Career Story: Senior Product Manager

Bhavna works as a senior product manager at a security software company. She gives her perspective on sharing a budget and financial decisions with her husband, Ram.

Transcript
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My name is Ram Kandasamy.
RAM KANDASAMY, 29
SENIOR SOFTWARE ENGINEER, APPLOVIN

I'm a senior software engineer,
and I work at AppLovin.

I make $160,000 a year.

I am Bhavna Muthangi.
BHAVNA MUTHANGI, 30
SENIOR PRODUCT MANAGER

I'm a senior product manager,
and I make $160,000 a year.

I feel financially secure now.

I think I've felt that way
for about a year and a half.

The reason why I didn't
feel secure before that

is because I had $110,000
in student loans

that I was still working on paying off.

We also had
a $250,000 mortgage.

I think for me the biggest part
of feeling financially secure

was just knowing
that we had paid off all of our debt.

It's a great feeling, knowing that
you don't really owe anyone anything,

and I think it's very freeing.

To tell you the truth, I only felt,

I felt very financially secure
very recently,

only because Bhavna
did some calculations on–

'cause we were basically
trying to determine

at what point we could be
financially independent,

and it turns out that
we're well on our way to doing that.

I come from a first
generation immigrant family.

We actually both do.

While I think some people would argue

that you should
put that money towards,

into the market, where
you're getting a higher return

than the interest that
you are paying on your mortgage,

from our mentality, our culture
really values paying off debt,

so that you feel secure,

so I think that really,
it was just a matter of feeling safe

and knowing that
this house belongs to us.

I was very fortunate,
my parents saved a lot of money

so that they could pay
for my college education,

so I pretty much just had
to focus on my studies,

and I'm very grateful for that.

For me, I was lucky enough
to have my family

be able to pay for part of college,

but I also received
some financial aid,

and I was able to pay
for about 25% of my tuition

with a work study program,
FOR ELIGIBLE STUDENTS,
WORK-STUDY IS A GREAT
WAY TO GAIN MONEY FOR
COLLEGE WHILE ALSO
BUILDING PROFESSIONAL
EXPERIENCE.

so I worked in our IT center
when I was in college.

When I went to business school,
I actually earned a lot less
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT WORK-STUDY
VISIT STUDNTAID.ED.GOV

than my peers at that time,

so I was able to get a lot of
financial aid for business school.

In total, between college
and business school,

I still had about $110,000 in debt.

I guess growing up, my parents,
especially my mom, she kind of

made it sound like having bad credit
was a character flaw,

so it was something that I desperately
just wanted to avoid at all costs.

I make sure every month,

near the end of the month, to make sure
I've paid off my credit card debt.

I actually grew up in a household
that was exactly the opposite of his.

We had a ton of credit card debt
when I was growing up,

and I really saw how stressed
my family was because of it,

and we actually would sometimes

move balances
from credit card to credit card,

and at one point,
we were actually getting rejected

for credit cards because
our credit score was so low.

I decided that when I became an adult

I really did not want to live
with that kind of stress.

The Bay Area actually
is a very expensive place to live,

in terms of cost of living.

The primary cost for most
people though is housing.

We actually have a big
advantage on that front,

just because we were able
to buy property at a pretty low price.

Basically, we had the whole
housing crisis in 2008, 2009,

and the housing market
was pretty depressed

for the next three years or so,

and so we were able to buy this house
when the prices were very low.

This was also a foreclosed house,

so it was much cheaper than other
houses in the Bay Area at the time.

I just looked for houses
that met my parameters,

two bedroom, two bath, and then

I was just looking for the cheapest one
I could find, really,

because housing is so expensive.

I was just looking for something
that would be a good value.

I'm a pretty simple guy; I don't really
need a really fancy house.

I just want a place where I can live,

and that could potentially
also increase in value over time.

I think we'll definitely
live here for a while.

