CALIFORNIA GIRLS STATE ALUMNAE SPOTLIGHT
Our Technology Network
What does your role as Product Manager at Facebook entail? What does a typical week look like?
As a Product Manager (PM), I am responsible for the success of a product. This includes identifying what problems to solve, how the product would solve them, and how to measure the effectiveness of that solution. To do this, I need to work with a lot of other people, including software engineers, designers, researchers, and data scientists, as well as product managers on other teams. I ensure that the product is headed in the right direction and that the team prioritizes the work that will get us to our goal. Even though the title "Product Manager" includes the word manager, PMs do not manage people. So the role requires leading without authority and that can present interesting challenges.
Because of the coordination required, my typical week usually involves writing a lot of emails or participating in meetings to provide status updates and facilitate decision-making. Effective communication is really important.
How did you get to your current position at Facebook? What was your path?
In college, I interned at Microsoft as a tester in Microsoft Office group. While there, I focused on finding software bugs and writing up very detailed notes about them, so they could be fixed. During that internship, I learned that there was a role called PM (Program Manager at Microsoft, but Product Manager in many other companies) that looked at the bigger picture, beyond what bugs should be fixed, to determine what the team should build. I also liked that the PM role required talking to many different people and would consider many perspectives in developing a product solution. So after I graduated, I joined as a full-time PM at Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus.
After a few years at Microsoft, I grew curious about the startup world. I spent the next several years at smaller and smaller companies, where I had the opportunity to make a much bigger impact and try on other roles. Eventually, I realized that I still loved the PM role the best and that I appreciated working at a larger company where there are subject matter experts who could help me with building the best software experience for the most number of people. At the same time, I really liked aspects of the startup world, so it seemed like the perfect fit when a friend explained that Facebook could offer the best of both worlds. I joined the company shortly after that!
Is this where you thought you'd end up?
Not exactly. When I was in high school, I became interested in software after learning HTML and building my first website. I had never heard of a job called Product Manager, so I initially thought I might work in IT (information technology), doing either tech support or writing code. In college, I first majored in Computer Science and later switched to an interdisciplinary major called Symbolic Systems that covers information in Computer Science, Philosophy, Psychology, and Linguistics. Interdisciplinary majors are really interesting because they think about a given topic from different angles (something I do now as a PM).
What advice would you give to someone starting their career as a Product Manager?
Being a PM requires grit to do what it takes to ensure a successful outcome for the product. PMs also often put the team before themselves. However, it is important to not burn yourself out trying to do everything. Prioritization is key for discerning what's truly important vs. what might just appear urgent.
How has California Girls State and/or its alumnae community positively impacted your life and career?
In addition to meeting friends that I keep in touch with 15+ years later, Girls State helped me practice influencing others (an important PM skill), especially when it came to campaigning or drafting meaningful bills that could be supported and passed in the state legislature. This skill is not usually taught in school, so I am grateful to have had the opportunity to practice it at Girls State!