My journey to a PM internship without a technical background
Full disclosure, I entered Tepper without an engineering degree and had no idea how to code. But despite these seemingly “required” skills, I landed an internship as a Product Manager for a top tech company. It wasn’t a fluke and it also wasn’t an easy journey.
I often have prospective students ask me, “How did you do it?” Unfortunately, there’s no roadmap that you can copy and paste that works every time, but here are a few of the steps I took that ultimately landed me my dream internship:
Step 1: Find transferable skills
I needed to convey to potential employers that I could, in fact, be a product manager and that my past experience would be an asset. At first, I was worried about what I didn’t know that I wasn’t showcasing the skills I actually brought to the table.
Prior to joining Tepper, I worked as a Senior Marketing Manager for a digital marketing agency. In that role, I managed global campaigns, led cross-functional teams, and launched new websites. I was the voice of the customer and used data-driven decision making. Through my previous experience, I had already honed and refined some of the most valuable skills for a Product Manager. I just needed to identify it and use the right language to convey this experience.
Step 2: Understand the role and potential companies
Product management roles can vary wildly from company to company. I spent a lot of time researching potential companies, speaking to current product managers, and learning about the landscape of the role.
Unfortunately, some companies really do require a technical background and others aren’t very interested in hiring MBA’s. Instead of wasting precious hours on companies I knew required a computer science background, I invested that time on the companies that were open to hiring career switchers. It doesn’t mean I can’t someday work for those other companies, but I knew my chances for this first career pivot were better by targeting companies that would value my past work experience and MBA.
Step 3: Utilize your resources
There are so many resources available at Tepper. We have a killer Career Services team, dedicated executive coaches, and countless workshops and recruiting events. I spent hours practicing mock interviews, case prep, and STAR stories with my career counselor, second-year mentors, and my fellow first-year classmates. This allowed me to be prepared and natural in my interviews.
Step 4: Meet companies through all potential channels
There are so many resources and ways to connect with potential employers, and I recommend exploring all of them. I participated in early recruiting at the Forte Foundation and National Black MBA/Prospanica conferences. I also networked with alumni contacts, participated in on-campus recruiting and attended treks to Seattle and Silicon Valley. While this meant that I spent a very long time recruiting, I had the good fortune to interview with several exciting companies throughout the process.
I was also open to roles that weren’t product management but would take me one step closer. Product Marketing is a fitting example. My background is in primarily B2B marketing and taking that step to the product side would give me experience understanding the consumer market as well as the chance to work alongside the product team. Additionally, I interviewed for a strategic/business development role that worked directly with a product team. Just because the title isn’t a Product Manager, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t get me to my end goal, which is to make great tech products.
Step 5: Show your commitment
One of the best decisions I’ve made during my MBA experience was to run for President of the Business & Technology Club. I was elected by my peers and have had the opportunity to work with a fantastic board to run the largest and best (ok I’m a little biased) club on campus. Taking a leadership role signaled to employers I was serious about my desire to work in the tech industry. It is also an incredible way to build new technical and leadership skills.
The recruiting process taught me that product management was not out of my reach, but that I also needed to be realistic. I needed to work hard, build relationships with those in the industry, and focus my time in the right places. Ultimately, I ended the recruiting process with a few exciting alternatives which boosted my confidence in my decision to pursue Product Management.
- My journey to a PM internship without a technical background - June 4, 2018
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