Transitioning to Product Management From ANY Background
Product Managers are more diverse than ever!
So you’ve decided that you want to be a Product Manager. That’s great! The problem is, you’ve never worked in product before and you’ve got no idea where to start.
We’ve heard the expression ‘all roads lead to Rome.’ Well, many paths lead to product. Products are built for everyone, so they need to be built by everyone. Having a variety of perspectives, and a variety of strengths and weaknesses actually builds up a product team.
This is a space for you to explore and share advice on how you can leverge a variety of disciplines that can set you up for success as a Product Manager from any industry and role.
We want to get you started! Check out our deep dive here
Hi! I’ve read this blog post before and there are a lot of helpful pieces of information and tips. Thank you!
Being that I founded and grew a business over the past 10 years, I don’t have the ability to make a lateral move within a current company or shadow a PM team, obviously!
I’m also not in the financial position to enroll in a PM certification course (note: I believe education is one of the most-valuable investments, but unfortunately right now it’s just not an option for me).
What’s been equally motivating as well as frustrating is that while I have a vast amount of transferable PM skills as a SBO, it’s been difficult to show that on a resume in such a way that it won’t be passed up by ATS or hiring managers. I would do so much better chatting my resume out!
I know I’m not alone in saying/feeling this, but it’s difficult having my resume represent me and all that I’ve accomplished… and all that I CAN accomplish in a new career at a place I passionately want to work at. Because that’s the thing, I truly want to transition into the world of Product, working with amazing, like-minded people on a product I am passionate about, that brings value to people’s lives.
The saying, “don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” just came to my mind. Again, I want to reiterate that a resume does serve an important purpose–I’m simply sharing the irony of companies looking for PMs with vast backgrounds, yet seem to bring on PMs with PM-related backgrounds. This is just my lens, but it is what I’m seeing/hearing as I approach my 5th month of looking for a PM role. I’m realistically optimistic, though, and hope I prove myself wrong!
The Product School has been an incredible community, I truly mean that. From the resources to the people, I’m beyond thankful :-).
Thanks for sharing with the community @Jessica breaking into product is quite the journey and you’re absolutely not alone here.
Often times it’s how you leverage the roles and skills you’ve built in your career versus the title or organization you worked at. Similar to your background, Prachi Mishra, Product Leader at Booking.com gave this nugget of advice that might resonate with you:
Getting experience in dealing with stakeholders, resolving conflicts, negotiating and moving forward, creating strategies with the available leads, etc. are skills that come with experience. If you have been a founder, your best skills could be analytics, OKRs, commercial goals, and operating on lean principles. - Prachi Mishra, Product Leader at Booking.com
Another great way to showcase and leverage your skills as an entrepreneur is to create your own Product Management portfolio and show off what you’ve built. The key tip here is to experiment with it, as any good PM would do!
Best of luck and the Product School community is here to help you to not only help you find your way in but nail the role of your dreams.
Thank you so much for this reply!
I can provide some information on how my transition went. I was a former lawyer (I was working with both corporate law and digital law).
I think the best way to transition is to recognize your skill kit. What I mean by that is what Soft Skills + Hard Skills you can bring.
For example, as a former lawyer, I have great stakeholder management as well as documenting skills and schedule management. I lacked a lot of technical skills from UX to programming.
What I did was treat myself as a product, my background was the assets I had already built and could leverage, while I still needed a lot to build the MVP.
My first goal was to shift my mindset, I learned BPMN to figure out a way to visually see how things were moving.
After that, I found that I lacked project skills, so I learned Agile (which could be any other framework, but this is the most used one).
Doing my agile studies I figured out what I would have to actually do, so I made notes on what hard skills I’d need. The next step was to learn Design (Figma is a life-saver) and UX.
Now I’m on a path to learning to program, so I’m playing around with a game called Light Bot to learn how to think like a dev and I’m also playing around with Python which is a very friendly programming language that can be used to further learn data analysis later on.
TL:DR - Figure out what hard skills and soft skills you have and build a “product roadmap” for yourself.
I recently wrote an article on that, analyzing how my experience in HR prepared me for Product, as there are several skills that are easily portable.
Of course, my experience also includes being a developer, designer and Project Manager. It was quite a while ago, but I did help clients and internal team build products, so that’s something I can definitely leverage.
Another thing that can help is to look at whatever you have done from the perspective of product, and describe it that way. It can help showcase your expertise, and it will definitely help you understand some of those product concepts you’ve been reading about, by anchoring them to actual things you’ve done.