APM Program Overview

Nisha Masharani, APM Class of 2015, Mountain View

Hi, I’m Nisha, and I’m an APM alumnus at Google. I started at Google in August 2015, and I’ve worked on a few teams, including the Android Essentials team, which builds apps like the clock and calculator apps on Android phones, and the Health Search team, which provides high-quality curated results about symptoms, conditions, and treatments on Google Search.
When I talk with people about the APM program, there are a few questions that come up frequently. I always answered those questions with my perspective, but I wanted to know what other people at Google thought. So, I did some sleuthing and came up with answers to some of those questions.

Why does the Google APM program exist?
Once upon a time, in 2002, Google knew we needed product managers to help figure out what the company’s “next big things” would be. Traditional product managers in the industry were often highly experienced, with business degrees, and had established ways of doing things that were different than Google's culture. As an engineering-driven company, however, Google needed PMs with a technical background, who could work with engineers, designers, and other functions to figure out, creatively and collaboratively, what teams should do next.

At the time, Google's first woman engineer, Marissa Mayer, had transitioned to a product management role. She thought that she could hire the right product managers for Google. So, she made a bet with Jonathan Rosenberg, who ran product at Google at the time, that she could hire and train new product managers faster than he could hire product managers from the industry. She started hiring new and recent graduates who could be Google engineers, but who had an interest in product strategy and design as well. She gave them products to manage, provided them some mentorship, and without any further training, she let them loose on the company. And thus, the APM program was born!

In my experience, Google leaders value the APM program because it allows them to develop strong leaders from scratch, within the company. I’ve seen senior leaders invest in me and my fellow APMs by becoming mentors, providing feedback, or even just spending time with us. That investment is reflected in the highest ranks of leadership as well: Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google and Alphabet board member, once told Steven Levy, journalist for Wired Magazine, that he imagines that an APM will become the eventual CEO of the company.

How has the Google APM program changed since its inception in 2002?
The APM program has stayed the same in a lot of ways since its inception. However, there have also been lots of changes. A few key changes include:

  • Program size: I started as an APM in 2015, and in my year we had about 44 APMs. The first class was only seven APMs, so it’s grown a lot! The classes after mine have been about the same size as mine (45/year) even as Google has grown. For me, the small class size was great because I could get to know everyone, we were able to build a pretty strong community, and every one of us was able to get individualized attention and support.

  • More mentorship: When I joined the APM program, I was given three mentors: (1) an alumni advisor, who is a seasoned PM who used to be in the APM program; (2) a buddy, who was an APM a year above me; and (3) one-on-one sessions with a management coach. I’ve also participated in a self-organized APM lean in circle, and APMs will often self-organize other forms of peer mentorship and feedback as well.

  • APM trips: As an APM, there were two types of educational trips on which I went: 1) The APM Trip, where we visited four different cities around the world to learn about successful products, technology in different markets, understanding local users, and learning how to build products for a global user base. The trip has grown since its inception, going from one city in its first year to four cities across two weeks. 2) APM Mini-trips started a few years ago. On these trips, we visit a city within the US to learn more about an industry or area that we’re curious about. For example, my first year, I went on a trip to St. Louis to learn about agriculture tech!

  • Different locations: Google is a global company, with many offices around the world. However, we only have APMs in a few of those offices, because having a strong PM community and substantial PM roles is so important to being a successful APM. We currently have APMs in Mountain View, San Francisco, New York, London, Zurich, Sydney, and Tokyo.
    Throughout the APM program, the program collects feedback from us on what works and what doesn’t work. I’ve seen lots of changes in the program, even during my three years at Google!

What do APMs like about the APM program?
The APM program provides lots of benefits to participants, but there are some that stand out. Based on my conversations with APMs, these are the things APMs love most:

  • APMs love the APM community: The APM community is one of the key benefits of the APM program. APMs are given lots of opportunities to bond with their class, the most notable of which is the two-week APM trip. In my experience, there’s nothing like travelling around the world to bond people together!

  • APMs feel valued: APMs are treated like full Google PMs by their teams and leadership, and APMs I talked to said this was one of their favorite parts of the program. Part of this is due to the internal reputation of the APM program, but most of this, it seems, is due to the strength of individual APMs. APMs deliver, and therefore, they’re respected and treated like every other PM.

