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Interned at Google as a Product Manager and wonder switching my career role

Interned at Google and a couple of startups and realized that product management framework isn't something tangible where it's not an essential skillset needed in a startup. I'd like to be a person who's absolutely needed with tangible skill sets.

Talked with a few product managers who've gone to director levels, who shared their concerns about the job potential themselves.

I value roles that create a direct impact on the business such as software engineers, UX designers, and sales. Unfortunately, I don't want to pursue any of those roles.

How do I solve my dilemma where I want to have tangible skill sets with direct impact but don't want to take on those three roles? It's a tough problem to solve, and please share your thoughts...

#career, #design, #product

Hi Jessica, did you enjoy the job/work of being a product manager though? Also, do you only want to work in start ups? Dexter Arver

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Caren’s Answer

Have you considered whether supporting a different type of product would be more satisfying? Good product managers have a big impact on a product's success, because you're responsible for stakeholdering and bringing various groups together to develop and launch. Perhaps hardware or consumer products, being of a more tangible nature than software, would be interesting. To that end, industrial design and human factors have a direct impact on products, customers, and revenue generation. If you're thinking about corporate bottom lines, then other roles also contribute, such as Procurement or Supply Chain. You will need a good understanding of the business/group that you are representing, knowledge of the industry, and excellent ability to communicate in writing and orally, and to read and negotiate contracts. Supply Chain is a broad area with interesting specialties, and contributes directly to the bottom line, corporate social responsibility, and sustainability.

Thank you so much. That sounds like a very good opportunity. jessica P.

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Abigael’s Answer

I echo Caren's answer in saying that finding a product or service that you like makes a big difference in the role(s) you'll take on with it. Finding something that aligns with your interests will give you an extra source of motivation; you may not start out in a position that you naturally gravitate towards but, over time, might find room to move horizontally (and not just vertically - promotion-wise) to get closer to a position that you enjoy with more tangible skills.

If you want to stay in tech, from my current experience, there's also UX research which involves usability testing (a tangible skill which involves interacting directly with people - your users), analyses (quantitative and qualitative), and some type of summary writing (briefs, reports, lists, etc.) and presentations (usually to your team or your department). In bigger companies, you're more likely to find a dedicated role towards UX research whereas, in smaller companies like startups, you may have to wear more hats and do both UX research and design.

What I've found really helpful as an emerging professional so far is to be open to different opportunities (i.e. your first job may not be your dream job) and see the growth and possibilities in each one. For example, my time as an instructional designer (another role that may interest you) is helping me in my current role as an Experience Design Intern at Autodesk as I think about different ways that people effectively learn new software.

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Alexandra’s Answer

It is completely fair to want a job where you have "tangible" skills. There are many such careers. If you are a medical or engineering professional, for example, or a scientist, you certainly have to have specific education and skills. The same applies to many other professions, though. Professional musicians and dancers have skills that others cannot easily replicate. The same goes for lawyers and accountants.

I am just wondering what type of area of work you find attractive. You don't have to stay in tech either.

If you do want to stay in tech, but you are not interested in software engineering, design and sales, how about another field that is relevant to the tech industry? Maybe linguistics, data analytics or statistics? There are some interesting degrees out there in the realm of psychology, too, for example: Human-Computer Interaction.

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Lilia’s Answer

Jessica, it is a great question and you are not alone in your journey in finding the career path that will make you happy!
Strategically you would like to get the first full-time job that serves as a springboard for your career.
I would start listing what you like about your product management experience, what you do not like about it, what would an ideal FIRST position offer you and what would you like to LEARN there, what you can tolerate, and what you can not tolerate. There are many hugely impactful roles that include business development, operations, product operations, marketing, sales, recruiting. No matter what path you chose, I would suggest to reflect on the following:
- what type of people you would like to be around?
- what corporate culture and dynamics are you looking for?
- what are your main strengths? what do you naturally do better than others?
- would you like in your first job to get exposure to many different roles & functions? (many companies offer rotation programs for fresh graduates)
- how important is the compensation level for the first year? for the first 5 years?
- do you love travel? would you like to have an opportunity to travel the world when COVID is over?
The answers to these questions will help you to decide where would you like to go.

And one more point -- continuously build your professional network. Nevermind what company you join first and what role you take, the network will help you to get where you want to be.

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Judi’s Answer

In my experience the product manager role can be vastly different across companies, size of companies, products and industries. In large companies the role can be so matrixed and distanced from the hands-on use of the product that it can be difficult to feel like you are making a difference. In small companies the role is more tactical where the product manager may be doing everything from gathering requirements, marketing research, acceptance testing, presenting to their board of directors and playing a key role in keeping the trains running on time with Product releases, client implementations and closing sales. You mentioned you interned for Google and startups. I’m wondering if the mix of product and company size was the right fit for you?

One way you can develop skills that are more tangible is to zero in on any one of these areas mentioned above and become certified. For example you can become a certified product marketing manager and focus on your marketing skills (Pragmatic Marketing). Or become more knowledgeable about Agile Product delivery by becoming SAFe certified. Employers look for people with these specific certifications because they deliver specific skills.

I hope this was helpful!