As of Oct 18th, I officially “completed delivery” of the 5-week Aspiring Product Manager (APM) project-based program! Having taken a week off to catch my breath, I took the time to reflect on this wonderful adventure.
Today, I will share with you the story of how I built a $2207 product in 12 days 🚀
Before we dive in, let’s take a look at the overall social impact.
100% of the $2207 product revenue (i.e. funds raised) was donated to YCore — a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in San Francisco — that mobilizes young professionals to advance community-based social impact. The donation will support YCore’s mission — to mobilize young professionals to advance community-based social impact.
On top of that donation, I was able to directly impact 70+ participants through the Career Pivots masterclass and the 5 week APM program. By the end of the program, 18% of the first cohort have started a new role in Tech!
Thank you to the greater community for sharing your time, insights and wisdom, with a special shout out to our guest speakers! These amazing product leaders took the time to share their PM journey and experience with the community:
- Kalpana Sundar, Director of Product, Pricing at PayPal
- Sandhya Castelino, Senior Product Manager at Juniper Networks
- Amani Konduru, Product Manager, Working Capital at PayPal
Day 0: How it all began
Since COVID shelter in place began in San Francisco in March, I started looking for programs/opportunities to volunteer remotely. Through a serendipitous intro by a friend (thanks Ming), I discovered YCore — a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in San Francisco — that mobilizes young professionals to advance community-based social impact.
Through YCore’s Fellowship program, my team partnered with GLIDE — a nonprofit social service organization founded in 1963 — to build GLIDE’s strategic roadmap to better serve families of color, especially single mothers of color in San Francisco.
A component of my fellowship commitment was to fundraise $1500.
Day 1: Finding Product-Market Fit (PMF)
As a startup founder or product manager… scratch that 💥
Guess what, you have seen first hand what it takes to achieve & maintain product market fit. Because every company and organization in the world is consistently working to deliver on their PMF.
As a 2x founder, I’m always looking for creative ideas to productize knowledge. As I ponder on how I was going to fundraise $1500, I thought to myself:
“How can I combine my skills, experience, and the power of my community to create something that will help people who have been affected by COVID (e.g. furlough, job loss)?”
There are a few steps to this process — also known as the product development lifecycle.
Day 1–3: Start with the Customer
“… help people who have been affected by COVID (e.g. furlough, job loss)”
Now, that is a pretty broad statement. It is a good starting point to suss out my Total Addressable Market (TAM), but I need to narrow it down to my Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM).
Looking at my existing network and the communities I actively participate in, I decided to narrow it down to:
“… help people who have been affected by COVID (e.g. furlough, job loss), who are looking to transition into Product Management in the Tech industry”
Before you build anything, you should be able to answer these questions about your customers and users:
- Who are your customers? Do they overlap with your end users?
- What are your customers and users’ pains? What benefits or desired outcomes are they trying to achieve?
- What are customers doing right now to alleviate their pain? What solutions have they tried that worked / didn’t work?
For my SOM:
- My potential customers = end users
User’s pain points:
- They have been affected by COVID (e.g. furlough, job loss)
- They are actively looking for a new job in Product Management, ideally in Tech industry
- They are unsure if their skills and experience will translate for a PM role
User’s desired outcome:
- They want to get a new job as a PM or product-adjacent role, ideally in Tech industry
- They want to gain confidence and support through their job search journey
- They need to do this quickly and efficiently!
To answer the last question on customers’ current solution, we have to go to the next step:
Day 3–5: Market and Competitive Analysis
This will sound cliche, but as someone who currently works in aerospace industry, I can say this with confidence:
In fact, there are tons of resources available on Product Management roles & responsibilities, interview prep resources, product communities, even certification programs!
To inform my pricing & packaging decision, I looked up Course Report’s list of Product Management bootcamps to get a sense of the market price. I was shocked to learn about the high price tag for PM training… ranging from $3150 for an online course to $4500 for a 6-month part time program.
