The title “Product Manager” means a lot of things at a lot of different companies. What does a Product Manager on the Bing team do?
Put simply, product management in Bing is about global business leadership. We are responsible for identifying customer insights that inform R&D investments; guiding the division by developing near and long-term business plans; enabling the field to successfully launch and sell our services; and managing business performance. There are a variety of tools and processes that surround these activities, including research reports that gather and detail our key customer and market insights, market requirements that provide essential guidance to R&D on top priority investments, periodic business reviews that track and analyze our performance vs. plan and competitors, and strategy reviews that take the long view on our business. Together, these activities and processes form a clear set of insights and guidance that help the rest of the organization focus on the key levers that will drive user value and business performance. We work closely with a wide range of teams, especially engineering, marketing, sales, and finance. One key difference for the product management role at Microsoft is that it does not include detailed product or feature design; instead that’s one of the key jobs for the Program Management team within Engineering.
Tell us about your favorite day at Microsoft?
For me, the most fulfilling days are the ones in which we deliver a new product or service to our customers, and we get positive feedback from our stakeholders. One such example was the rollout of a new payroll service for the UK market when I was part of Microsoft Business Solutions. I was addressing a group of Chartered Accountants in London, and they were clearly skeptical that a US team with an American leader could deliver a strong local product. Lucky for me, I was backed by an excellent team of domain experts and engineers who deeply understood the market requirements. Moreover, our team had anticipated one of the key pain points of the market – regular updates to tax codes – and had developed an innovative architecture that eliminated the pain for accountants and their customers. In the middle of my talk, one of the accountants raised his hand, stood up, and said, “I can’t believe I’m listening to a Yankee who can hold his own in this market.” He went on to praise our design and commit to helping us sell it. You don’t often get that level of direct, unscripted feedback at a launch. Making it even better was the fact that my boss was in the audience!
You recently worked for MS in China. What is it like being a Microsoftie in a different part of the world?
I strongly believe Microsoft needs to operate globally to be successful in the future. The best and most innovative ideas – whether technology or business model – are just as likely to emerge from Asia, Africa, or Latin America as they are in the US or Europe. I was thrilled to be asked to help our teams in China identify market opportunities and translate them into innovations that could launch in China and ultimately scale to global markets. In some ways, working at Microsoft in China is like going back in time. The energy level I saw from young engineers from the top universities in China rivals anything I had experienced in US. There aren’t as many qualified middle and upper-level leaders coming from the local market, so we are mixing in some people like myself from US and growing our own talent internally. On a strictly personal level, being in China during the 2008 Olympics, when national pride was at an all-time peak, was exhilarating.
Why did you decide to come back to the US and work on the Bing team?
I set clear goals for myself and my team in China, and after three years there, we had achieved all of them. At that point, it was time for a new challenge for me. I felt a strong affinity for the OSD business, since I see Online Services as a key frontier where Microsoft can innovate and compete for the future. At the same time, I was ready to try a new career role. My previous experience at Microsoft and before joining the company was primarily on the engineering side, either as Program Manager or Engineering Leader, but I had always enjoyed participating the business side as well. I looked for groups that matched my personal values and that offered an opportunity to switch roles into product management. It took a little while to find the right fit, but I was lucky enough to meet Mike Fridgen at just the right time and fit into the Bing Travel leadership role. After a few weeks on the job, I’ve found that the job is incredibly intellectually challenging, surrounds me with very smart and talented people, and offers a tremendous opportunity to impact our business.
To learn more about Bing Product Manager opportunities, click here.