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A Day in the Life of a Curriculum Product Manager at IK

Posted on 
January 23, 2024
Team Interview Kickstart
A Day in the Life of a Curriculum Product Manager at IK

At Interview Kickstart, we aim to ensure that our students (our customers), particularly software engineers, have access to a well-structured, high-quality, interview-focused curriculum. Alongside, we're also passionate about ensuring that everyone involved in developing the curriculum experiences an enduring professional learning curve. 

Along with 500+ FAANG instructors, coaches, and subject matter experts who contribute to building IK’s world-class curriculum, we also have a team of Curriculum Product Managers at IK who: 

  1. Spearhead the launch of new courses, 
  2. Develop the curriculum, from design to implementation and 
  3. Work on continuous enhancement of this curriculum. 

Let's dive deeper into the role of a Curriculum Product Manager (CPM) at IK. 

Developing a curriculum for top-of-the-pyramid Software Engineers in the world

Since our inception in 2014, we've had a mix of learners in the US — from freshers with one year of coding experience to engineering managers with over 15 years of experience. When we craft our curriculum, we ensure that it's challenging for even the most experienced batch of learners who are at L6+ levels.

To be able to create such a curriculum, our CPMs need to:

  • Have an excellent grasp of the latest technologies
  • Be hands-on with the demands of tech roles in top companies, and
  • Be fully aware of the nuances of the curriculum required to crack the toughest tech interviews 
  • Use extensive research as building blocks to design the curriculum outline 

When Vartika Rai, Curriculum Product Manager, Interview Kickstart, has to develop the curriculum for a specific course, she has to:  

  1. Sketch an outline of the potential topics for the course 
  2. Understand, in depth, the technical needs of the role in each of the top-tier companies based on what these companies are developing within their engineering teams
  3. Study the growth of the role within different top tech companies based on their industry

To do this, Vartika has to conduct extensive research by speaking with technical experts who work for FAANG companies, followed by strong secondary research. 

Crafting an interview-focused curriculum with uplevelling as the cornerstone

Once the curriculum outline is ready, the CPM collaborates with in-house SMEs to develop the content from the ground up.

Manu Gupta is the CPM for IK's Data Science and Machine Learning domain. While building an interview-focused curriculum for an uplevelling course (not just an upskilling course), he is required to go into the technical depths of the domain, always keeping the "interview angle" in mind.

Manu has to create a world-class curriculum that appeals to tech professionals already working in Data Science and Machine Learning or adjacent domains with 5-15 years of experience. This includes the development of technical concepts, interview questions, assignments, capstone projects, timed tests, practice questions, and so much more. 

CPM is an extremely exciting role, in addition to being challenging. A CPM is forced to think creatively to set our curriculum apart. 

He / she needs to work on the continuous improvement of the curriculum with a focus on the evolution of roles and interviews in top companies

To make sure our curriculum is up-to-date, our CPMs are constantly collecting feedback from learners on the following: 

  1. The impact of the course on their interview prep and final job offers 
  2. The relevance of the curriculum with actual questions asked in the interview

Dr. Aarush Mohit Mittal, CPM for the Machine Learning course at IK, regularly talks to our alums to understand: 

  1. How their team structures have evolved, 
  2. How that impacts new openings, 
  3. How roles and responsibilities have changed over time, and
  4. What effect these have on our existing curriculum

He also spends a significant amount of time speaking to mentors and SMEs in Machine Learning to understand new trends and developments and makes necessary updates to the Machine Learning Curriculum of IK. 

In doing so, the learning on the job of a CPM is extremely high. IK gives CPMs the stage and opportunity to interact and learn from highly experienced and qualified tech professionals. 

What it takes to be a successful CPM at IK

To develop a curriculum that's so fiercely technical, we hire talent like Vartika, Manu, and Dr. Mittal, who have:

  1. A very high learning index to understand developments and advancements in a domain
  2. A deep understanding of the mentoring journey of an instructor while they deliver the curriculum
  3. Exceptional communication skills, empathy, and a high emotional quotient while engaging with subject matter experts to craft content for the curriculum 

In addition to this, we have two critical attributes that we index while hiring for the CPM role at IK:

1. A few years of experience working as an engineer or a product manager 

When we hire a CPM for Systems domains such as Site Reliability Engineering, Cloud Engineering, or Embedded Systems, we expect the right candidate to have experience in at least one of these domains. Candidates who have such experience will be able to:

  1. Ask the right set of questions to our SMEs and comprehend the information shared by the expert 
  2. Understand what the interview questions are and what concepts one should know to answer these questions
  3. Understand the on-the-job responsibilities of the role 

Some of IK's CPMs have worked as engineers in the past, transitioned into Technical Product Manager roles, and are now working with us. We love hiring Product Managers with software development experience because we see several similarities between a TPM and a CPM at IK. Both roles require understanding the customer, their pain points, socio-economic backgrounds, daily schedule, expectations from the product, and so much more. 

However, a CPM role is slightly more challenging. In a conventional tech product, PMs are required to get the user to engage with the brand and the product, pay for the product, and use it to achieve a goal. On the other hand, IK CPMs not only ask users to pay for the product but also ask them to commit 15-20 hours a week to learn everything within the product to achieve their outcome of uplevelling. 

CPMs need to put in a lot of cognitive effort to build a great product that keeps learners engaged for so many hours a week, for 6-8 months, during the course. 

2. A passion for teaching and education 

The foundation of the CPM role at IK is built on one's ability to talk to learners to understand their concerns with finding their dream job and curating and crafting powerful courses to help them uplevel. Such capability is only possible to develop with an innate passion for teaching. 

One trait that's common among our CPMs is that they want to make an impact on the lives of other tech professionals and help them uplevel. 

We also see that most of our successful CPMs have excellent educational credentials and outstanding higher education performances. Dr. Mittal, for example, is a Doctoral Student of IIT Kanpur and has worked with the institute as a teaching assistant and mentor in the counseling wing.  

One can only have a passion for education when they have had a good education themselves and appreciate the value it has added to their life.