  • APMs feel supported: APMs that I talked to mentioned the strength of their mentorship network as a huge benefit of the program. The program assigns APMs with several mentors, but in my experience, my informal mentorship relationships are also critical to my learning and happiness.

  • APMs get large scope: APMs are often given ownership of projects that are large and complex. This sounds intimidating, but most of the APMs I spoke with loved this complexity, and were excited about working on hard problems!
    In my experience, another key benefit of the APM program is the size of the network. Since the APM program is the oldest of its kind (it’s been going since 2002!), there are hundreds of APM alumni throughout the world, and they’re often willing to chat with APMs and other APM alumni. Even in my day-to-day job at Google, I seem to meet APMs and APM alumni all the time, and if I have a question or need to learn something new, I can always find an APM who can help me.

What do Googlers think about the APM program?
APMs are known within Google to be scrappy, to have strong executional skills, and as empathetic product leaders. When I meet new PMs (or engineers or designers or …) and mention to them that I joined Google via the APM program, they often say something like “oh, I hear APMs are awesome!” (which is always a bit embarrassing).

PM and engineering leaders throughout Google know that APMs are high-quality PMs, and they often try to get them on their teams. Leaders like Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google), Jonathan Rosenberg (senior vice president of Product Management at Alphabet), and Eric Schmidt (former CEO of Google and Alphabet board member) are huge sponsors of the program as well.

Why is Google a great place to be an APM?
There are a couple of things that I love about being an APM at Google:

  • It is hard to get bored at Google. The company is huge and works on many amazing technologies (such as Gmail, YouTube, Search, Android, and more). Google is also a community, with lots of opportunities for socialization and “extracurriculars,” such as volunteering, teaching, and learning.

  • Google hires amazing people. When I asked Brian Rakowski (the first APM and executive sponsor of the APM program) why Google is a great place to be an APM, he said that Google is awesome because “if you’re interested in anything, one of the world’s experts on it is probably at Google.” For example, when I was learning about how users search for health information on Google Search, I was able to find several world-class public health experts at Alphabet!

  • We get to focus on the user. Google has a culture of prioritizing excellence and user needs. APMs get to focus on building for the user and their needs, and are rewarded for doing so.

APM Program Overview

Nisha Masharani, APM Class of 2015, Mountain View

Hi, I’m Nisha, and I’m an APM alumnus at Google. I started at Google in August 2015, and I’ve worked on a few teams, including the Android Essentials team, which builds apps like the clock and calculator apps on Android phones, and the Health Search team, which provides high-quality curated results about symptoms, conditions, and treatments on Google Search.
When I talk with people about the APM program, there are a few questions that come up frequently. I always answered those questions with my perspective, but I wanted to know what other people at Google thought. So, I did some sleuthing and came up with answers to some of those questions.

Why does the Google APM program exist?
Once upon a time, in 2002, Google knew we needed product managers to help figure out what the company’s “next big things” would be. Traditional product managers in the industry were often highly experienced, with business degrees, and had established ways of doing things that were different than Google's culture. As an engineering-driven company, however, Google needed PMs with a technical background, who could work with engineers, designers, and other functions to figure out, creatively and collaboratively, what teams should do next.

At the time, Google's first woman engineer, Marissa Mayer, had transitioned to a product management role. She thought that she could hire the right product managers for Google. So, she made a bet with Jonathan Rosenberg, who ran product at Google at the time, that she could hire and train new product managers faster than he could hire product managers from the industry. She started hiring new and recent graduates who could be Google engineers, but who had an interest in product strategy and design as well. She gave them products to manage, provided them some mentorship, and without any further training, she let them loose on the company. And thus, the APM program was born!

In my experience, Google leaders value the APM program because it allows them to develop strong leaders from scratch, within the company. I’ve seen senior leaders invest in me and my fellow APMs by becoming mentors, providing feedback, or even just spending time with us. That investment is reflected in the highest ranks of leadership as well: Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google and Alphabet board member, once told Steven Levy, journalist for Wired Magazine, that he imagines that an APM will become the eventual CEO of the company.

How has the Google APM program changed since its inception in 2002?
The APM program has stayed the same in a lot of ways since its inception. However, there have also been lots of changes. A few key changes include:

  • Program size: I started as an APM in 2015, and in my year we had about 44 APMs. The first class was only seven APMs, so it’s grown a lot! The classes after mine have been about the same size as mine (45/year) even as Google has grown. For me, the small class size was great because I could get to know everyone, we were able to build a pretty strong community, and every one of us was able to get individualized attention and support.

