Adi's FAQ

People often ask me about my story and my journey in tech, so I thought I’d answer some of the most commonly-asked questions here.

My Background

What made you decide to study Computer Science at Cornell? Did you consider other fields before landing on that? What made you decide on tech? When did you realize you wanted to become a Product Manager?

At first, I didn’t think I’d study computer science. When I was in high school, I was really interested in medicine – I was intrigued by how clinical empathy could improve patient’s satisfaction of care and motivate them to stick to their treatment plans. I decided to attend Cornell because I felt it had a strong pre-medical program and would allow me to explore my other interests (like business/strategic thinking).

When I got to college, I started getting involved in the entrepreneurship community and joined the sales team at Speare, a Cornell startup that built analytics tech for news publishers. I quickly realized that I loved talking to customers about what products they were currently using, what their biggest pain points were, and how they were bridging that gap right now. I took this feedback to the team and started influencing the product direction – thinking about and building new features, iteratively testing them with customers, and managing this growth was addicting.

That’s when I first realized what I was passionate about: empathizing with a person (whether that be a customer, patient, or user) and developing a solution to fit their needs. I found that studying computer science allowed me to keep exploring this interest, learn about technology, and understand how products are built – so, I ended up majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Business.

At what point did you start applying to tech jobs? Did you always know you wanted to work in tech?

I’ve been applying to jobs in tech since freshmen year. As I mentioned above, I started out at Speare and working on their SaaS platform. After dipping my toes into the startup world, I became curious about building my own products.

At first, I worked on an idea to build a peer-to-peer food delivery service called Belle Delivery. It was an “Uber for food” before Uber Eats was launched. Going through the process of designing and building an MVP, hiring a team to help grow the business, and then ultimately shutting down (for legal and logistical issues) helped me understand how to get a project off the ground.

I leveraged this experience to help both entrepreneurs and local businesses build and optimize their software products – I spent the next three years building my company, Belle Applications, which did exactly this.

I used this experience to get my foot in the door and help me break into product roles. During my junior year, I applied for tech and business strategy roles at tech and finance companies. Ultimately, it came down to getting a strong offer from Microsoft and hearing great things about the internship program from friends. With internships, you don’t usually get that long of a window to respond before the offer expires, so I took the Microsoft offer as I really liked the people I had met while interviewing there.

When did you realize you wanted to become a Product Manager full-time?

So, the internship offer I accepted at Microsoft turned out to be a rather open-ended experience. I was extremely lucky to have been assigned to a summer project that required 6 weeks of program management work and 6 weeks of software engineering work. Microsoft tries hard to match you with projects they think you will be interested in and excited by based on what they learned about you during the interviews. Because I had pitched a lot of product side strategies and discussed the technical implementation during my interviews, I was given this PM + SWE project.

Over the course of that summer, I started to realize that although I was used to figuring out and implementing the technical details (from classes in college), I really enjoyed influencing the product strategy and working to ensure we build what customers wanted. I ended up absolutely loving my time at Microsoft as this was my first real experience as a PM at a big company. After that, I knew I wanted to be a product manager.

Being a Program Manager at Microsoft

Why did you go back to Microsoft?

As I mentioned above, I really enjoyed my internship experience at Microsoft. I really like the Program Manager role at Microsoft because it allows you to own both the strategy and execution of products you work on.

Microsoft's new culture shift (under Satya’s leadership) has made it a priority to be very customer focused and build products that customers will love. I think this role is very unique because in the day to day I am able to handle the business management (owing the P&L, forming partnerships, negotiating with vendors, developing marketing channels) and also focus on product development (making technical product decisions with engineers, understanding customer needs and product positioning, analyzing telemetry data and running A/B tests). I am totally not biased because I work here 😊

How do you like being a Program Manager at Microsoft?

I love it. It’s an amazing feeling getting to help shape products that literally millions of people use. Plus, you get to work with some of the most brilliant people in the world and get delicious local food. If you ever visit the Microsoft’s Redmond campus, I highly recommend going to In.gredients (gourmet, seasonal 3-course fixed price meals that rotate every three weeks in Building 34).

What’s a day in the life like as a PM?

Essentially, what I do as a PM is work to create a product vision for whatever we are trying to accomplish. Usually, we look to what people are doing on our platform organically and then ask ourselves how we can make it better/easier to do. So a lot of my job is strategizing and coming up with a vision. Then, I get feedback from my team and try to get buy-in from everyone around the core vision and goal. After we are aligned on goals and high level strategy, we start thinking actual product solutions.

