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  • Writer's pictureJay Thandi

How to change career path into Product Management

Updated: Mar 15, 2023


Are you looking to change career path to Product Management?


So you want to get into Product Management, but the pre-requisite is anywhere from 1 – 3 years of experience… Experience that you don’t have right now, because the roles that you need in order to build the experience, all want someone with experience. Sound familiar?


We often hear this kind of frustration from candidates, and it’s a common theme. But how does one break through this cycle? We reached out to our network, and asked some Senior Product Management professionals what their experience has been like, and how they approach hiring for their own teams.


Which roles can evolve into Product Management?


There are a number of sectors that involve transferable skills that lend themselves to Product Management, including Marketing, Operations, E-commerce, Data and Analytics, to name a few.


Nick Falkowski, Product Director at Trustpilot shared that “someone with practically any career path can successfully move into Product Management. It is really more about the individual, what motivates and excites them, and the impact they want to have in their professional life…before I worked in Product I worked in a variety of different roles, including things such as sponsorship sales, project management, and as an editor for a technical book publisher. Another great head of product I worked with was previously a solicitor”.


Joe Tarragano, Chief Product Officer at Evri answered that very few people begin their careers within Product Management, but the behaviours, mindset and an ability to learn will help someone transition. He said “Product folks have a broad remit and a wide perspective and set of skills, so if someone comes with some background in any of ‘desirability, viability or feasibility’ that can help, but it’s much more about how they approach the role.”


Another Senior Product Manager we spoke with had a background in data and analytics, UX, marketing and ecommerce. They said it can be difficult to find an entry point, but highlighting where your current role overlaps with the product function and demonstrates that you have transferable skills should make it easier.


So moving from another industry isn’t the issue, but core characteristics does someone need to begin their Product Manager career?


Skills, Behaviours and Experience


Coming from a pathway overlapping with Product Management, would make it easier for hiring manager’s to consider your application, but there are also certain Skills and Behaviours that can really make your application stand out.


Nick states the mindset is key to moving into product management with 4 key traits:

1. Having a genuine interest in customer perspectives and experiences

2. Understanding how businesses make money from addressing their customer’s needs

3. How the business improves addressing these needs

4. Exploring initiatives and approaches that drive excellence


Adapting to an environment of constant learning, validation, and iteration means the job is never done and there is always room for further growth and development.


A Product Manager should have a natural curiosity and willingness to learn, as every business has different requirement and problems to resolve. However one of the obstacles that needs to be overcome is changing your mindset. Working within an Agile environment and focussing on “outcomes over outputs” is what some professionals struggle to adapt to.


Joe elaborates further on this point further stating, “It’s harder if they’ve spent years working in a waterfall way, in a risk averse, hierarchical environment”. People moving in to Product Management careers should be open to failing, know they don’t hold the answers, and are curious & experimental.


Hiring managers are looking for intelligence, energy and curiosity as Product Management can be a demanding career path, but working within a challenging and constantly evolving career path is usually what has attracted someone to explore this career path.


Entry Point


When moving career into Product Management, it can sometimes mean taking a lateral move, or even starting within a more junior position. Senior will be expected to jump straight into the deep end, with little time to adapt.

Before looking to move into the Product Management career path, all the professionals we spoke with recommended, building your knowledge and understanding of Product Management.


Nick recommends doing research and reading to build an understanding of what Product Management involves. He suggests starting with Sprint by Jake Knapp to understand the ideation process and how product approaches can help solve key customer and business problems. The second book he recommends is Agile Product Management with SCRUM by Roman Pichler for a better understanding of the technical process, key roles, and ceremonies involved in Product development.


Another Product Manager completed a Product Management course with General Assembly.


Joe mentioned courses such as “MindTheProduct”, “Product Talk” and “Product That Counts”. He recommends people to read books about Product Management and listen to podcasts, but not to get hung up on theory. He says many professionals struggle to marry the “theory with the practical realities of how to get things done. So don’t be too evangelical & dogmatic and always stay pragmatic”.


Summary


There is a high demand for Product professionals now across all levels in the UK as businesses look to drive digital innovation, but it is a competitive career path to enter.


Before embarking on this career journey, we would recommend looking at building a deep understanding of what Product Management is through reading books, listening to podcast and undertaking a qualification.


Employers are looking for traits such as curiosity, adaptability, a continuous improvement mindset and more. It is easier moving in a more junior product position and work your way up, as the role (and mindset) are different from other business units that approach projects with a simple Success or Failure.


Looking to start or progress further within your Product Management career? You can register with us here and speak with one of our Recruitment Consultants who can offer free advice on how to improve your CV and help in your job search.


Looking to hire for your Product Team? You can contact us here.



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