Your Best Stories on Breaking into Product
In product management, we focus a lot on storytelling and sharing ideas, thoughts, strategies. And in our community, it’s no different. That’s why we reached out to everyone to hear their best stories of how and why they became a PM.
The product people we meet always have a ton to say, and we love hearing from them, so Sara, our community manager, sent a message to get folks talking.
Here are a few of the great ones.
From Engineer Graduate to PayPal to Product Manager
“I joined PayPal fresh out of college as an engineer. During my three years as engineer, I worked on diverse technologies, programming languages but always felt that I can add more value by setting in the vision for the product we were working upon. I actively interacted with designers and developer and I think it was a more of mental transformation towards Product Management.
When the opportunity to become a Product Manager came, I applied. My previous Product Manager chipped in for me. Relationships do help! So 6 intense round of interviews and a lot of screening later, I landed a job as a Product Manager. I was supposed to lead a Product which had several stakeholders, external vendors to manage and an engineering team which was much more senior to me in terms of experience. A lot of people doubted I would ever survive or win the team’s respect owing to my age and experience.
It was tough in the beginning but my team and bosses were very supportive. It was just second week of my job and I was part of contract negotiations with third parties and even before I could properly settle I had the whole P&L sheet of the product in front of me. I worked 12 to 14 hours per day initially to understand the business in and out. I worked hard to bring a lot of clarity and good vision in front of the team and where we want to take the Product.
I started talking to each of my engineers to understand their aspirations, get their feedback and views about how we are doing as a team and what we can do better. I did a lot of thinking, laid out vision, action plan to achieve that, anticipated road blockers well in advance and jumped to remove them ahead of time.
8 months fast forward – I got promoted, got love, respect and have laid out a great plan for the team to work upon. Our product gained some good visibility within the organization and we are planning to launch in new markets.
I think what worked for me was passion. The role did stretch me initially but amidst all those hectic moments, I always felt belonged. This gave me the required passion and motivation to work, innovate and dream the future of the product. An inspired vision motivates everyone to put in extra. :)”
Product School Alumni on the Magical Path to Product
“@sara: Product School grad still working on the transition, but the decision came about when I decided to move on from development, tried to start a project/company spending a bunch of time writing a bunch of code on my Linux box to find that I had no idea what the difference was between a curious clump of disjointed project code and a “product.” (You mean people aren’t going to automagically come see my awesome gizmo if I just build it?)
So, I went to Product School to learn that, spent some time to learn the PDLC, went back to a dev role at a consumer-facing company, and now I’m looking to take my weird i18n/l10n skills, design eye, and long experience to product.
Going into PS, the only thing I knew about marketing, for example, was how to spell “marketing.” Somehow, I doubted that was enough.
Now, I know how to spell “marketing” AND “conversion”!”
The Inspirational Traveler and Co-Founder
“Like a large number of my peers, I went to engineering school for my undergrad because I was decent at science. But from day 1 at college, I knew I hated it. I still pushed myself to graduate but I knew I would be miserable working as an engineer at a tech firm.
Soon after college, I joined forces with an acquaintance and Co-founded a travel company called Awesome Possum Explorers. We weren’t aiming to become a big corporation but rather to explore a new territory we found interesting. It was an experiment to see how far we could go.
We were both avid backpackers but knew nothing about running a business. It was pretty frustrating in the beginning, but eventually, we each found our groove. I ended up taking responsibility for understanding the customer needs, setting the vision and laying out this vision in front of our team. I became obsessed with business strategy and read every book that I could get my hands on. Richard Branson’s autobiography is my favorite even now. Without realizing it, I had taken on the role of the Product Manager.
After three years and 25 profitable tours, I decided that I wanted to work with Product Managers who were working at a global level. I handed over the reigns to my business partner and applied to business schools in the US. I received a full scholarship from NC State University and I am now in my second semester. I am trying hard to leverage my experience to get an internship in the Silicon Valley.
Looking back, I can’t put into words how thankful I am that I never did the responsible thing and take up an engineering job. It’s been such a roller-coaster and I wouldn’t change a single thing.”
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