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The Road to Product Management: Musings of a Janio Product Intern

Hi there! My name is Shao Kai, a senior at Nanyang Technological University, studying Renaissance Engineering Program (REP). If you’re in the midst of researching what it’s like being a Product Intern at Janio, you’re at the right place! If not, just read on to vibe with a fellow product enthusiast. I’ll be sharing my experiences with this role and some takeaways from my time in Janio so far!

Career aspirations from California

I developed my interest in product management during my third year of university, where I spent the year studying at the University of California, Berkeley, and subsequently interning in Silicon Valley. 

On top of overseeing the projects I embarked on, I found myself taking on the role of a middleman between various stakeholders. I had a couple of classmates who took a product management class conducted by Ken Sandy in Berkeley, and one of them suggested that I consider product management after hearing my experience with those projects. After that, I started doing my own research, which led me to learn about the attributes required of a Product Manager, and how they play a pivotal role in the success of a product – especially those involving tech.

That said, having theoretical knowledge of product management can, and should, only serve as a foundation. Actual experience in Product is still paramount in kickstarting your product management career. Fortunately, my first opportunity in Product was given by Janio!

A typical day of a Product Intern at Janio

Shao Kai with his mentor, Leonard.

You’ll most likely get the same answer from most, if not all, Product Managers (PM): there's never a typical day for a PM. There are typical job roles, but no typical day!

Besides daily stand-ups with stakeholder groups like the tech engineers, what you do in a day depends largely on the stage of, say, a feature you’re currently working on. Fortunately in this role, I've experienced most stages in the entire product lifecycle. I’ve conducted user research, wrote user journey maps as well as product requirement documents (PRDs), created prototypes, carried out user testings and made iterations, and executed QA tests for features prior to deployment. On the side, I was also tasked to write knowledge base articles on new features and workflows to be used company-wide.

Janio's Product Intern role has definitely allowed me to have a taste of the dynamism of being a Product Manager. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone and honed the skill sets and traits required of a PM — including empathy, user research skills, communication skills to engage various stakeholders, and problem-solving skills to navigate around ambiguous situations.

On mentorship and learning experiences

To me, one of the most important aspects of an internship is the mentorship that you can potentially receive.

Leonard is the Product Manager that I report to at Janio! He was also my interviewer for the last stage of my application process. One of the reasons that led to my decision in taking up this internship was because of my interview with Leonard. He posed several challenging questions that tested my ability to look at things from different perspectives of the identified stakeholders, and make subsequent decisions based on them. That interview left a deep impression on me because I was literally brain fried from it.

Pro tip: the interview with your potential manager is one of the best opportunities to gauge the mentorship you can expect from the internship! 

Throughout my time in Janio, and even until now, I’m learning so much from Leonard. He gives a lot of insight into the realities of product management, including stakeholder management, and takes time to check in with me to make sure that I’m getting what I want from this internship. He keeps track of my progress and eases me into the PM role by equipping me with domain knowledge, before passing on the ownership of the projects to me. When providing feedback, he briefs me on what I did well, and also points out areas of improvement without sugarcoating. Ultimately, I would say we have good synergy because of the growth mindset we both possess. 

I don't say this enough but I couldn't ask for a better mentor! 

Closing Note: Interning in a startup

Janio is a fairly young startup, so things are in a constant state of change. I find this pretty exciting, as it pushes one out of their comfort zone to remain adaptable, and to be entrusted with a larger stake in the business.

While things can get chaotic, it provides a lot of space to explore, with opportunities to learn, and the chance to take on tasks that you otherwise would not have been given in a bigger company.

For example, in my first few weeks of learning the ropes, besides being tasked to write knowledge base articles that are now used company-wide, I initiated my own product and coined it the "Janio Dictionary", which serves as a database of acronyms and terms with an easy-search function for the company. In a startup with a flatter organisational hierarchy like Janio, work visibility is a lot higher, and the impact of your work is also more significant. That said, it still depends on individuals to have a self-starter mentality to initiate conversations to find out more about how things are done, and propose better ways to improve workflows and products.

So, if you’re looking to gain some experience in a startup, Janio is definitely a good place for that! Being a Product Intern here has definitely been invaluable. Feel free to hit me up to learn more about that!

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