We actually, for two years,
we actually had roommates,

and our roommate and his girlfriend
were living in the second bedroom,

so this house can fit
up to four people,

so I think we'll stay in this house
for our whole life.

We each earn
$160,000 a year annually.
RAM AND BHAVNA’S BUDGET:

Our combined monthly gross is 26,667.
COMBINED MONTHLY SALARY $26,667

Now, federal and state taxes
take out a good chunk of that.

We pay about $10,198
TAXES $10,198

each month in just taxes.

After that,
we contribute pre-tax money

to 401(k) retirement accounts,

and also to something called
an employee stock purchase plan.

An employee stock purchase plan
is offered by a lot of companies

as a benefit to their employees.

What it means is that employees
can purchase company stock,

usually at a 15% discount,

and so basically when
the employees sell the stock,

they're automatically
getting a 15% return.

We contribute $4,267 each month
RETIREMENT & STOCK PURCHASE $4,267

to our 401(k)s and my employer's
employee stock purchase plan.

That leaves us with $12,202.
NET TAKE HOME INCOME $12,202

Okay, so now moving
to our monthly expenses,

first we start off with
the Homeowners Association bill

and our annual property tax.

When you become a property owner,

you have to pay the Homeowners
Association bill monthly,

and basically what this is

it encompasses a bunch of improvements

and fixtures for the whole community,

'cause we live in a condo complex.

For example, it covers
our garbage, our water,

and things like that.

In terms of property tax,

that's just 1%
of our total property value,

and if you calculate that monthly,
it comes out to $756.
HOUSING COSTS $756

Next on the list is gas and electric.
That's $70 a month for us.
GAS & ELECTRIC $70

Then, internet and streaming services.

In terms of streaming, we pay
for Netflix, and we pay for Hulu,

so that comes out to $95 a month.
INTERNET & STREAMING $95

For both of us combined for our phones,
we pay $80 a month.
PHONE $80

The reason for why
it's so low is because

our family lives here, and so
we're part of a big family plan,

and so we're able
to get a discount there.

In terms of our cars,

we pay insurance,

for insurance, maintenance,
and gas for our cars,

and if you kind of calculate that
annually and divide it by 12,

it comes out to $650.
CAR EXPENSES $650

In terms of student loans,

we actually don't have any student
loans, so we're happy about that.

For food and groceries,
we spend $450 a month.
GROCERIES $450

For our gym membership,
we spend $120 a month.
GYM $120

For restaurants and entertainment,
we spend $377 a month.
RESTAURANTS & ENTERTAINMENT $377

Another line item is just
for miscellaneous expenses,

like Amazon books and clothing.

That comes up to about $300 a month.
MISCELLANEOUS $300

Although it could be a lot less if we
just used our library subscription

to get more books, rather
than getting them from Amazon.

That's probably true.
I do buy a lot of books on Amazon.

After you take out
all of our expenses,

we have 9,339 left,

and from that, we take $1,000,

and we contribute it
to our vacation fund each year.
VACATION FUND $1000

Normally,
we take two international trips

and one or two
domestic trips each year.

We try to travel pretty frugally.

Traveling is one
of our great passions.

We've gone to Europe,
we've gone to Asia,

and we've gone to South America.

After that,
the vacation fund is taken out,

we have $8,339 left.
-$8300

Over the years, we've already
built up an emergency fund

of one year's worth of expenses.

Now, all of this money is going into

very low-cost investments.
INVESTMENTS  ̴ $8300

Investing was really something
I had to learn on my own.

I'm from a first generation
immigrant family,

and when I was a child, we were just
trying to keep our heads above water.

There really wasn't as much
of a focus on investing

and building wealth for the future.

Once I went to business school,

and I saw what a lot
of my classmates were doing,

I started reading
a lot of literature on it.

I think one of my biggest regrets

is that I didn't invest
for a very long time,

so I feel like a lot of millennials
think this way, because

we had the recession in 2001,

and then we also had
another recession in 2007,

so they came pretty
quickly after one another,

so I think a lot of my generation
holds off on investing,

and unfortunately, I did that as well.

