And thus I became a product manager!

I became a product manager, not in the most conventional way. I’ve seen a lot of people starting out as product managers after getting their MBA. And another lot of people who were software engineers and later moved to product management, either in the same organization or in a different one. But I jumped into product management without a strong technical background or a solid management education.

My journey of discovering product management

All those years after I finished my schooling, I’ve had active and passive thoughts on what career I would choose going forward, or essentially, what I would become, a few years down the line.

Back then I was really into programming. I could solve all the algorithm challenges in the textbooks, I could easily grasp the logic for any program and most importantly, it never felt like laborious learning when the subject was programming. But as fate would have it, I graduated in Electronics & Communication, and by the time the course got complete, I was 100% sure that I would not enjoy a job in this stream.

I wanted to go back to programming, but I thought I lacked the skills a CS graduate would have. Also, I wanted to try something experimental. So, I joined a Robotics startup, where my role was to develop beginner-level robotic projects to introduce school students to Robotics. I thoroughly enjoyed the job, wished I would have a long career as a STEM educator, but the startup turned out to attract fewer clients, and eventually, I had to move out seeking something more stable.

My next role was again in an Ed-Tech platform, but here I was interacting with customers who would be working professionals, assisting them in Full stack or DevOps projects. This is when I got the chance to work closely with Product Managers who were working on both the platform side and the product side. My role was kind of being the bridge between learners, faculties, and the product. We would be getting direct feedback, we would be understanding what happens in actual training, and we would be knowing if customers wanted something else than what we provide. I was to give these inputs to the product team so that they can act upon them.

At first, I thought the product manager's job was easy. We are the ones doing all the operational stuff to get the feedback and understand what to deliver. They just need to signal a go-ahead. Ahh, silly me!

But as time went by, I understood that there’s a lot more to PMing than what it seemed to others. Like, how I would be giving feedback, they’ll also get feedback from a plethora of other channels. So product managers had to consider a lot more variables and then decide/prioritize just what one feature to build next to provide maximum value. Maybe to the customer, or maybe just to the business.

My stint at the firm for a long time meant my curiosity to try product management became more and more.

Preparation to get a Product Management job

I thought about it deeply. I was already trying product management, maybe unknowingly. While I was building robotic projects in the robotics startup, I was actually owning the product from ideation to implementation to making people work on it and then to get feedback to improve. In the Ed-Tech firm, I was actually always thinking about what we could improve so that learners become happy.

I wanted to try a platform-oriented role since I had a knack for programming and I could easily understand those nuances. I applied for a lot of openings, mostly associate product manager roles since those were the ones matching my experience level.

A lot of preparation went into the job hunt. Two resources that I would want to specially call out are the following books:

  1. Cracking the PM Interview: How to Land a Product Manager Job in Technology
  2. Decode and Conquer: Answers to Product Management Interviews

I’m not going in-depth about the preparation. Basically, it meant reading the above two books. Trust me when I say this, these books have enough information-packed to get anyone through any PM interviews. The only thing that matters is how much we are willing to put effort to synthesize what is given in the books.

My reasoning to try Product Management

Well, this is a question I still do not have a complete answer to. But one thing I’m sure of is that I thoroughly enjoy this role. As said in maybe a million articles or books about product management, it is an amalgamation of business, technology, and user experience. I had a passion for technology, an eye for the user experience and I thought I will learn the business side of it as I go.

Was I right?

I hope so!

I’ll admit that I’m still trying to grasp how business fits into the equation. But I’m definite that I’ve come a long way from what I previously knew.

What should I do next?

Well, one thing I’m damn sure of is that my learning about product management is never going to reach a saturation point. The more I learn about some aspect of it, I realize that a million other aspects to look into, just opened.

I try to read, watch videos, and follow product leaders in an attempt to constantly improve. I’m also, planning to jot down my learnings here as continuous blog posts. Who knows, maybe what I learn might become of help or inspire someone else to explore the wonderful journey of product management.

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Ashik Thomson

Product manager experienced in building B2B products used by niche top level executives.