Hey Joon, care to share a little bit about yourself?
Hello everybody! My name is Joon, and I am a Product Manager, specifically an RPM at Facebook. Outside of work, I’m a personal finance nerd, love playing board games (e.g., Settlers of Catan), and am working on my golf game (please send some tips 🙏🏻).
Can you tell us what you do as a Product Manager at Facebook for those who are unfamiliar?
As a PM at Facebook, you work with engineers, designers, data scientists, user researchers, and a whole host of other cross-functional partners to build quality products for our users.
A PM is effectively the facilitator who works with all the different players within our team to get us from point A to point B.
How did you decide to pursue your specific career?
In college, I studied economics, and during that time, I enjoyed strategic thinking so I thought, "okay, I'm going to pursue a path in consulting." After I did consulting for a couple of years, I wanted to expand my scope in tech so I moved to Linkedin's Business Operations Practice, which is effectively like the internal consulting group for Linkedin. I loved my job and considered it my dream job at the time. However, I realized that a lot of things that I enjoyed was actually the job of a product manager.
I first found out about the role of a product manager at Linkedin because I was the cross-functional partner for my product manager at the time, and I started asking him, "Hey, do you think this role is something I'd be good at?" I started taking some responsibilities and got reaffirmation from my manager so I decided to shoot my shot and applied to a bunch of different PM roles. Facebook bit and that's how I'm here today!
What made you interested in your field? What do you like about it?
1. Ownership of the projects you're working on.
2. Tackling a user-specific problem, so you know you're working to help others.
3. Personability- You get to work with so many different, hard working, smart, and friendly people.
For number one, in consulting or product strategy as a business operations associate, you have a lot of strategic thinking, but at the end of the day, you don't see it all the way through. For example, at a consulting firm, you do a ton of research, present your findings, the client goes off with it, but you don't know if it worked or not. So it never felt like I was an owner in any way but more of an advisor. I wanted that ownership piece where I can think, act, and be an owner of something.
Expanding on number two, recently, when COVID hit, my team and I at Facebook recognized that people weren't going to get the regular social interactions that they were having in person. We saw a big user need and within the span of 3 months, we launched Facebook rooms to address the problem quickly and effectively. That's one example of how we work with user problems/needs and work towards solving them.
Lastly, you get to work with a ton of awesome people. Everyone is intelligent, hard-working, and they're all doing their best to help out the team.
It's a great mix of those three aspects that make me love product management.
Any advice on how to stand out and get hired for those starting off?
Saying this specifically to people who have no product management experience, the best way to break into this field is:
1. You can join an APM (Associate Product Manager) program. They're explicitly looking for people who have zero product management experience and are looking to train you with the hopes of making you into a great PM and retaining you at the company.
2. Another option is to build something, anything. This really sets you apart from other people because it shows you're a visionary, you have an idea of what you want to do, provides value for people, and you get from ideation to actually building it out and helping others. That's effectively what a product manager does so if you're able to do that on your own, that already speaks volumes of your initiative, thoughtfulness, and effort.
3. Lastly, a lot of companies have an internal transfer process to retain good talent. It's super competitive but it's still something worth exploring. In this case, I recommend networking with other product managers.
It’s tough to break into, but there are ways to do it. The ball's in your court to gain that experience that you need.
3 Character traits that would make someone excel in your field
Are you personable, a thinker, and a do-er?
1. Personable: A lot of your job is to enable others to do their job. Being personable is super important since you'll be working with a multitude of people.
2. Thinker: It’s important to be thoughtful because it doesn't matter how hard the team works if we're not focusing on the right users, problems and solutions.
3. Do-er: You can have the best ideas and be the most personable person in the room, but ultimately you have to be able to bring your ideas to fruition and get those ideas onto the product itself.
Having all three of these character traits will make the most well-rounded PM.
Most difficult thing about your job?
The most difficult thing about my job is learning to say "no." You're working with a ton of smart, driven people who are thinking of great ideas for the product you're working on and you only have a limited of people or days so it's important to prioritize effectively. If you say "yes" to every idea, you'll never get anything done. Being able to say "no" gracefully is the hardest part.
What would you like to say to your younger self?
If I could talk to my college self, I would say, "If you're interested in something, just do it." There are a million reasons to say "no," but at the end of the day, the worst thing that can happen if you try something is you fail and learn again. In college, I had certain conditions where I would tell myself, "I should try this thing AFTER I get a job" or "I should learn how to run a business AFTER I start working." I then realized that there's no need to wait.
Best advice you've received/heard?
Very similar to what I would tell my younger self. My dad asked me when I was in middle school what I wanted to do when I grow up. He knew I always wanted to play football, but I always had my doubts. He would say, "why not? just try it." Because of his push, I tried out, and played football in middle and high school. Unfortunately, my pursuit of becoming the first full-Korean American NFL player ended when I stopped growing in 9th grade haha! But that was the best advice I ever received and stick by it to this day.
Any last thoughts, advice, or recommendations for someone who wants to become a Product Manager?
2 Book recommendations:
1. Decode and Conquer by Lewis C. Lin - Good for how to get through product management case studies.
2. Cracking the PM Interview by Gayle Laakmann McDowell - Talks about PM philosophies at different companies.