I really wish that
I had maxed out my 401(k)s

to their annual limit in my early 20s

so that I could've seen
those gains compound over time.

I wish I had participated
in my employer’s stock purchase plan

and gotten these discounted stocks.

I think those are
the biggest things I learned.

I would say the two main ways
people become product managers
BHAVNA, 30
SENIOR PRODUCT MANAGER

is one, they can either start out
in software engineering

and then decide to eventually
go into product management,

or two, they get recruited
out of an MBA program.

I don't have
a computer science degree.

I was recruited out of an MBA program.

I went
to the University of Pennsylvania

for my undergraduate education,

and I did two degrees, one in
engineering and one in business.

It was a management
and technology program.

I think a lot of my choices
in my education

were influenced by the fact that
I grew up in the Silicon Valley,

so I pretty much, technology was

kind of a natural
career path to go into.

Looking back,
I don't know if I would've done

the chemical engineering degree.

I think I would've probably
done computer science,

because it would've been more relevant
to what I do day-to-day.

I think your first job, usually you're
recruited right out of school,

so it's ideal to go to a school
where there's a lot of recruiters,

and they're training you
for interviews.

One of the things
I'm most grateful for

that my college provided me was

they had career coaches who
would do mock interviews with you.

They would review your resume,

so you were really prepared
for the job search.

I think coming out of college,

I was able to get a job through
the recruiting system.

My first job was at Cisco, and
they happened to be recruiting there.

Beyond that though, I think

you're very reliant upon your network,

especially in technology,

so it's good to keep in touch
with your former coworkers

and your bosses over time.

Penn, I actually ended up
graduating early

because a lot of
my AP credits from high school

actually transferred to college,

so I was able to graduate a bit early.

With that extra time,
I decided to just start working.

I had interned at Cisco
right after my junior year,

so they hired me full time.

I actually entered as part
of a new grad program

called Cisco Choice.

As part of that program,

they had established
milestones for me,

and it was a really good way
to enter the working world.

It was a structure program.

I had a great boss going out.

That was how I started
in the working world.

While I was there though,
one of my bosses,

she really encouraged me
to apply to business school.

A lot of business schools at that time

were looking
to recruit younger students.

I decided to apply
because if I didn't get in,

then I figured I could just apply
a few years down the road.

I ended up getting in,

so that's how I went to business
school a year into working.

Then, after business school,
Cisco was recruiting again,

and since I'd already worked there,

I kind of was preferred
by the recruiter.

She got me in touch
with the hiring manager.

I went through a series of interviews.

I kind of ended up back
at Cisco by accident.

I had interviewed
at a lot of other roles,

but Cisco was the one that really
offered me the most responsibility.

That's how I ended up back at Cisco,

but now in product management.

Then after that, I worked
at Cisco for five years,

and I was promoted to a more
senior product management level,

and then I started
working at Symantec.

I actually stayed
at Cisco for quite a long time

by Silicon Valley terms.

Five years is a long time
to stay at a company.

I just wanted to get a sense
of a different company culture.

I was actually quite happy at Cisco,

but I wanted to get
a different perspective

on my field, which is security.

Cisco really focuses
on large enterprises,

but Symantec is more focused
on consumer security,

like the software
that's installed on your desktop.

I just wanted to get
a sense of that market and

understand priorities there.

I would say
the biggest piece of advice

is just build as many
relationships as you can

in your first job.

Build a relationship with
your manager and his manager,

build relationships with salespeople,

with engineers,

and when you're
straight out of college

or straight out of business school,
people are really happy to help you,

and just take people out to lunch
and just hear about their day.

People are always willing
to talk about their jobs.

You just never know where
your career's going to take you.

At a later stage,
one of the salespeople you know

might become VP of Sales at a startup,

one of the engineers you know

might go on to found his own company.

