Naman Garg, a recent graduate from the Mechanical Engineering department of IIT Madras is currently working as Associate Product Manager at Flipkart. We at Chennai36, spoke to him about his experience and compiled fundaes for the placement season.
Cue) Let’s start by talking about your final year insti life, especially the placement phase…
My final year in the institute was pretty dynamic… I don’t know how exactly to describe it, but it was a mix of a lot of things, the typical ups and downs, uncovering opportunities, getting things done, making friends and chilling which I had learnt to do towards the latter half of my insti life. Maybe I have to think about it more deeply sometime!
Talking about the placement phase, A lot of people can find this period stressful, particularly if you are focusing on multiple profiles. I was quite clear on what I wanted and had around 4-5 options open. Therefore, I had no option but to go all-in for these companies and prepare to the best of my ability. Irrespective of what our plans are and what our situation is, there will always be phases where we’d be feeling very uncertain about the future. We would lose confidence. Also, there will be times when over-confidence would take over. The best way to get around these fluctuations is to talk with someone and spend time with friends. Figure out someone you can talk with on a day to day basis. I was super lucky to have friends like Vishal and my sister by my side for the whole time. This is pretty much what everyone ends up doing when they are scared of not getting shortlisted, clearing a test, failing an interview and so on. This and some unique, random, weird stuff.
When I look back to eventful days in my life, December 1, 2017, finds its place near the top with so many things happening around me in such a short time. This was followed by 3 days during which our wing bonded more than ever. If anyone of you/your friends is in the process towards the latter days, just remember the only thing that matters then is to stick together and keep trying.
Q) What were the few profiles or companies that you were looking at?
Ans) As I mentioned, I was looking at around 6 companies across three profiles: Consulting, FMCG and Product Management. I wasn’t much interested in analytics, core jobs or finance. So, I had ruled these out of the race.
Q) Can you outline the selection procedure for a position at Flipkart?
Ans) I can tell you about the selection procedure for my position i.e., the Associate Product Manager. Flipkart’s Associate Product Manager Program, abbreviated as Flipkart APM, is their flagship two-year rotational program in Product Management. I am not the best person to answer how the other positions are filled. But for us, there was a presentation, followed by a case workshop. Following this, they released a case study which we had worked on. This along with our resume determined the shortlist. From what I understood later, there was a threshold we had to cross in the case study analysis for them to look at our resumes. This was followed by around 4 rounds of interviews, where they gave us product cases which are slightly different from business cases we were generally accustomed to. And that was it. For the people who are aiming for this role, try and read up a bit about what a product manager does, and how does the landscape look like.
Q) In hindsight, what were some things that you could have done better when in the institute, that would have helped you today?
Ans) I will have to give it some thought. Off the top of my head, maybe I could have spent more time with friends and also tried hard for better marks. I honestly don’t know how to answer this without imparting “Gyaan”.
Q) How did you go about developing a portfolio or profile that would be suited for product management?
Ans) Let’s break this up into two parts: what should be done; and what I did!
As I mentioned earlier, they give a lot of importance to the solution of the case study they release. If this is brilliant, you wouldn’t have to do a lot of profile building as such. If your resume shows that you used your time efficiently in insti, you are cool.
Speaking about my experience, I didn’t even know if this profile was coming to hire as they had stopped coming for two years. So, I didn’t prepare specifically for this.
Q)Do you think that the PoRs that you had taken up in insti are in some way relevant to the work you are doing out there, in the real world?
Ans) Technically, no. However, the general stuff I picked up through PoRs, like interacting with people and working in teams, will surely come in handy all the time. Especially in the managerial positions like this, it also becomes important to develop some amount of credibility and accountability around you. I think the PoRs I did on campus, were the major contributors in helping me develop this ability.
Q) How has your work experience been so far?
Ans) There are very few APM programmes in the world. This is basically an entry into the Product Management. The next step is the Product Manager, which is open only after a few years as APM or after an MBA. How the APM program works is, you work with different teams during two years on core Product Management problems. You are given enough freedom around the teams you want to work in, the problems you to take a shot at. At the end of around two years, depending on our performance, we can move on to the role of Product Manager of the company or move on.
I am working in the Product team for Flipkart Plus during my first year. Experience so far has been great! From a thrilling lauch phase to post-launch clean up to preparations for upcoming tasks, it’s one of the most exciting teams to work with. Most of the people around you are graduates from top colleges, with several years of work experience and yet very approachable for the smallest set of doubts you have. In addition, there is a very strong community of the set of APMs who join from different colleges and the knowledge sharing and fun with them acts as the cherry on the top.
Q) Are there any insti junta around? Do you miss insti that way?
Ans) Not for the APM profile, but quite a few people joined Flipkart from campus this year. However, if you look for recent graduates, you won’t find many here given that Flipkart wasn’t recruiting from the past two years. There are a good number of people in the top leadership who are insti alumnus though.
Obviously, I miss insti, especially the set of people I had around me. More often than not the set of people whom you are really close to will not be next to you when you move to the next phase of your life. But the idea is to keep in touch and cherish the beautiful years you spent together in insti.
Q) So would you like to convey anything to the guys in the “pressure cooker”?
Ans) All the known stuff like speaking to friends, not skipping meals and keeping a check on yourself. At the end of the day, your performance is the only thing that matters at this point! If you’re overthinking things, you will underperform. So don’t take a lot of pressure and do what you can. All the best!
Naman has penned an insightful article about his line of work. All interested students can explore more via this link.
Author: Rohith(BT-ME ’21)