A while back I promised that I would share more about the types of profiles we look for and explained how management consultants fit into various marketing roles here at Microsoft. I didn't mean to leave you hanging, but things have been a little busy, what can I say?
So let me share about some profiles that I think of as "Inbound Product Management" (that's not a job title here...we just use inbound/outbound taxonomy in staffing to differentiate between product management and marketing, but the titles overlap quite a bit here). Years ago, I think these types of roles, at many companies, would sit in the product development organizations. As companies started moving away from a strict technology orientation and worked to become more customer focused, these roles have moved into marketing organizations. Regardless (or "irregardless" for folks who want to torture me...please don't...it's been a tough day) of where these roles sit in an organization, they are typically a mix of technical knowledge/understanding and customer/market(ing) knowledge.
So why are both skill sets important (uh-oh, I've developed that annoying habit of asking myself questions just so I can answer them...I'm going to do this again soon so I apologize ahead of time)? Because if you are developing product strategy (a product road map in the tech space) you need to understand what the market (your identified customer segments) wants. In order to have those conversations with customers, you have to know what technology can do. Plus, to be a credible product manager, you need to be able to talk to program managers and developers in their own language (sometimes to me it sounds like "bleep, zork, xibbit"...but that just shows how not technical I am). And when a customer says to you "I really wish your product did this", you need to be able to prioritize their feature request not only based on the impact to your desired customer segment, but also in terms of feasibility and technical resources that would need to be devoted, how well the feature would work with your platform and integrate with other product features. This is a little bit of an oversimplification (for example, your customer conversations may actually be in-depth customer research, there are many other factors that weigh on feature privatization), but you get my drift, right?
I find that at Microsoft, the technical understanding is especially important in the server space. The closer the technology is to the machine, the more technical the product manager. As you move away from server to apps, I find that the technical requirements for product managers are lighter. Also a little lighter on the tech requirements the closer you get to the consumer space. That's just been my experience here recruiting for product managers in lots of different groups.
So what does this look like in terms of your background (yowza...there's that annoying question thing again)? I see this tech/marketing combination show up on peoples' resumes in a couple different ways. First, we see lots of folks that started in a tech role (developer, systems engineer) and then got their MBA. Good stuff. If this is you and you are still a matriculating student, our MBA recruiting team would handle your application. Same basic background but with some experience, post-MBA and you would certainly send your resume to me, right?
Another manifestation of this tech/marketing profile, similar to the MBA grad is someone who made a transition from technical to marketing through their work experience. It might look like this: systems engineer-to-sales engineer-to-account manager-to field marketing manager-to product manager (or less steps if you can swing that). As much as I value MBAs, I think there is such a thing as equivalent work experience. And if the job description says MBA required, I'll absolutely consider work experience in lieu of an MBA...so send that resume!
The third example of this kind of profile is someone that started in marketing and then became progressively more technical within the scope of their marketing career. This could mean that they moved from progressively more complex technical products or took on progressively more technical marketing roles. If this is you, it's very important for you to somehow document your technical knowledge on your resume by using the right terms. And be prepared to talk the talk in the interview (actually, this is true of anyone that fits the inbound product management profile).
So what might an "Inbound Product Manager" do at Microsoft (sorry, last time with the question thing)?
-Own a road map and value proposition for a product or products, subset or functional area of a product set (typical job titles: product planner, product manager...sometimes business development manager if the role has a lot of focus on market or customer research)
-Identify and evangelize customer scenarios, creating strategy around customer experience (typical job title could be product manager, technical evangelist)
-Prioritize feature sets and identify target markets to be addressed by features (product manager, product planner titles)
-May own some go-to-market strategy including customer adoption strategy, channel engagement, marketing strategy (we think of these activities as "outbound" but they sometimes these activities fall under the scope of a role that is otherwise considered "inbound") and partner readiness, including white papers and demos (titles: product manager, business development manager)
If this sounds like you, let me give you some keywords to use to search our career site: strategy road map features. Just using those keywords may return a big results list, so maybe use some of the titles I gave you above to narrow your search (by selecting titles in the "Job Titles" and "Job Categories" drop down lists). Also, add some keywords associated with your technical domain experience. As someone who does keyword searches a lot, let me say that getting a good results list requires some experimentation. You already know to feel free to send me your resume. Also let me know if you have questions on this profile.