Product Management Unpacked
How A Product Management Internship Built A Future Career with Home Depot.
“I’m actually a pretty avid DIY-er,” confides Pranita Ramakrishnan, MS of Product Management, Carnegie Mellon University, Class of 2019. “I grew up in a family where if you didn’t take a trip to Home Depot twice a month to get some type of materials for a project, something was wrong.”
When Home Depot came to the Carnegie Mellon campus to interview Product Management intern candidates, Pranita’s interest was piqued. “I think it was the collision of two worlds for me. The merging of childhood memories with this area of product management that I really wanted to explore.”
From Digital Business Integration Consultant to Product Management Student at CMU.
After graduating with a bachelor’s in Information Systems and a minor in HCI, Pranita worked as a Digital Business Integration consultant. “Working up to a product launch was exciting to me, but I always wanted to be on the other side,” she explains, “I knew that I eventually wanted to transition into industry and a product management role.
Pranita was drawn to CMU’s MS in Product Management program because of its emphasis on interdisciplinary perspectives and cross-functional teams. “Knowing how technology and business intersect for greater success felt like a good next step in my career,” she added.
Internship Opportunities Come Knocking.
Each spring, companies like PayPal, GrubHub, Cisco, and Home Depot come to Carnegie Mellon University to recruit interns from the MS in Product Management program. As Director of Product Management for homedepot.com, Aditya Sthanunathan looks for interns who demonstrate the versatility and temperament required to solve ambiguous problems and work well with others.
Aditya says: “if we have the option to hire one outstanding person that has a well-rounded set of skills versus three different people, each of whom have a more specific skill set, I would choose the one person with more versatility.”
Aditya needs product managers who can navigate a large and complex organization, and draw upon diverse data, marketing and technical expertise. People like Pranita, who quickly identified key domain experts with very little guidance.
Pranita was a perfect fit for Home Depot. And vice versa. “I didn’t have much of a background in e-commerce or retail. I wanted to dig into how technology can impact the way customers shop in this space.“
Her internship’s focus on the Collections Experience gave Pranita the experience she wanted. “In a physical store, Collections are created through visual merchandising. But what do our online customers want from Collections? How do we enable projects and purchases in an e-commerce medium? “
These questions drove Pranita’s 10-week internship, which was divided into three parts. First, she dove into quantitative and qualitative research. Then, she led a Design Sprint, a 3- to 5-day session in which multiple individuals from multiple disciplines share perspectives and ideas, and create concept prototypes. Finally, Pranita synthesized the experience, creating actionable insights and a roadmap for the Collections Experience team.
“She impressed me with her ability to talk to the right people and get the right information out of them and figure out how to get from ambiguous problem definition to a set of hypotheses,” Aditya says.
“Pranita showed an ability to test out those hypotheses with internal and external stakeholder groups, and by the end of her internship, she produced specific takeaways that we could implement. Anyone who can add structure to an unstructured problem or shine a light on a possible answer for a question that just seems very complex and very high level is special in my book.”
A Summer Internship Becomes a Product Manager Job
I spent an entire summer working and forming relationships with so many associates across the organization. After experiencing the core values and the culture, I thought, I can visualize myself on this team.
- Pranita Ramakrishnan
In the year since being hired by Home Depot, Pranita has joined a new team, but Aditya continues to track her progress. “I haven’t had the chance to hire her onto my team, but that day will come. She’s continued to impress. She’s taken something that’s very technically complex and demystified it for the organization with flying colors. I get only amazing feedback about her.”
Today, as a Product Manager on the Platform Team, Pranita works with engineering, UX, data science and other teams who want to leverage the platform to improve customer vision and provide a seamless experience. “I support the people who support the customer experience.”
Aditya points out that sales, revenue and expectations have all risen exponentially during the pandemic, as companies like Home Depot met enormous demand. “Everything that’s happened in the last year has only turbocharged anyone who works in product management,” he says. “E-commerce has gained five years worth of share over the course of the past one year. Home improvement in general has seen an even bigger push just because a lot of people are investing in their home.”
“Customer expectations have reached a new plateau,” Aditya says. “New product managers such as Pranita will shape how we deliver against those expectations.”
A DIY-er Comes Full Circle.
As a product manager in e-commerce, Pranita needs to really understand Home Depot’s product. That requires hands-on experience.
“As part of my job, I know how the power tools work. I can install a faucet and a toilet. I’ve gone from being the DIY-er to helping online consumers find the right tools and resources to get their projects done. I’ve come full circle.”
Pranita Ramakrishnan is a 2019 graduate of the Master of Science in Product Management program at Carnegie Mellon University. She received her undergraduate degree in Information Systems with a minor in Human Computer Interaction from CMU as well. Today, she brings a passion for empathetic problem-solving, an unshakable team spirit, and a desire to create strong, seamless consumer experiences to her role as a Product Manager at Home Depot.