Today, May 24, 2023, we commemorate World Product Day and celebrate product managers all over the world who are building amazing products that are transforming how we live and do life.
For me, it is a day worth celebrating as this year makes it 3 years since I fully transitioned from software development to product management.
As we celebrate and commemorate, I thought to document how I transitioned into product management (PM) and share it with you.
Reminiscing on my PM experience so far, having practiced PM both in banks and currently at a startup, I’ve definitely experienced product management and development from different perspectives, and in retrospect, I’m glad I made the switch to product management.
Before we go too deep into my story, let me share a little history about World Product Day.
World Product Day was not instituted until recently, the first ever to be observed was on May 23, 2018, and since then, it has been observed in May of each year. This is kind of interesting cos even though product management has been in practice for some decades now, it didn’t become so popular until the end of the 20th century and I would even say the past decade.
I remember stumbling upon the idea of Product Management when I started looking for career options to transition to. I was more aware of Project Management and Business Analysis than I was of Product Management. Now, look who is now very ingrained into the PM world.
So, let’s talk about how I transitioned into Product Management, some of the options I considered, some of the steps I took, and how it has been to date.
2015 – 2020
In 2015, shortly after graduating from Uni, I got my first job as a Software Development Graduate Trainee in a tech company in Lagos. Over the course of the next 5 years, I would work with different firms growing as a Software Developer, building web applications and APIs mostly with .NET Technologies.
During these years, I discovered several other sides of me, including the one that founded a volunteering organization and ran it for a few years, the one that blogged, the one that organized events, etc. So, while I worked as a software developer, I was mostly known by my friends as Esthitude the Blogger or Esthitude the Volunteer, or Mivida Mama, mostly because I talked little about the main work that I do.
What these experiences did for me, was to understand that as much as I loved to write codes, I also love to document, and interface with people. And as I reviewed my career goals and discussed them with my mentor and bosses, I realized that I didn’t just want to sit behind the computer writing codes, I also wanted to meet with people and understand the business of technology. All of this began to happen sometime in 2019.
After concluding that a transition from software development was inevitable, the next question was ‘What’s next?‘ and ‘Where to?‘
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I looked out for career options in tech that interfaced people, processes, business, and tech and I found a number that interfaced some areas including Business Process Management, Business Analysis, Scrum Master, (Enterprise) Solution Architecture, Product Management/Product Owner, I even considered Data Analysis.
After a series of talking to my then bosses, discussing with my mentor, signing up for a WIMBIZ Mentoring Program, getting certified in Business Analysis, and taking courses on Product Management, I began playing the role of business analyst in my team while still working as a software developer. Shortly after this, a restructuring took place in my organization and because my bosses already knew of my desire to transition, I was able to move from software development to technical product management within the same company.
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Ever since I transitioned to product management, I’ve grown both internally (known to me and my circle), and externally (known to the public).
One of my strengths is fast learnability: I have applied this in several of the jobs I’ve worked at, and it has also been relevant in my product management career. Having PMed both in banks and in a startup, I’ve had to learn and relearn communication, tools, and even PM style/way of work.
I had my fair share of rejections when I was trying to transition, thankfully, it worked out that I could transition within my company, and since then, I have PMed at other companies, trained women on product management, spoken at several events about product management and the products we are building at my org, and also won awards while at it.
For me, product management is not an end in itself, it is a means to learn how to build the right products, think critically, build my decision-making skills, and be better at communication and people management.
To be honest, it’s been an interesting journey with days where I would cry and question my decision and days where I’d be sure that I’m on the right part. I’m blessed to have had amazing colleagues, bosses, and friends who have made the journey what it is today and I’m excited about all that is still in store.
Some Lessons Learned
Here is a summary of some of the lessons I’ve learned on this journey:
- As a product manager, you need to understand the basics of product development and management. As you grow in your role, your deliverables may change; and they may even differ based on the industry you find yourself in, but with an understanding of the basics, you are good to get started.
- Remain a learner. There will always be a new tool, or a new style of doing PM work. Not all companies will do daily standup, not everyone will use Jira, you may need to learn how to write SQL or how to use Notion or Coda, so, open your heart to learn. Read books, take courses, read product newsletters, or listen to product podcasts like Product Thinking by Melissa Peri, Lenny’s Podcast, or The Product Podcast.
- Rejections are not necessarily personal. Your first break into PM may be heralded by several rejections. Don’t let these stop you from pursuing your goals: hone your craft, refine your CV/portfolio, join communities, and keep applying. Your YES is on the way.
- Sharing is a great way to retain knowledge. This applies to all areas of life. Find people to share your knowledge with; it could be with peers or with aspiring PMs, this will help to deepen the knowledge you have.
Are you a product manager? How are you celebrating World Product Day today?
Well, if you are not one, celebrate the PMS that you know.