side the more confident a PM sounds. It helped me in many product sense questions where I was able to actually go over and beyond and talk about how will I actually implement the solution. If you have time prepare if not skim.
      Jul 30, 2018
    • Intel / Product 1moremonth
      Thank you ! Any tips on how to create stories that can be drilled down. Like a 1 min version, 5 min version, 10 min version - so that you can go in details as needed; especially for behavioral rounds. Thanks
      Jul 30, 2018
    • Amazon / Product God-father
      OP
      Prepare a 3 min version and create hooks that you know an interviewer will ask questions on. Leave those hooks unanswered in 3 min version.
      Jul 30, 2018
  • Cisco NQpC38
    Do you have a pdf of Decode and Conquer which you can share? Thanks in advance.
    Nov 14, 2018 2
    • Amazon / Product God-father
      OP
      Dude, that is violation of copyright and illegal. You are looking to get a 250k+ job and can't buy a $10 Kindle book?
      Nov 14, 2018
    • Cisco NQpC38
      Sorry. Yes you are right. Let me buy this.
      Nov 18, 2018
  • Amazon / Eng
    gundappa

    Amazon Eng

    PRE
    500 Startups
    BIO
    Cool guy with love for maths and ml
    gundappamore
    As a sde who wants to shift to a PM role, what would be your advise?
    Jul 30, 2018 2
  • Microsoft / Eng RLeL37
    Thanks a lot for this post. Really helps in providing a direction on what to do. Can you also provide feedback on your interviews?

    You're awesome 🙂
    Jul 30, 2018 2
    • Amazon / Product God-father
      OP
      What are you looking for specifically?
      Jul 30, 2018
    • Microsoft / Eng RLeL37
      You've covered preparation so I'd be curious to know how you felt your interviews went.

      Did you feel they were tougher or did you feel you were ready and were able to get through with ease?

      How many rounds were there?

      And while you covered on how devs can prep for such a role, I'd like to learn more about being a PM, roles and responsibilities, goals etc. I get high level stuff like customer obsession, business impact and product vision but it doesn't really help me nail down how different it is from my job.
      Aug 1, 2018
  • Microsoft / Eng thebiglife
    Holy moly.. dude - this is awesome.. thanks for sharing such a wealth of info. Work is super busy and i was struggling to get ready for a Google interview. I have a phone call with recruiter this week. I don't think I can buy 12 weeks before the initial phone screen, but will try to cram through the materials you have suggested (I'm in Azure Networking). Thanks again PS- on H1B too
    Jul 30, 2018 6
    • New NVhQ58
      Hi biglife

      How did the recruiter interview go? Can you pls share the questions that you had? What to focus on?
      Aug 13, 2018
    • New NVhQ58
      OP,
      Thanks ton for the phone screen tip!
      Can you share questions from the phone screen, if you can? Or what segment is it focused on - like purely product design and estimation? Or something more than that.

      Thanks!
      Aug 13, 2018
    • Microsoft / Eng thebiglife
      Thanks OP, again. @God-Father, recruiter interview was standard, but I was unprepared on the expected comp question.. i low balled it to $280-300k TC / l64 at MS (240k tc). I haven't responded with my resume and preferred dates for phone screen yet (busy work + un eager after low balling it). Got screwed at MS rewards this year (after working my ass off and making great progress, objectively speaking), so I'm going to get serious abt this job search at FANG
      Aug 16, 2018
    • Amazon / Product God-father
      OP
      It doesn't matter. Get a competing offer along with G and you will still be fine. What is your profile at MS?
      Aug 16, 2018
    • Microsoft / Eng thebiglife
      I'm a PM in Azure Networking. I create Networking products un addition to managing the vision for certain first party platforms (big names)
      Aug 16, 2018
  • Facebook 49371018
    You're amazing. Thank you.

    What resources would you recommend to someone coming for a biz background? I'm going to spend the next twelve months preparing (currently underleveled so have the bandwidth to do so)
    Jul 30, 2018 0
  • New NVhQ58
    Thanks a ton for sharing OP. I took Lewis Lin’s coaching and per one of his coach that I am working with, the interviews should not be spaced out beyond 3 weeks. Since you are an example so it seems this is absolutely ok.

    And what questions do the recruiter asks? I have my recruiter call on Wednesday. Any red flags to be mindful about or any responses to tailor in a fashion that may delight the recruiter or give the recruiter what she is looking for?
    Aug 13, 2018 4
    • Amazon / Product God-father
      OP
      Why Google, Why Now, and What are you looking for? Learn about recruiters background on LinkedIn and see the articles she liked. Establish the rapport based on the knowledge you have about her
      Aug 14, 2018
    • New NVhQ58
      Thanks!
      Aug 14, 2018
    • New NVhQ58
      I finished my recruiter round and it was a bummer.

      When the recruiter sent an email it clearly said looking for PM generalist, the standard email I guess.