  • More mentorship: When I joined the APM program, I was given three mentors: (1) an alumni advisor, who is a seasoned PM who used to be in the APM program; (2) a buddy, who was an APM a year above me; and (3) one-on-one sessions with a management coach. I’ve also participated in a self-organized APM lean in circle, and APMs will often self-organize other forms of peer mentorship and feedback as well.

  • APM trips: As an APM, there were two types of educational trips on which I went: 1) The APM Trip, where we visited four different cities around the world to learn about successful products, technology in different markets, understanding local users, and learning how to build products for a global user base. The trip has grown since its inception, going from one city in its first year to four cities across two weeks. 2) APM Mini-trips started a few years ago. On these trips, we visit a city within the US to learn more about an industry or area that we’re curious about. For example, my first year, I went on a trip to St. Louis to learn about agriculture tech!

  • Different locations: Google is a global company, with many offices around the world. However, we only have APMs in a few of those offices, because having a strong PM community and substantial PM roles is so important to being a successful APM. We currently have APMs in Mountain View, San Francisco, New York, London, Zurich, Sydney, and Tokyo.
    Throughout the APM program, the program collects feedback from us on what works and what doesn’t work. I’ve seen lots of changes in the program, even during my three years at Google!

What do APMs like about the APM program?
The APM program provides lots of benefits to participants, but there are some that stand out. Based on my conversations with APMs, these are the things APMs love most:

  • APMs love the APM community: The APM community is one of the key benefits of the APM program. APMs are given lots of opportunities to bond with their class, the most notable of which is the two-week APM trip. In my experience, there’s nothing like travelling around the world to bond people together!

  • APMs feel valued: APMs are treated like full Google PMs by their teams and leadership, and APMs I talked to said this was one of their favorite parts of the program. Part of this is due to the internal reputation of the APM program, but most of this, it seems, is due to the strength of individual APMs. APMs deliver, and therefore, they’re respected and treated like every other PM.

  • APMs feel supported: APMs that I talked to mentioned the strength of their mentorship network as a huge benefit of the program. The program assigns APMs with several mentors, but in my experience, my informal mentorship relationships are also critical to my learning and happiness.

  • APMs get large scope: APMs are often given ownership of projects that are large and complex. This sounds intimidating, but most of the APMs I spoke with loved this complexity, and were excited about working on hard problems!
    In my experience, another key benefit of the APM program is the size of the network. Since the APM program is the oldest of its kind (it’s been going since 2002!), there are hundreds of APM alumni throughout the world, and they’re often willing to chat with APMs and other APM alumni. Even in my day-to-day job at Google, I seem to meet APMs and APM alumni all the time, and if I have a question or need to learn something new, I can always find an APM who can help me.

What do Googlers think about the APM program?
APMs are known within Google to be scrappy, to have strong executional skills, and as empathetic product leaders. When I meet new PMs (or engineers or designers or …) and mention to them that I joined Google via the APM program, they often say something like “oh, I hear APMs are awesome!” (which is always a bit embarrassing).

PM and engineering leaders throughout Google know that APMs are high-quality PMs, and they often try to get them on their teams. Leaders like Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google), Jonathan Rosenberg (senior vice president of Product Management at Alphabet), and Eric Schmidt (former CEO of Google and Alphabet board member) are huge sponsors of the program as well.

Why is Google a great place to be an APM?
There are a couple of things that I love about being an APM at Google:

  • It is hard to get bored at Google. The company is huge and works on many amazing technologies (such as Gmail, YouTube, Search, Android, and more). Google is also a community, with lots of opportunities for socialization and “extracurriculars,” such as volunteering, teaching, and learning.

  • Google hires amazing people. When I asked Brian Rakowski (the first APM and executive sponsor of the APM program) why Google is a great place to be an APM, he said that Google is awesome because “if you’re interested in anything, one of the world’s experts on it is probably at Google.” For example, when I was learning about how users search for health information on Google Search, I was able to find several world-class public health experts at Alphabet!

  • We get to focus on the user. Google has a culture of prioritizing excellence and user needs. APMs get to focus on building for the user and their needs, and are rewarded for doing so.