Written By Jess Feldman
After years of working in Hollywood, Vicki Lau was ready to level up and officially specialize in product management. It was a challenge landing a product manager role outside of the motion picture industry, so Vicki enrolled at Product Gym to learn more foundational skills and job interviewing techniques. Now a Senior Product Manager at a VC-funded tech startup, Vicki shares her Product Gym review, including why trusting the process at Product Gym was key to landing a PM role.
Since you had previous experience working in product roles in film, what inspired you to specialize in product management at this point in your career?
Technically, I've been using product management skills in the motion picture industry for 6 years. I excelled in Hollywood from visual effects to VR development to online education and creating successful products. My career goal when I enrolled in a training program was to officially make that transition to product management, beyond the motion picture industry.
When researching product management programs, what stood out about Product Gym?
I was attracted to Product Gym’s positive reputation and reviews and their dedication to overcoming barriers. I also liked that their curriculum focused on application and strategy. After comparing other options, it seemed like Product Gym’s method is more relevant to this modern day and age.
Did you need to know anything about product management in order to get into Product Gym?
You don't have to know much about product management to get in. There was a 1:1 meeting to find out if I was a good fit for the program. My application acceptance was based on how my background and current experiences could be leveraged into product management.
Product Gym also wanted us to have our LinkedIn and resume prepared before starting the training.
Did you receive any scholarships or special financing through Product Gym?
No, but I got many job offers through Product Gym, so the program paid for itself!
What was the Product Gym schedule like?
We were free to schedule our week however we liked. Product Gym recommends dedicating a minimum of 20-30 hours a week to the program. During this time, you’re working on applications, responding in the community chat, and attending lessons. With that in mind, I alternated my Product Gym and job application hours throughout the day.
Does this program allow you to balance other responsibilities like working, parenting, etc?
That depends on your schedule. The only scheduled times at Product Gym are the two-hour lessons. Everything else, like the application process and interviewing process, is up to you to make the time for.
What did you learn at Product Gym?
The bulk of the curriculum is on interviewing skills, but we also learned about important product management skills like product marketing, roadmapping, understanding product metrics and data science, prioritization and working with UX design. Product Gym is more skill-focused than tool-focused since the belief is that you’ll learn any tools you’ll need for a job on the job.
Who were your instructors at Product Gym?
The instructors and mentors have all held positions like Product Manager and Director of Product. Whether they worked for a FAANG company or a random startup didn’t matter to me because as long as they had more knowledge about product management than I do, that is good enough for me!
Did the teaching style match your learning style?
It depended on the topic and speaker. Sometimes they would cover case studies or talk about their personal experiences, or show us data. There were practical components, too, like when you're practicing your pitch or have to do a sample live case study right there in the moment.
What kinds of projects did you work on at Product Gym?
A few of us did take the opportunity to do case study samples and practice our pitches in the live lessons, but the most valuable projects were rephrasing our experiences to get through the product management doors. The main project I worked on was technically my LinkedIn and resume: the wording, formatting, and phrasing of my experience to be in alignment with industry standards.
On the job search, were potential employers interested in having you present fictional case studies?
Case study projects like a pitch deck and talking about how you break down a case study are nice to have, but are not going to get you as far ahead in product management, in my experience. When I was interviewing with different companies, there wasn't a point where they wanted to see my portfolio. Instead, they wanted me to either explain my resume or do a case study that is actually directly relevant to their company or business.
What is the community like at Product Gym?
You can participate with the community as much or as little as you’d like. It's not something you feel forced to participate in if you don't want to. We mostly interacted in helpful ways in the community. For example, I have experience with visas, so whenever I was online in the community and saw questions about the H-1B, STEM, or OPT (which is a program tech students use to extend their work here), I would offer my input.
Since Product Gym is not location-dependent, there were people in my cohort from around the world! The curriculum can be applied to wherever you are — It’s more about what market you want to break into.
Product Gym started a happy hour for people to chat and hang out, too. We also had weekly mentoring coaching calls.
How did Product Gym prepare you for the PM job hunt?
Product Gym prepared me for the job hunt in the best way possible. When I enrolled, they ensured that my background and my personality were a good fit for the program. After that, they emphasized the interview process, which can be grueling if you're not prepared! This was done through vigorous resume revisions, interview coaching, and practicing your pitch. They ensure you understand basic product knowledge, like the general responsibilities of a PM.
Which roles did you feel qualified to apply for after completing Product Gym?
I just applied to everything! Whether it was Head of Product or Director of Product and I didn’t technically qualify, I applied in spite of it all! Most Product Gym graduates are qualified for standard PM roles though.
You’re now a Senior Product Manager at Promenade Group! How did you get the job?
So, I did try out referral applications through Product Gym, but I got this job through the usual interview process — by playing the field.
Did you feel like Product Gym prepared you well for the interview?
Before joining Product Gym, I tried applying for product management jobs from Singapore but got no leads. After completing Product Gym and by following their process, it was like I unlocked the holy grail of interviews! Whether it was a phone call, video call, email case study, everything was available to me. Back when I was trying by myself, before I discovered Product Gym, I couldn’t even get a response.
What are the responsibilities of a Senior Product Manager?
The role depends on the company, but at Promenade Group, I get to define the roadmap and have more strategic authority than a standard PM. I also get more ownership over a suite of products, with less direction and guidance than a typical PM.
How does a Senior PM differ from your previous role as a Head of Product Development?
It’s definitely more hands-on. Though, as the Head of Product Development, I had previous experience at a start-up where I was leading by example and doing most of the product work myself. Traditionally, a Senior PM needs to have that strong product skills application component, whereas the Head of Product Development is more vision-focused and strategy-focused, with less grunt work.
Are you using what you learned at Product Gym now on the job?
Without a doubt! I really learned how smart and savvy my instructors and coaches are. It reminded me of how important it is to phrase things as a product manager because communication is extremely important.
So Vicki, what is your review of Product Gym? At this point in your career, was Product Gym worth it for you?
1,000%! Product Gym gave me a whole new life. The cost of the program and time investment have paid itself over many times now. Would I go through the grueling job interview process again? No — it is grueling, like a gym! But now that I'm part of the Product Gym community, if I ever need to get back in the game for whatever reason, I know Product Gym has my back.
What is your advice for incoming students on how to make the most out of the Product Gym experience?
Follow instructions! If Product Gym says to clock in 20 hours a week or submit at least 30 applications a day or format your resume a certain way, do that! I've seen members who didn't follow applying to at least 30 applications or more a day, maybe they only applied to three a day, and last I checked they have not fully transitioned into PMs or haven't completed the program. Product Gym offers assistance on this, so you're not alone. You just need to take it seriously and follow their guidance. It’s all about taking action and then trusting the process.
Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps.
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