MBAs are a vehicle for transformation–whether for your industry, function, geography or whatever else you can dream up–and that’s just what Ryan Yu went to business school for: A new path. Pivoting from consulting to tech, Ryan talks about how Harvard Business School helped him make this change. He also offers insights into landing a product manager role at Google in this edition of Real Humans: Alumni. Read on for his story, career advice and more.
Ryan Yu, HBS MBA ’21, Product Manager at Google
Hometown: Manila, Philippines
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Ateneo de Manila University, BS Management Engineering
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: HBS, MBA Class of 2021
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Four years in management consulting at McKinsey & Co., data science (Thinking Machines Data Science), and the public sector (Philippine Department of Finance)
Post-MBA Work Experience: Six months, Product Manager at Google
Why did you choose to attend business school?
Coming from a consulting background, I have always enjoyed living in different cities around the world for a few months at a time; yet, I wanted to try committing to a new city for an extended period. I thought business school was a place I could do this while also learning new skills and making new connections. I had also begun to consider making a career pivot into technology, and business school helped pave the way for that.
Why HBS? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
HBS has always been my dream school because of its thriving campus life, rigorous academic focus and strong alumni network. HBS has helped me meet incredible people whom I know will be lifelong friends, and it gave me the opportunity to learn about areas beyond traditional business education, including courses like Leadership & Happiness and The Role of Government in Market Economies. While HBS provided great academic and career support, it also provided me with opportunities to experience creative pursuits, such as the HBS Show and the Heard on the Street A Capella.
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
Being a student at HBS gave me access to several company recruitment programs, which provided a sense of structure to my pivot into the technology space. It also offered mentorship and guidance from career coaches and fellow students with tech experience. Additionally, HBS had a lot of programming dedicated to startups including classes, like The Entrepreneurial Manager and Launching Tech Ventures. It also had experiential programs, such as Startup Bootcamp and the Rock Accelerator, which helped me more fully understand what it takes to drive an early-stage tech product to success.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
Over the summer, I was a Product Management Intern at Google Cloud AI’s Contact Center AI team. I ended up going back to the same team for my full-time Product Management role. It fit my career goal of leading the strategy to commercialize a product whose foundation is an AI application. Working with a great set of UX and Engineering teams helped me realize that the Product Management role at Google provides a good balance between business strategy and technical depth. These were things I wanted in a job position, so I decided to commit to the role.
Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
I wanted to work for a company known for its strong product management culture, and I wanted to focus on a product built on machine learning and AI. Working as a Product Manager at Google Cloud AI fit that intersection well. Even before joining Google, I already knew that their machine learning research was cutting-edge, and I was excited to dive into a role within the Google Cloud ecosystem that allowed me to lead product decisions while working closely with engineers, designers, researchers and customers.
How has COVID–19 impacted your industry/career plans?
A key skill in product management is being able to work together with all team members to align on a unified product vision and strategy. Achieving that alignment without meeting people face-to-face felt a lot more challenging. Yet, by adapting to this new way of working, it helped me learn how to build rapport with people virtually.
Doing my internship remotely at the height of COVID–19 was also challenging, as I didn’t have as much information as interns from previous years when making the decision of whether or not to take Google’s full-time offer. However, I decided to return given what I knew, and I haven’t regretted my decision.
Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
I would recommend current MBAs to learn from the experiences of their classmates.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
You should also have fewer doubts about your ability to pivot into a new industry. It’s easy to psych yourself out or feel like you don’t have the skills to break into a new field, especially in the technology industry. The thing I would suggest is to focus on your industry-related experiences and distill the insights from those experiences into your CV and interviews. You should be confident in your skill, knowledge and experience gaps.
–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
Google does a final PM interview at the end of your internship as part of the conversion process. Keep your interview skills sharp!
–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
A pivot into product management in big tech is tricky, but it’s totally possible with strategy and luck. I recommend finding proof points throughout your previous career which demonstrate that you have the skills to be a Product Manager, prepare for the interview as much as you can and go through the interviews with confidence. You can do it!