As the PM, I get work with designers to think through what the flow of whatever we are trying to build should look like. Then I work with engineers to actually build it and work with data scientists to understand how the product is doing, marketing managers to effectively communicate the product, and product lawyers to avoid going to jail 😛

Can you refer me to Microsoft?

No, sorry, I am only allowed to refer people I have personally worked with in the past.

My Advice for Breaking into Tech

How did you hone your resume / applications to be as competitive as possible?

I tried to highlight relevant experiences I had – previous experiences and projects that showed I had the necessary skillsets to be successful in tech (eg. being scrappy, resourceful, opportunistic, etc).

Did you do any networking to get to where you are now?

I did network. Essentially, I would reach out cold to people who currently had a job I wanted via LinkedIn. People are actually more receptive to a 15 minute chat with a stranger than you might think. The key to getting people to be willing to chat with you is really personalizing the message to why you want to talk that particular person rather than why you want to chat with someone with their job. For instance, if you mention that you and your perspective conversation partner both went to the same school, majored in the same subject, or worked in the same industry previously and you wanted to learn how those experiences helped prepare them for their current role, that would be much more effective in getting a response. You can expect someone with a competitive job gets several messages daily asking to chat. I currently get hundreds of messages a week and I don’t have time respond to everyone so I respond to the people who have done a good job articulating why they want to chat with me specifically. Make sure your message isn’t a generic mass sent copy and paste if you want people to make time in their busy schedule to chat with you.

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What's the biggest misconception in tech?

The dirty little secret is for most tech jobs, you don’t need to know how to code. (Obviously, software engineering roles are an exception to that.)

Most roles in marketing, finance, sales, strategy & operations, etc. don’t require a computer science education. At many companies, including Microsoft where I work, you don’t even need a computer science degree for product manager roles where you work with software engineers every day to create the vision for amazing products.

However, there’s a difference between being “technical” and being a software engineer. I think being technical is really important and I define that as understanding how technology works at a high level and essentially speaking the language of engineers.

A friend of mine recently wrote a Medium article about how he was able to reverse engineer the API of the popular dating app Coffee Meets Bagel and sniff the network traffic and to find a lot of sensitive information was being sent from the server to the client unencrypted. Being “technical” in my opinion means you understood what I just said, even if you have no idea how to reverse engineer an API yourself. The thing is, the engineers will do the actual coding so you don’t need to know “the how” but you do need to understand the what’s and the why’s—especially if you want to be a Product Manager.

Way back when, I actually spent a good half an hour searching on Amazon for a book that would help give me a high level overview of the tech concepts I needed to know to excel at interviews and better understand the technical implications when making business strategy decisions in the tech industry. I found that nothing like that existed. The information I sought was scattered across the web, written with various of levels of presumed knowledge. Although there are hundreds of books to teach beginners to code, I found nothing to help me better understand the underlying technology concepts. So with the help of a couple friends (PMs at Google and Facebook), I decided to write a book that contained just that to better help people interested in working on the business side of tech understand things like how google search actually works or the business rationale behind why Amazon changes product prices 2.5 million times a day.

What's the key to getting tech jobs without a technical background / what's your best advice for business students / other non-comp sci students interested in working in tech?

I think the high level understanding I had of tech really helped me in my interviews at Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc. For example, if you are applying for a non-software engineering role at Google, you most likely won’t be asked to explain how Google’s ad targeting algorithm works. But they might ask you how you could increase ad revenue from a particular market segment. If you know how Google's ad platform works, you'll be in a far stronger position to come up with good growth strategies.

I actually recently co-authored a book with what I think are core tech and business strategy concepts from my startup experience and time at Microsoft.

I don’t think you need to know how to code to work in tech, however it is extremely difficult to get offers without having a high level understanding of how technology you use everyday actually works under the hood.

Amazon product link for Swipe To Unlock

You didn’t answer my question above.

Email your question to and I will try to add it to this page if it’s a common request.

What can I do if I still really want to have a 20 minute phone call to pick your brain on something not covered above?

I’ll trade you my thoughts for yours. If you read my book, Swipe to Unlock, I’ll make time to chat with you. Write a review on Amazon and send the review URL to the email address above or message it to me on LinkedIn. We literally update the book every two month, since we genuinely want to make it as good as possible 😊