The truth about product management in big tech – insights from an ex-Googler

In our globalised world, we perceive Big Tech companies like Google, Meta, Amazon, and others as the ideal places to work.

Their aura of innovation, high technology, and competitive compensation attract professionals from all walks of life, especially those looking to establish or accelerate a career in product management. However, as promising as they seem, working at these tech giants isn’t always a walk in the park. 

In the latest episode of Product Confidential, Evie and I were joined by a special guest, Alex Rechevskiy, a former Google Group PM, and now coach to hundreds of PMs that want to get into Big Tech.

Alex, a product management veteran, lifts the veil on what it’s actually like to work at Big Tech companies. If you want to watch or listen to the episode, scroll to the bottom of this page or if you’d prefer read this breakdown of their tips for effective and sustainable career growth within big tech product management.

Behind the High-Tech Curtain

Many, if not all, aspiring product managers dream of landing a role at Google, Meta, or any top-tier tech company. These organisations are heralded as the penultimate goal, the embodiment of success in the field. But, like any organization, they have their ups and downs. Being aware of both can help in making an informed decision. 

At these companies, the potential for vast impact exists due to their global reach and resources. Also, working in such organisations opens the door to better compensation and career prospects. However, the opposite side of the coin reveals a slow and often bureaucratic decision-making process, potentially soul-crushing workloads, and a severe focus on quarterly metrics which can hinder creativity and long-term innovation. 

Shattering Hopes or Setting Realistic Expectations?

Although we’ve highlighted some of the challenges of working in Big Tech, we aren’t suggesting these companies are undesirable workplaces. Instead, we aim to set realistic expectations to avoid disillusionment and disappointment in the long run. 

The factors that make these organisations great places to work are real. They offer unparalleled learning experiences, significant career trajectory opportunities, robust compensation packages, and access to a network of brilliant, like-minded professionals. But, it is also important to remember that they’re large corporations, and the realities of corporate life apply to them as well.

Tips for Product Career Growth

Despite the challenges, a stint in a Big Tech company can turbo boost your product management career. If you’re considering that path, here are some tips to help you:

1. Understand the Interview Process: Each company has its unique interview structure. Familiarise yourself with the process, identify company-specific principles, and prepare accordingly. 

2. Time Management: Give yourself ample time to prepare for interviews. A three to six months preparation period is ideal as it gives you enough time to grasp the company’s principles, practice your interviewing skills, and get feedback from professionals in the field.

3. Be a Self-Starter: Success in these companies requires proactiveness and relentless pursuit of your goals. Take charge of your learning, identify your objectives, and stick to them.

4. Build Relationships: Foster positive relationships across the board. Seek mentors within the organisation and learn from their experiences.

5. Clarify Your Goals: Understand exactly why you want to work at these companies. Align your aspirations with your chosen company’s vision and make sure you have clear reasons. 

No matter where your product management career takes you, whether that’s Google, a mid-sized enterprise, or your own start-up, keep sight of why you chose this path. Work-life balance and personal satisfaction should be the baseline of your professional goals, wherever you may be in your journey. Remember to keep growing, enjoy the process, and celebrate each win along the way.

Listen to the episode here

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