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...
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.
To me the question here is about pivoting out of a Product Career. I am also in Product at a technology company and I do struggle without having that tangible "skillset' that gives me that foundational selling point to someone else.
One thing to remember - there are also disadvantages to being pigeon-holed by specific skillset. For example - someone who is really good at SQL or Tableau.....is stuck to a very small windows of careers that require this. Product is a skillset that gives you a framework of thinking cross many industries.
If you are set on wanting tangible skillsets I would suggest the following:
1. What do you do today that you find yourself getting lost in and enjoy doing it
2. Get some certifications in those skillsets
3. Network to find careers with those skillsets.
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!
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.
I want to +1 Caren's answer and some of the others; Product Managers can have incredible impact on a business. It's all about finding and pursuing the right opportunities, taking calculated risks that benefit the users/customers/business, and being inspiring and effective.
What were the concerns that you have and that other PMs shared with you? That could help us ease your worries. :-)
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.