Even if these people
aren't directly working with you,

or under you, it's good to know them

because it'll help you
in your future career.

I'm Bhavna Muthangi.
I'm a senior product manager,
BHAVNA, 30
SENIOR PRODUCT MANAGER

and I make about $160,000 a year.

My role as a product manager

is basically to collect
requirements from customers,

from salespeople,

come up with features
by looking at the feedback

that customers are giving me,

as well as looking
at the general market trends,

looking at what competitors are doing.

I gather all that data,
I come up with new features

that we should be
adding into our product,

and I take that to engineering,
and I work with them

in order to break those requirements
down into technical tasks.

In a typical day,

I'll probably start off
with meeting with my engineering team

and just looking at the status
of our current projects

and looking ahead
to the next few weeks

to see what they'll be working on.

Then during the day, I might have
a call with a salesperson

in order to discuss what kind of
concerns customers are bringing up.

I might have a presentation,
where I show our product

directly to customers.

Then I might also be talking
to senior managers

in order to get budgets
for future projects.

A big part of my job is also

getting the resources we need
in order to build things.

I need to justify anything that

the engineers are working on,

in order to make sure
the project proceeds,

so I will build a presentation,

based on feedback that I've gotten
from customers and sales,

based on market research
and what competitors are doing,

and I use that to justify what
the engineers' time is being spent on,

to senior management.

When I first came out of college,
I was in an entry level marketing role,

so in tech, same industry,

and I was making about $80,000 a year.

Then I went to business school,
and I went into product management,

and then I was making $115,000

when I first came out
of business school.

Over time, as I got more
and more responsibility,

I was able to get raises.

At this point, I think
I would need to get a promotion

in order to get a raise because
I'm pretty much at the higher end

of my salary range.

I think the biggest thing
as a product manager

that you need
to be able to do is communicate

with a variety of different people.

You are working with sales,
you're talking to customers,

you're talking to engineering,

and sometimes you're even
talking to finance and legal.

It's important to be able
to communicate effectively

with all of those groups.
TO BE SUCCESSFUL
PROJECT MANAGERS NEED TO:
-COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY ACROSS TEAMS

Another important skill
is just PowerPoint because
-DEMONSTRATE STRONG PRESENTATION SKILLS

a lot of the time, that's basically how
you're communicating your ideas,

especially to senior management,
in order to get budget

and buy-in for your projects.

The two big skills
are just communication

and presentations.

In order to do this job well,
you need to be able to understand

the point of view
of a lot of different people,
-SYNTHESIZE INFORMATION FROM DIFFERENT
STAKEHOLDERS

so you need to be able to understand

what sales wants in order
to be able to sell to customers.

You need to be able to understand
how a customer will use a feature
-BUILD RELATIONSHIPS

and how badly they want it or need it.

You need to be able
to understand all of the different

stakeholders in your company,
sales, engineering,

finance, legal, your senior managers,
and execs,

and you need to have
relationships with all those people

and be able to persuade them
to your ideas.

I would say –

for some product management roles,

you do need to get
very deeply technical,

and in that case,
a computer science degree is,

is, it's very useful,

and in fact, some companies,
like Google, they have

their product managers
do technical interviews as well.

My worst days are if I've been working
on a project for a long time,

and I've gotten a lot of –

I've gotten approval from
all of the required parties,

and then suddenly there's
a management change at the top,

and then the strategy
changes of the company,

and then that project is scrapped.

I think that's frustrating because
you've already gotten all this buy-in,

you've moved ahead,
you've become very committed

to this project, and then

you don't get to go anywhere with it.

I would say the best days
are really when

a product that you have
come up with is launched.

That's the best,

especially if there's a press release
associated with it,

that's a lot of fun.

My name is Ram Kandasamy.
RAM KANDASAMY, 29
SENIOR SOFTWARE ENGINEER, APPLOVIN

I'm a senior software engineer,
and I work at AppLovin.

