Inside Digital: Jessy Cheng – How She Trained Herself To Be A Product Manager

Jessy Cheng Product Manager Hewlett-Packard

Jessy Cheng

Software Product Manager, Hewlett-Packard


How did your earlier career choices lead you to your current role as a Software Product Manager with Hewlett-Packard?

Like many millennials following their hearts, I quit my boring finance job two years out of college in search of something better. But reality hit very fast. After nine months of gruesome job search, I landed a customer support job at this tiny financial tech firm. I figured I would take the role and look for something better when the market turned around. My technical aptitude and finance knowledge quickly set me apart and I became the expert on the team. My boss recognized my talent and started to put me on client implementation projects. That’s when I discovered that I really enjoyed working with clients to solve their problems. I would listen to a client’s challenge, scope out the technological feasibility, design the program and implement it myself. It was great! I had such a blast that I wanted to do the same role but to a much bigger degree.

How did you set yourself apart from other candidates for your current role?

I think a good PM’s motto is SHOW not TELL and that’s what I did. I enrolled in a product design class. We developed a product for that class and received a provisional patent. I also enrolled in a graphics design class and produced a graphics design portfolio. I can now use photoshop and illustrator easily. I taught myself coding over online open course and created a few simple programs. I host all of these works online on my personal site that I designed and coded. I think that my work speaks for itself and tells people how serious I am about PM.

Describe a typical day in your work life:

I hate to say this, but nothing’s typical here. My division is new, my team is new and my role is new. So there are no standard processes and set tasks. As a team, we are the champion for our consumers and we are trying to improve their experiences with our products. So everyday I am navigating ambiguous landscapes and finding creative ways to solve problems. Today, I am getting my hands dirty and running a computer quality assurance lab on my table. Yesterday, I was on Youtube watching the latest videos about upcoming technologies. Tomorrow, I need to create a video product strategy.

Jessy Cheng HP Product Manager

What is one surprising thing about your job?

Surprises: How open it is here. We have our roles and responsibilities, but I am constantly being pulled into other projects and I can ask to participate in projects of interest. There’s a lot of creativity flowing here.

Challenges: The typical big firm problem – navigating organizational structure. It is hard to get things moving fast. You have to identify key decision makers and influence them. I love collaboration but when there are many key stakeholders and you have to align them to make a decision, it can be painfully slow. You end up with more meeting time than working time

What is your life mission and how does your current job intersect with that mission?

I want to help advance our society forward through technology. I still vividly remember the first time we installed a phone in my house or the first time I used a computer (keep in mind that I grew up in a foreign country where we were technologically behind). These experiences changed my life so profoundly that I want to recreate these moments for others. I received two PM offers when I graduated from business school and I chose HP because HP is truly trying to change people’s lives and make it better. So I like to think that I am working on that mission now, in baby steps.

What are your top three tips for those aspiring to work as a product manager or at your company?

  1. How to get the interview: Pursue your passion, hopefully that’s technology related. Join clubs or local meetup groups, or classes. List these experiences on your resume. If you are serious about your passion it will come across in your resume.
  2. How to ace your interview: Go build something, show your passion for PM. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t actually have to work (otherwise, you’d be Mark Zuckerberg). But try and try again. You will have a lot of good stories to share during the interview and a new perspective, I guarantee it.
  3. How to ace your job: Go learn something. I think a good PM should have a variety of skill sets. So take advantage of all the open courses online and take classes ranging from programming all the way to consumer psychology. You never know which will become useful. Steve Jobs famously claimed that a calligraphy class he took helped him shape the mac user interface. So you never know!

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