      During the recruiter call the recruiter asks me all std questions first including what google product I like and would like to work on and then asked how much of pure product manager experience i got. I mentioned I got 2.5 yrs and then she mentions we are looking for more experienced for healthcare vertical. I asked how much and she said 8-10 yrs. I felt that was never communicated or mentioned in her opening email.
      She mentioned i was a good fit for PM generalist position and she would ask someone to contact you.

      Any thoughts??
      Aug 16, 2018
    • Cisco Go!
      If this was the PM job for the life science group in MA then it makes sense (by asking 8-10 years)
      Aug 23, 2018
  • Group Health FemmFatale
    Hello OP! Oops! Hello boyfriend! You’re helping me prepare this for after business school right?! When I win, we win together!!
    Jul 30, 2018 1
    • Amazon / Product God-father
      OP
      Hello GF! You're here too :-) What is MY reward?
      Jul 30, 2018
  • Amazon / Product God-father
    OP
    1) Is this a troll? I said 8 yoe. Amazon does not have part time PMs...lol
    2)Internal referral and recruiter reached out
    3)What would you design for a customer stuck in traffic? Design a vending machine for the hotel, Monetize Maps, Fav product, what will you design next for FB, P2P payments - what will you build, improve Expedia Checkout etc...
    Jul 30, 2018 1
    • Thanks. No. Not a troll. I understand you mentioned 8 yrs in software but some companies do let lead engineers work with PMs in making critical decisions which would help to transition into PM. Hence asked you.
      Jul 30, 2018
  • Amazon / Product God-father
    OP
    H1B here. So small companies are out of scope. Easiest was Expedia. Google was toughest. Facebook is not sure what they want - trying to be both Google and Amazon leading to fucked up process. MS was fairly technical - one of the interviewer thought I was interviewing for TPM.
    Jul 30, 2018 0
  • New NVhQ58
    Thanks OP. I work full time but plan on taking an entire week off.
    Also, what to expect in telephone interview with PM? I have 2.5 yrs experience as PM.
    Prep strategy for 3 weeks - what areas to focus on - design, estimation, behavioral etc. Will there be any technical questions too?
    Aug 28, 2018 1
    • Amazon / Product God-father
      OP
      Leave behavioral. Focus on estimation and design. Leave technical too
      Aug 28, 2018
  • New s-1
    Just accepted an offer from Google today!
    OP, this post helped me a lot with structuring my prep for the interviews. Huge thanks! If I were you, I’d turn this into a blog post for posteriority.
    May 1 4
    • Cisco UPhF72
      Congrats buddy. Can you please share your experience?
      May 1
    • New s-1
      Sure. I’m a PM with 10 YEO. The process was phone screen > phone interview > onsite > offer negotiation.
      I had two competing offers and the process took a total of ~2mo (really long, I know...)

      In my opinion, having a good relationship with the recruiter is really important so you can maintain a good communication along the process.
      May 1
    • Amazon / Product Atheist
      Congrats buddy, glad that post helped you :-)
      May 5
    • Pivotal / Other AllDaSmoke
      Hi, do you have an MBA? And if so, what ranking(in general terms)
      Jun 23
  • Apple Google L7
    Breakdown of google TC? Congrats on your amazing offer
    Jul 30, 2018 4
    • Amazon / Product God-father
      OP
      Pure luck - I had two competing offers
      Jul 30, 2018
    • Apple Google L7
      I meant could you split into base rsu and bonus?
      Jul 30, 2018
    • eBay popin
      Is it 550 k worth rsu or 550 units?
      Jul 30, 2018
    • Apple Google L7
      It is typicall $ worth
      Jul 30, 2018
  • Intuit poirot
    This post is very inspiring! How did you manage to stick to your study plan while managing your daily work?
    Aug 11, 2018 1
    • Amazon / Product God-father
      OP
      I booked a meeting room at Amazon from 6-9 PM for those 12 weeks. I will just goto Amazon Go store to grab my dinner at 5:30. All socials/drinks were scheduled on or after 9:30.
      Aug 11, 2018
  • Intuit suA2FS
    Congrats OP! Any suggestions for a non-tech background PMs? Any chance you’d be will to share notes via a blog post or something?
    Aug 6, 2018 0
  • New / Product FizzBuzz18
    Thanks for sharing your approach. Definitely helps us while practicing for PM interviews.

    Do you think Google and FB look for that Ivy MBA + 3-5 yoe for their PMs? (Not APM).

    Have a great GMAT score and about 5yoe (both eng and product) but not able to justify leaving a good TC for a student loan at this point, just to get into Google or FB.
    Oct 4, 2018 2
    • Facebook jTWx26
      Try part-time mba in top 5-10 schools? It’ll suck for few years but you still get same degree
      Oct 5, 2018
    • Microsoft LKui75
      Agree
      Feb 19
  • This comment was deleted by original commenter.

    • Amazon / Product God-father
      OP
      Yes, I come from Algorithm trading background - was trading dark pools in Hong Kong for a bulge bracket investment bank. Banking paid for my MBA and I got out debt free. So for me to break into PM, MBA was the only route. Well worth it.
      Jul 30, 2018
    • Amazon / Product God-father
      OP
      Ping me for more details.
      Jul 30, 2018