Investment banker turned startup product manager – tips from someone who’s made the switch

Investment banker turned startup product manager?  It’s a very unique career path, and I was grateful to have the chance to interview Rishi Dosaj to learn about how he made that move.  He also shares a great networking tip at the end of the post, which is really helpful if you’re trying to build a network in another city.  I hope you enjoy the interview.  –John 

I don’t often run into people who became a startup product manager after a career in investment banking.  What steps did you take to make the transition and what was the single most effective tactic you used? 

The single most effective tactic is to be able to clearly articulate how the day-to-day activities of investment banking are similar to that of a product manager.

Investment banking builds a foundation around managing projects and people, making decisions with imperfect data, financial modeling, building presentations, and having a mindset that quality is non-negotiable.  All of these skills are highly relevant and critical to being a success product manager.

What’s your favorite product management interview question and why ?

“Tell me about a new technology/product/website you’ve recently discovered and how you can make it better?”  This question demonstrates two fundamental points: 1) you follow new technologies and 2) you believe that there is always room for improvement.

What skills from investment banking most strongly contribute to your success as a startup product manager?

I’d have to say my experience managing people and projects under strict deadlines and challenging work environments. Additionally, being able to make decisions, building financial models that can clearly support business cases, and presenting the data in an effective manner.

You went to grad school in Tennessee but were able to build a great network on the West Coast while you were there.  How did you go about it?

The key element in building a network is to recognize that nothing trumps an in-person meeting.

As I would reach out to alumni and various contacts that I made through friends, LinkedIn, and essentially any connection, I always tried my best to meet that person face-to-face.

For example, even if I didn’t have a trip planned out West, I would reach out to contacts and tell them that I’d be in town for a “friend’s wedding”, or other “meeting”, and I wanted to try and meet them for coffee while I was in town. It’s important not to make it appear as a “special” trip, but just that you will “happen to be in the area”.

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Rishi Dosaj

Rishi Dosaj

Senior Product Manager
Rishi works as a Senior Product Manager developing software-defined storage platform for cloud and big data environments at a Silicon Valley startup. Earlier in his career, he was an associate within the Technology Investment Banking group at Deutsche Bank, where he worked on high profile transactions like the acquisition of Force 10 Networks by Dell and the IPO of Proofpoint.
Rishi Dosaj

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