I make $160,000 a year.

I am Bhavna Muthangi.
BHAVNA MUTHANGI, 30
SENIOR PRODUCT MANAGER

I'm a senior product manager,
and I make $160,000 a year.

I feel financially secure now.

I think I've felt that way
for about a year and a half.

The reason why I didn't
feel secure before that

is because I had $110,000
in student loans

that I was still working on paying off.

We also had
a $250,000 mortgage.

I think for me the biggest part
of feeling financially secure

was just knowing
that we had paid off all of our debt.

It's a great feeling, knowing that
you don't really owe anyone anything,

and I think it's very freeing.

To tell you the truth, I only felt,

I felt very financially secure
very recently,

only because Bhavna
did some calculations on–

'cause we were basically
trying to determine

at what point we could be
financially independent,

and it turns out that
we're well on our way to doing that.

I come from a first
generation immigrant family.

We actually both do.

While I think some people would argue

that you should
put that money towards,

into the market, where
you're getting a higher return

than the interest that
you are paying on your mortgage,

from our mentality, our culture
really values paying off debt,

so that you feel secure,

so I think that really,
it was just a matter of feeling safe

and knowing that
this house belongs to us.

I was very fortunate,
my parents saved a lot of money

so that they could pay
for my college education,

so I pretty much just had
to focus on my studies,

and I'm very grateful for that.

For me, I was lucky enough
to have my family

be able to pay for part of college,

but I also received
some financial aid,

and I was able to pay
for about 25% of my tuition

with a work study program,
FOR ELIGIBLE STUDENTS,
WORK-STUDY IS A GREAT
WAY TO GAIN MONEY FOR
COLLEGE WHILE ALSO
BUILDING PROFESSIONAL
EXPERIENCE.

so I worked in our IT center
when I was in college.

When I went to business school,
I actually earned a lot less
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT WORK-STUDY
VISIT STUDNTAID.ED.GOV

than my peers at that time,

so I was able to get a lot of
financial aid for business school.

In total, between college
and business school,

I still had about $110,000 in debt.

I guess growing up, my parents,
especially my mom, she kind of

made it sound like having bad credit
was a character flaw,

so it was something that I desperately
just wanted to avoid at all costs.

I make sure every month,

near the end of the month, to make sure
I've paid off my credit card debt.

I actually grew up in a household
that was exactly the opposite of his.

We had a ton of credit card debt
when I was growing up,

and I really saw how stressed
my family was because of it,

and we actually would sometimes

move balances
from credit card to credit card,

and at one point,
we were actually getting rejected

for credit cards because
our credit score was so low.

I decided that when I became an adult

I really did not want to live
with that kind of stress.

The Bay Area actually
is a very expensive place to live,

in terms of cost of living.

The primary cost for most
people though is housing.

We actually have a big
advantage on that front,

just because we were able
to buy property at a pretty low price.

Basically, we had the whole
housing crisis in 2008, 2009,

and the housing market
was pretty depressed

for the next three years or so,

and so we were able to buy this house
when the prices were very low.

This was also a foreclosed house,

so it was much cheaper than other
houses in the Bay Area at the time.

I just looked for houses
that met my parameters,

two bedroom, two bath, and then

I was just looking for the cheapest one
I could find, really,

because housing is so expensive.

I was just looking for something
that would be a good value.

I'm a pretty simple guy; I don't really
need a really fancy house.

I just want a place where I can live,

and that could potentially
also increase in value over time.

I think we'll definitely
live here for a while.

We actually, for two years,
we actually had roommates,

and our roommate and his girlfriend
were living in the second bedroom,

so this house can fit
up to four people,

so I think we'll stay in this house
for our whole life.

We each earn
$160,000 a year annually.
RAM AND BHAVNA’S BUDGET:

Our combined monthly gross is 26,667.
COMBINED MONTHLY SALARY $26,667

Now, federal and state taxes
take out a good chunk of that.

