In this article, we are learning more about Tiffany Perumpai, a socially impact-driven Associate Product Manager (APM) at Google.
How did she learn about product management? How did she prepare for recruiting and why did she eventually decide to work at Google? These are all questions we are going to answer. Let’s start with her background.
A little bit on Tiffany’s background
During her college studies, she majored in computer science at Berkeley and took some math classes. Initially, she started out in an intro program because she wasn’t a hundred percent sure on doing computer science but she ended up liking it.
She recounts that several things got her really passionate about computer science education. First, the awesome pay right away once you’re out of college.
But that’s only one side, in her view, computer science could be leveraged build tools to make computer science education better also be used for a lot of other things.
Mission-driven as she is, Tiffany started volunteering at a non-profit called Narika, a domestic violence hotline for South Asian women that had emigrated here.
Shortly after that, she started volunteering at an after-school program in San Leandro. They would teach how to make computer games in low-income apartments, having the kids make a drawing and then building it in VR. And the kids would be like “Wow! I want to do computer science.”
Fast forward, she landed her position at the google Associate Product Manager (APM) program despite all setbacks she faced along the road.
Discovering and pursuing product management
After interning at Google for a couple of summers as a software engineer, she gets this email that reads “Info session on the associate product management (APM) program”.
And she is like I’ve never heard about this. She goes to this info session to know more about it. After listening to all these different APM’s working on projects she is like “this is way more interesting than what I’m doing”. They had so much more scope than her software projects. The number of design decisions that were involved. The way that it seemed like Google actually cared about the user’s opinion. All this was very attractive to her.
On top of that, after working as a software engineer, she felt that despite a ton of opportunities existed in computer science, there wasn’t a focused program like the Associate Product Manager (APM) program.
Something that’s really big these days is data privacy. Large companies such as google have to tackle these issues every day. With product management, the ethical questions were for example what we’re going to track about our users, how much we service to them.
For Tiffany, being that voice for the user and dealing with these ethical questions was really compelling.
The recruiting process
Submitting her resume for the first time to the APM internship program was a disaster. Rejection was the response she got. Speaking with a bunch of people after that she found the reason. Her resume was entirely technical. No volunteering experience included. Nothing about the leadership skills that she acquired through teaching.
They said that for a product manager this isn’t the only thing they were looking at; in fact, she was told you look like every other Google intern.
The second time around the following summer, after reviewing her resume and trying to paint a more holistically picture she applied for a full-time Associate Product Manager (APM) position and landed her spot.
Prepping for the interview
The classic “cracking the PM Interview” was central for her when it came to interview preparation. But she didn’t ignore mock interviews. The way you speak the way, the way you form your ideas, the personal skills that you develop. All these things that come out of rigorous interview practice are going to stick with you in the interview and hence practicing mock interviews was also essential for her.
Luckily for Tiffany, a lot of her friends were preparing for their medical school applications at the same time as she was prepping. So, every week they would meet together, alternate roles and practice with each other, slowly improving.
Using Glassdoor, she saw that monetization and metrics are big at Google. They have all these products that aren’t monetized but wildly successful. They have a huge amount of scale so flipping that switch and how to monetize these products is a very nuanced question. So, Tiffany practiced a lot of those questions as well.
Having a technical background is also emphasized at Google because if you’re going to propose a technical solution like using machine learning in your mobile application for whatever reason you are expected to know the technical implications of that how difficult it would be to implement.
Choosing to work at Google
Tiffany knew early on what sort of workplace she wanted to work in. Somewhere where there’s plenty of people above her. Mentors ready to guide her. A supportive environment where she could grow. What Google had above the other companies was their 40-person Associate Product Manager (APM). For her, this was some sort of evidence that they strongly invest in their people.
to work at a large company early on in her career was another major thing for
her. For her, experiencing how a well-functioning company works was an
opportunity that meant more open doors later on. In the same sense, being a PM
at Google and getting to really see how decisions are made would be an
invaluable learning experience for her, maybe even better than business school.
Final advice and insights from Tiffany
Before the APM program, she was viewing tech in black and white. Like this is right, this is wrong. She now sees it as being much more nuanced. She reasons that if you want to have an impact in the world you need something successful that people use. And sometimes that means you make certain trade-offs.
“We need to talk” is a book written by Celeste Headlee, it talks about having meaningful conversations and I think like a PM that’s actually way more central that I thought, says Tiffany.
She continues describing having a unique perspective as a PM’s biggest asset. That you’re not just the same as everyone else who works in tech. Because if that is the case, you’re going to make the same mistakes that a lot of other people are making when it comes to product decisions.
Reading this book, she realized that there are so many opportunities in the day-to-day life to just have more real conversations with people where you get to learn from them. I think that makes you makes you much more valuable than people who aren’t doing that, she says.