I studied Computer Science at the University of Notre Dame during undergrad, which gave me the technical background and understanding. I then started working at Deloitte Tech Consulting for a couple of years. Afterward, I went to the logistics startup for four years, where I worked in operations for the first two and a half, then moved to product. More recently, I took a position as a Product Manager at a startup in Los Angeles.
In my opinion, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to becoming a product manager; most come from different backgrounds. I know people who have transitioned from investing, design consulting, etc.
I previously worked on the Product team for a Logistics startup. Their focus was connecting shippers with truckers through efficient technology intermediaries. For instance, Wal Mart might need someone to help them move their goods, and our company's technology would assist with this process.
My role was to charge customers correctly, as well as pay truckers their accurate earnings regularly. While this might sound relatively simple, charges become difficult due to inconsistent contracts and costs due to unexpected fees in-transit. Ultimately, I had to prioritize the problems for us to tackle, position my cross-functional team to execute, then began development to address the issues.
I love learning. Being a PM allows you to speak to many different types of people, which gives you a lot of new perspectives and ideas. The pace of learning is fast, but it’s okay if you don’t know as much as the people you meet. For example, you get a free pass to sit with the president of the company or any other stakeholder that might be interesting. I also like the ability to deliver tangible results through new interfaces.
Sometimes you’ll be sitting in on these meetings, and you’ll be way out of your technical depth. It’s essential to find ways to add value to people who are much smarter than you are. Recently, I was having a conversation with a data scientist who created NumPy. I had to continually articulate the scope of my knowledge so that we don’t waste time discussing things where I can’t add value.
Be resilient. You’re going to meet tough stakeholders. You’re going to encounter tough business situations. And you might regularly experience ‘imposter syndrome” or get intimidated by people in tech.
Secondly, expect to work long hours. Unfortunately, most PMs tend to be achievers, and this particular role seems to be on the high end in terms of hours required. Working 60 hours a week is pretty typical, and I see this as the norm for the future.
Before anyone tries to become a Product Manager, I highly recommend that you have a lot of conversations with people currently in this role. It’s crucial to build your knowledge from many different sources because the position requires you to be great at collaboration. Come with an opinion, come with an idea, but be ready to change it.
When I think about it, there are four core skill sets you’re going to need to be an effective product manager, and you will most likely need to be very competent in one or two of them to be successful. Those are:
Eye for design
Operational project management
Analytics and metrics
If you want to go into a PM role straight out of college or transition from a current job, I recommend executing projects that cultivate these skills. Secondly, try and think deeply about your real interests, which of those skillsets you enjoy. Once you understand which aspects you prefer, it will help guide you to the type of company you’ll ultimately want to work for long-term.
I don’t see the PM role going anywhere. Demand is increasing because it helps tech companies build better products, and the number of tech companies is only going up. I see this role evolving and becoming much more standardized within most companies, but it’s going to look very different depending on the type of company and culture present.
I see a lot of growth potential. In two years, I’d like to be a product manager managing reports. I want to be a PM leading a product line in five years, but I don’t see myself being in a PM role forever with how demanding and mentally taxing it is. Being a PM provides you with a lot of broad skill sets, so it would be easy to transition into a new role once I’m ready. I see a lot of potential options.