If you are a Computer Science student or a Software Engineer by profession, and are not living under a rock you would know her. Even if you are not either of that, there is still a good chance you have heard about her; Gayle Laakmann Mcdowell. Like thousands of other students and job seekers, I was a beneficiary of her book (Cracking the Coding Interview) and her site (CareerCup). I also read a number of her blogs and answers on Quora, and I find her inspiring. So last year in July, when she was in OpenDNS in San Francisco to promote the 6th edition of the book which made her a best selling author, I went down to hear her talk in person. It was a meet and greet followed by Q&A with her, and it was pretty good.
You must be thinking why is this relevant now. Well a few days ago a friend of mine was telling me that she wanted to get into Product Management. So I was doing some research online when I stumbled across a workshop, ‘Cracking the PM Interview’ with Gayle as the guest speaker. To those who don’t know, Gayle co-authored the book Cracking the PM interview with Jackie Bavaro (btw she has a cool PM blog too). The workshop was on Thursday last week, but unlike the first time I was late by the time I discovered this, and the tickets to the event had already been sold out. I thought I missed it this time.
On Thursday around afternoon, I got an email from a group I follow about this workshop, and fortunately they had a few tickets reserved. I managed to get one this time, and attended the event. While the crowd in the first event I met were mostly Software Engineers, this time it was way more diverse. I met a few Tech Consultants, a couple of Business Analysts, Product Managers, a Product Marketing Manager, a CEO of a startup and a handful of Software Engineers. I talked to the CEO and he told me that he was there to recruit Software Engineers. Hilarious and smart!
The workshop was basically a talk where Gayle went through the type of questions typically asked in a PM interview, and how people with different backgrounds can set themselves up in order to receive interview calls and to be in a good position to crack the interviews. The talk ended with a solid Q&A and before she left us she told us where to find the resources from the talk online.
In case you are interested, you can find the slides here, and the handout here. Another name that frequently came up during my search was Lewis Lin. He also has a book (Decode and Conquer) on PM interviews, and is active on Quora. And if you are curious about listening to what PMs have to say then you should check out ‘The Product Manager Handbook‘. It is a 60 page book with 10 interviews from PMs written by two students, Carl Shan and Brittany Cheng. Makes for a very interesting and fun read. And oh, they have a website too.