February 19, 2019

Career Path: Chris Roberts, Product Manager at BCG - Product Business Unit

What do the career path and day-in-the-life look like for a Product Manager at BCG?

We connected with Chris Roberts to find out.

Also, BCG is hiring! Click here for all of the company's job openings.

Where did you go to college and what was your major?  Did you know what you wanted to do upon entering school?

I grew up on Dartmouth’s campus (in rural New Hampshire – my dad was part of the faculty). As a kid, he would bring me around to the engineering research labs so that I could check out the ongoing projects; he hoped it would stoke my interest in the potential of technology. Though I wasn’t quite ready to build solar cars or robotic operating arms, I was inspired to write my first computer program. The program was simple and created a half-dozen pairs of feet that would walk around my dad’s computer. They also had the unfortunate side effect of causing him to lose several major presentations. I took this interest – and some more maturity - and headed to Colby College where I studied economics and computer science. Though I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do upon entering school, I knew that I when I left, I wanted to become part of a start-up that would make a big impact doing something cool in technology.

What was your first job out of college?

My first job out of college was at an early-stage fintech company in Boston that helped hedge funds trade faster and smarter than their competitors. I wore a variety of hats and learned the ropes of how to build software, operate tech companies, interact with clients, and generally hack my way through the weeds of the corporate world. I also learned how big of an impact even the most simple of products could have on clients and how easy it was to disrupt major industry players. It was mesmerizing to me to see this, and I knew I had landed in the right place.

How did your prior experience set you up for success in terms of your current position?

The straight-forward answer is that my time at tech companies taught me the building blocks of product management (how to build software, run products, incubate new ideas, manage cross-functional teams, manage clients, build business plans, build investment theses, manage finances, etc…). The nuanced answer, though, is that my experiences threw me into the deep end of the pool time and time again. Sometimes I succeeded and swam, others I failed and sank (and that’s okay). In the end, though, I started to figure out how to hustle, grind things out and find a solution, and stay positive.

Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your position at BCG’s Product Business Unit?

I am the Product Manager for one of BCG’s major products. This includes making investment case presentations, developing business plans, defining the roadmap, managing economics, crafting marketing collateral, and most importantly, managing client delivery and success. In addition, I also incubate new ideas and work on larger strategic initiatives to expand the team’s reach within the firm and BCG’s impact on its clients. I really enjoy working across a wide variety of companies and use cases across a myriad of industries.

Any tips for someone considering a career in your profession?

My biggest tip to someone considering a career in product management is to embrace their background. There is no traditional product manager; the team is made up of people with a wide variety of experiences (professional and personal). I would also advise people to stay current and curious – inspiration can come from anywhere.

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

Coffee – lots and lots of coffee (always with cream and sugar). I’m trying to get back down to two or three cups a day.

What time do you get into the office?

It varies. On average, I’m usually in the office by around 7:30 AM.

Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?

My team is global – I mean really global. I’m based in Boston, others are based in Miami, more are in Europe, and the final bunch is in India. This means that my hours can be interesting at times. I wake up at 6 AM to quickly check for any urgent emails or Slacks that came up while I was asleep. If nothing is on fire, I will eat breakfast, watch the news with my dog Daisy, then take the Orange Line to work and start planning my day and making task lists of what I need to accomplish. I get into the office around 7:30 AM and dive right into calls and meetings (daily stand-ups, strategic planning sessions, steering committees, case team/client calls, etc…). Then I walk to go get lunch (preferably Sweetgreen) and return to my desk to catch up on emails. When I have time, I always try to get lunch with team members.

In the afternoon, I focus on making sure the gears keep moving. This can range from meeting with case teams and stakeholders to clearing team roadblocks, to ensuring that everything with the product is on track and in good standing. I also take this time to try to figure out how the product can get ahead. Towards the late afternoon, I transition to creating decks and deliverables.

In the evening, I try to head home around 6 PM, spend time with my family, go for a run or play squash, play with my dog, or grab a beer with friends. If I need to, I then wrap up deliverables and prep for the next day.

In your role, what is something that you look forward to every day?

I look forward to working with my team. They are great, fun, and brilliant people who keep me laughing even though sometimes the hours are long. I also look forward to working with world-class clients and traveling to new and exciting work destinations. During my time here, I have been fortunate to visit some pretty amazing places all over the world.

What time do you head out of the office?

I try to wrap up the most pressing things for the day by around 6 PM so that I can relocate home and finish up everything else there.

Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?  

I never really log off. If I end up staying late at the office, I do my best to only respond to urgent emails or Slack with the team.

What is your go-to office snack?

My all-time favorite snack is in the Philadelphia office. They had an ice cream cart come by with hand-made customized ice cream sandwiches (though I think this may have been a special occasion). On a daily basis, I stick to fruit and Baby Bell cheese.

Any productivity hacks?

My favorite productivity hack is to group as many meetings together as possible. It can be exhausting to get through, but you eliminate transition time and can effectively keep meetings shorter. Other favorite hacks include prioritizing exercise to ensure that I can decompress, keeping my cell phones on silent, and doing the hardest things first thing in the morning.

What are the three apps that you can’t live without?

First and foremost is Google Maps – I have an absolutely terrible sense of direction. I also can’t live without Amazon. I try to find ways to maximize my free time, and this keeps me from having to run the vast majority of my errands. Lastly, I heavily rely on Google Tasks. Everything I have to do or think about is in task lists, and the app keeps me organized and ensures that nothing slips through the cracks.

What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?

I would have to say getting hired by BCG. I work with some truly amazing people and clients on some of the coolest projects I could imagine.

Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?

It depends on what the situation requires. If the issue is conceptual and complex in nature, I will go to my dad because topics of this kind are his specialty. If the need is tactical in nature, I will go to my wife. She is a consultant and has a very structured, clear, and concise ways of communicating. I also have a core group of friends and colleagues whom I speak with as well depending on what I’m thinking through at the moment.


Colin Barry is the Content Manager to VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter @ColinKrash.

Images courtesy of Chris Roberts and BCG

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