We pay about $10,198
TAXES $10,198

each month in just taxes.

After that,
we contribute pre-tax money

to 401(k) retirement accounts,

and also to something called
an employee stock purchase plan.

An employee stock purchase plan
is offered by a lot of companies

as a benefit to their employees.

What it means is that employees
can purchase company stock,

usually at a 15% discount,

and so basically when
the employees sell the stock,

they're automatically
getting a 15% return.

We contribute $4,267 each month
RETIREMENT & STOCK PURCHASE $4,267

to our 401(k)s and my employer's
employee stock purchase plan.

That leaves us with $12,202.
NET TAKE HOME INCOME $12,202

Okay, so now moving
to our monthly expenses,

first we start off with
the Homeowners Association bill

and our annual property tax.

When you become a property owner,

you have to pay the Homeowners
Association bill monthly,

and basically what this is

it encompasses a bunch of improvements

and fixtures for the whole community,

'cause we live in a condo complex.

For example, it covers
our garbage, our water,

and things like that.

In terms of property tax,

that's just 1%
of our total property value,

and if you calculate that monthly,
it comes out to $756.
HOUSING COSTS $756

Next on the list is gas and electric.
That's $70 a month for us.
GAS & ELECTRIC $70

Then, internet and streaming services.

In terms of streaming, we pay
for Netflix, and we pay for Hulu,

so that comes out to $95 a month.
INTERNET & STREAMING $95

For both of us combined for our phones,
we pay $80 a month.
PHONE $80

The reason for why
it's so low is because

our family lives here, and so
we're part of a big family plan,

and so we're able
to get a discount there.

In terms of our cars,

we pay insurance,

for insurance, maintenance,
and gas for our cars,

and if you kind of calculate that
annually and divide it by 12,

it comes out to $650.
CAR EXPENSES $650

In terms of student loans,

we actually don't have any student
loans, so we're happy about that.

For food and groceries,
we spend $450 a month.
GROCERIES $450

For our gym membership,
we spend $120 a month.
GYM $120

For restaurants and entertainment,
we spend $377 a month.
RESTAURANTS & ENTERTAINMENT $377

Another line item is just
for miscellaneous expenses,

like Amazon books and clothing.

That comes up to about $300 a month.
MISCELLANEOUS $300

Although it could be a lot less if we
just used our library subscription

to get more books, rather
than getting them from Amazon.

That's probably true.
I do buy a lot of books on Amazon.

After you take out
all of our expenses,

we have 9,339 left,

and from that, we take $1,000,

and we contribute it
to our vacation fund each year.
VACATION FUND $1000

Normally,
we take two international trips

and one or two
domestic trips each year.

We try to travel pretty frugally.

Traveling is one
of our great passions.

We've gone to Europe,
we've gone to Asia,

and we've gone to South America.

After that,
the vacation fund is taken out,

we have $8,339 left.
-$8300

Over the years, we've already
built up an emergency fund

of one year's worth of expenses.

Now, all of this money is going into

very low-cost investments.
INVESTMENTS  ̴ $8300

Investing was really something
I had to learn on my own.

I'm from a first generation
immigrant family,

and when I was a child, we were just
trying to keep our heads above water.

There really wasn't as much
of a focus on investing

and building wealth for the future.

Once I went to business school,

and I saw what a lot
of my classmates were doing,

I started reading
a lot of literature on it.

I think one of my biggest regrets

is that I didn't invest
for a very long time,

so I feel like a lot of millennials
think this way, because

we had the recession in 2001,

and then we also had
another recession in 2007,

so they came pretty
quickly after one another,

so I think a lot of my generation
holds off on investing,

and unfortunately, I did that as well.

I really wish that
I had maxed out my 401(k)s

to their annual limit in my early 20s

so that I could've seen
those gains compound over time.

I wish I had participated
in my employer’s stock purchase plan

and gotten these discounted stocks.

I think those are
the biggest things I learned.