June 15th, 2020Ethan Ding

Fireside with Facebook Product Specialist Caitlyn Lubas

A Quick Bio

Caitlyn's LinkedIn

During this week's fireside chat, our co-founder Nick spoke to Caitlyn Lubas, a 2020 graduate of NYU Stern School of Business. Caitlyn studied Global Business and Marketing and is an incoming product specialist at Facebook. While in school, Caitlyn did two semesters abroad in Singapore and Florence, Italy, and attended other international experience programs in Ghana, Abu Dhabi, and Lima, Peru. She has also worked as a business operations intern at BLADE, a social media intern at IBM, and a product data operations intern at Facebook.

Studying Abroad

Caitlyn’s semesters abroad helped provide her a unique perspective on how the world works. She took advantage of all of the available opportunities that NYU offered to go and experience different cultures. According to her, the most valuable thing she learned from these adventures abroad was the ability to drop into an entirely unfamiliar setting and rapidly build up a network / community of friends. This adaptability helped her pick up the skills she needed in the diverse collection of internships she worked at. It’s helped immensely with her recruiting, since the unique characterization as the “girl who studied abroad a lot” makes it really easy for her profile to stand out to recruiters.

Recruiting at Facebook

As someone without a product management or technical background going into the field of product, the odds were stacked against her during the recruitment process. Especially in the highly competitive landscape of recruiting for PM, Caitlyn emphasizes the need to stand out to recruiters and communicate effectively that the cumulative skills you’ve acquired across your experiences add up to the experience a product manager needs. For example, starting a club, leading a startup or taking initiative to begin anything in your own life demonstrates leadership. Keeping track of meetings and coordinating people in your clubs could demonstrate organization and management skills. Tracking attendance or collecting feedback communicates a metric-focused view of the world, and attempting to improve those metrics embody what a product manager is all about.

Additionally, she also emphasizes the distinction between recruiting for startups vs large tech monoliths like Facebook. At big companies, recruiters don’t have the time to parse through thousands of applications and rely on an automated resume screening process called application tracking systems. Caitlyn’s pretty sure her edge, despite applying without a referral, came from her tailoring her resume to include the key words specific to the job description she was applying to, since those would scored well by the automated keyword scanner. Of course, these tricks only get you past the resume screens, when it comes to the interview, you’ll need to do your homework. For that, Caitlyn recommends product management newsletters, Decode and Conquer by Lewis C. Lin, and Cracking the PM Interview by Gayle McDowell.

Takeaways:

  • If you don’t have past experience in product, find the qualities and skills that you developed in past experiences which relate to being a product manager, and communicate that you’ve picked up those skills
  • Find key words in product focused job postings and incorporate those keywords into your resume
  • Read Decode and Conquer by Lewis C. Lin and Cracking the PM Interview by Gayle McDowell
  • Dive into the world of product, through newsletter, slack communities, Facebook groups, etc.
  • Understand frameworks when it comes to interviews, for example the CIRCLES method

As a Product Specialist

Her experience as a product specialist at Facebook stands in stark contrast to past positions she held as social media intern and business development intern. She loves how her role allows her to see the results of her work, instead of working on marketing a product that was built by others. Being a product specialist allows her to work on a product team which sits between engineering, business and user experience. Caitlyn describes a key aspect of her role as “having empathy for the end user”, since it’s her job to now figure out what to build!

Caitlyn’s approach to professional development has been one of trying things out. She’s bounced around several different roles in order to find out what she does and doesn’t like and advises everyone to do the same. As Nick points out, this isn’t the conventional path seen in finance or software engineering, where people are expected to demonstrate their passion for their discipline by interning consistently in those fields to prove their commitment to their craft. But true to form, the role of product specialist is seen as a stepping stone career for Caitlyn to try out which direction she wants to go to next, whether it's engineering, user experience, or business. Right now, Caitlyn’s thinking that the world of user experience might be gratifying to go into, but anyone reading should forge their own path based off their experiences.

Takeaways:

  • The role of product specialist is a stepping stone career to try out the different branches of product at a tech company
  • It’s worth exploring different roles to see what kind of career is actually fulfilling, since committing to one before trying everything else out might leave you unfulfilled
  • Being in product means you sit in the intersection between engineering, business, and user experience

Who's Next

Tune in this Thursday for more Fireside Chats with Edith Labs.

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Ethan Ding

Edith Fellow. UC Berkeley IEOR. Incoming PM at Tackle.

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