Who am I?

My name is Andrew Vo! Currently, I work in product management at Atlassian, where previously, I was a summer intern. Prior to product management, I worked across data science and software engineering at Shippit, Google and WiseTech. I'm also studying Computer Science at UNSW, where in 2018, I was the Co-President of the Computer Science and Engineering Society.

I'm really passionate about helping students (myself included) be more conscious about their career choices. I believe that if you consider carefully, the pursuit will be more meaningful and the destination more aligned to your nature.

If you have any more questions after reading, please don't hesitate to reach out! You'll find my contact details at the end.

Why am I writing this?

Lately I've been getting a lot of questions about Product Management. Sometimes when I meet someone for coffee, I find myself in deja vu, finding that I've already been asked the same question and given the same answer in another time. I want to capture these common questions so that I don't have to keep repeating myself, but more importantly, so people that don't personally know me can have their questions answered and have a platform with which to contact me directly with greater confidence.

Another reason is that I think there will be increasingly more people who would be interested in product management and more people who would be good at it (I'm speaking about Australia in particular). This is mainly because of an increase enrollments, hence in diversity in technology related degrees (there was 300~ students in my cohort at UNSW (enrolled in a degree in the School of Computer Science), this year there is 1000~). With a shift in diversity comes a shift in the status quo. Around me, I have found more students are consciously considering what they want to do in their work, what meaning it has and what impact it will make.

How does this have relevance to product management? It's not a path considered often, because it is easy to fall into striving towards what everyone else is striving towards. I'm not saying that doing what everyone is doing is bad, I'm saying that you should make sure you've thought about why you want to do it before you go down that route. So finally, for the people considering how to make the most of their work, I offer up product management as a viable option.

How to best use this guide!

I've written this for computer science students curious about what product management is, considering product management as a internship/graduate role or has decided they want to be a product manager and wants to know the best path forward. When I say computer science, I mean any degree where they teach you programming at a deep level (for 2-3 years.)

To allow for you to find what you want quickly I've written this in a FAQ format and grouped it according to what you might be interested in. However, I've organised it so that the questions and answers flow well together if you wish to read it from the start.

If you don't do/have done computer science, you can still find value in reading this, but there are sections where I talk directly to computer science students.

With that in mind, let's begin. I've compiled the questions I've commonly received with the most polished answers I can provide right now. Enjoy :)


💭 Considering the Role 💭

What is a Product Manager?

Product management is so fluid and variable between (and even within) companies that it is hard to really say what a product manager is. Let me try anyway.

From the book Inspired by Marty Cagan, a PM (product manager) is someone who "leads the product team to combine technology and design to solve real customer problems in a way that met[s] the needs of the business." However, the word "lead" here may give you the wrong idea due to the connotations of the word. A PM has no direct authority over her team members, instead she leads through influence.

A PM works in a product team, normally consisting of a designer, an engineering lead and engineers. Each component of the team (PM, design, engineering) drives forward different parts of the product development process. I use the word "drives" here intentionally, in that they're ultimately responsible for this part of the process but work collaboratively.