technologistΒ inΒ Β 
Solution ArchitectΒ a year ago

How to stand out as an extremely technical Product Manager?

I have worked in technical marketing, operations engineering, developer advocacy, solutions architecture at a hyper-scaler, technical consulting, and product management. In most of the named roles above, I had some form of product management responsibilities, however my true time with the title (Sr. Product Manager) on my resume is only about 18 months. I'm extremely technical and hands-on and have worked on distributed systems, virtualization platforms, and some of the cloud's largest customer's technology (sorry to remain vague here).

The Sr. Product Manager role ended about 4 years ago and I've had hands-on technical roles again since. I've been applying for some Sr. Product Manager roles at Google, Stripe, and a few startups, and even with internal referrals, I'm not hearing back.

What can I do to help show/demonstrate both the advantages of my super technical hands-on experience, coupled with the short amount of time as a PM to actually pique the interest of recruiters? I feel like these recruiters are not looking at applications holistically (and if true, I just need to figure out how to overcome that).

Thanks for the thoughts and advice in advance!

ShoFounderΒ a year ago
Great question, mate!

I've had a similar issue several times in my life; the differences were in details, the core issue was similar.

What I think might work for you is thinking about putting or seeing things from a different perspective. Instead of focusing perhaps too much on demonstrating your "super technical" abilities (which are the requirement and "minimum" or expected requirements anyway), you might do better if you focus on telling your story/stories from a different angle ... the one on which you showcase / demonstrate / promote your *other* skills (such as management and leadership of all sorts).

If you're seen as someone with a "super technical hands-on experience", but otherwise a weak candidate to develop and visibly or invisibly lead your team, communicate with colleagues in all directions and of all backgrounds and capabilities and roles, then you might be seen as a not quite fit candidate for the role.

In addition, people tend to like people similar to them. It's not the best habit or trait, but that's the way many (if not most) people work, according to (scientific) experiments and observations. Be overly technical and don't showcase your other sides - and you're out with most non "super technical" recruiters or (hiring) managers.

I had to learn to simplify my past in and around nuclear, work with both US and Russian entities, work with government intel agencies, past work that required top-secret clearances, and so on. I had to simplify my work in and with academia. I had to simplify gold medals in maths Olympiads (IMO) (not mine but my students') and success stories in building successful teams and people.

I was not advised to have, nor allowed to maintain, public profiles, social networks, LinkedIn, etc.

(Still gives me chills to even think about having public profiles. All contacts securely stored in digital diaries, no unnecessary connections online. Currently have a LinkedIn with nothing but name on it - might finally change that from Feb 2023, feel free to drop me a line on Milosh Lee of you like.)

I had to downgrade past success stories (from time to time) to blend in and get the foot in the door - depending on hurdles and situations. There's nothing wrong in not sharing *all your highlights* with others and, instead, in focusing on what you sense might matter the most to your interlocutors.

I had to retell stories from different angles and adjust them to different audiences.

I suggest you try similar approach.

If unnatural, as it used to be to me, try looking at it as a scientific or engineering challenge, or a challenge in the field of social psychology or behavioural economics: you're part of an experiment and you want it to succeed, therefore you need to introduce a bit of game theory and the above-mentioned social psychology or behavioural economics.

Once in the company and on the job, you can shine and demonstrate all your other qualities that you've perhaps kept low profile during the hiring process.

Hope this helps. πŸ‘

Let us know how you go, please; I'm sure many would love to know.

Good luck! πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘



Product Manager