Okay, so there are a few knobs and dials that I can turn:
- Length of program
- Depth & breadth of curriculum
- Prestige of instructors or partner companies
- Level of 1:1 attention and access to the instructors
- Add-ons (e.g. job readiness prep, resume review etc)
Day 3- 7: User Research & Customer Development
The best way to learn about your customers and users’ pains & gains is by talking to ACTUAL people — past, current & potential future customers!
There are often communities dedicated to a specific topic, job function or industry. In my case, some of the communities I actively participate in are Women in Product, Tech Ladies, as well as Twitter. Scrolling through posts and comments, I was able to identify topics and questions that resonate most with my target user segments.
While there are tons of free resources, articles, medium blogs, YouTube videos out there, it can still be a challenge to translate this firehose of information into an actionable plan for career transition.
I compiled a portion of my research into a handy Medium post: How to stand out from the crowd of aspiring Product Managers
⭐️ Bonus Tip: If you are doing any sort of research and analysis, compile your notes and share it with the world! This is a great way to immediately create and share value with your community.
Day 7- 10: Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Knowing what I know now, it’s time to craft my value proposition (aka unique selling proposition) to differentiate my product from my competitors. Based on my research, I identified the top three challenges for my targeted user segment:
- High price = barrier to entry, especially for people who may not have the financial resources to invest $3000+ in a bootcamp program or certification course
- Limited resources for people with non-traditional backgrounds who are looking to make a career pivot / transition into the Tech industry. (i.e. people without a Computer Science degree from a top tier university)
- Chicken & egg problem: how can someone get a PM job with Zero product management experience?
Based on my research, I identified my value proposition:
For people with non-traditional backgrounds, my products will provide an actionable plan to help them transition into Product Management in the Tech industry.
Specifically, I will offer two products:
Career Pivots Masterclass: an affordable hands-on workshop that will help participants:
- Translate past work experience into transferable skills for a Product Manager role
- Leverage proven networking tips to get job application referrals
- Connect with a network of people who are in the same boat, and get matched for peer mock interviews!
5 week Associate Product Manager (APM): a project-based program that will help participants:
- Get hands-on experience and learn by DOING
- Build a portfolio of deliverables to showcase hard-earned skills and experience during interviews
- Get real-time feedback from teammates & peer mentors!
And why am I uniquely qualified to deliver this product? Because I have gone through several career pivots, taking the non-traditional path into Product management in Tech!
Day 7- 10: Go to Market (GTM) Strategy
Having a great idea is not enough. The success or failure of a product launch often comes down to your preparation, execution, and a dose of luck (i.e. timing)!
With the plethora of free tools at our fingertips, it is entirely possible to launch a product at $0 cost — with sheer elbow grease, focus and creativity!
In this case, my timing was fortuitous as my birthday was in August. With a few days to spare, I created the marketing assets using Canva (free resource!) and created my GoFundMe fundraising campaign.
Using my birthday as the “compelling event” — I shared my campaign with my community, friends & family for donation. For those who couldn’t support the campaign financially, I asked them to share the campaign with their network on social media including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and emails. With social media, it is a quick 2-min task for anyone to share or comment on a post.
Remember the Product communities I mentioned earlier? I adapted the marketing assets and content and shared posts in those groups as well.
Day 10–12: Launch success!
📣 Launched on August 9th, I successfully met my initial goal of $1000 within 48 hours!
📊 By August 10th evening, I decided to update my campaign with a stretch goal of $1500.
🚀 Within 2 weeks, I was able to exceed my stretch goal and close the fundraiser at $2207!
If you have made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read my story!
If this post resonated with you. I will like to invite you to join us on a fantastic journey and be part of our story! 🗺 You can:
- Follow us on LinkedIn and share this post with your community
- Know someone who can benefit from the Career Pivots Masterclass or the 5 week APM program? Encourage them to sign-up for the next cohort (starting in Nov)!
- Looking to pay it forward? Join us as a mentor! Complete this quick, 6-question sign-up form and we will get in touch!
Feedback and suggestions are always welcomed, share your comment here or send me a direct message on LinkedIn.
Per aspera ad astra ⭐️