Transition to a Product Role with ZERO experience — Part 2
This is the continuation of the series of transitioning to a Product role from any background with zero product experience. You have made small steps towards your journey and have started doing some product management tasks, reading books, engaging with the product communities around you. Now in this part, we take the next step, of building a portfolio to create value.
You have a pretty good idea now about Product Management and if becoming a Product Manager is the right fit for you! You have done some initial research, spoken to your product person at the organization you work at. You have done some of the things that I have explained here. Or you have made your recipe on how to conquer this transition from your background to Product Management.
The question is now, how do you level up your product management skills?
Once I had an initial phase set, I wanted to create some value for myself. How can I raise the stakes and convince people even without any substantial experience, that I want to be a Product Manager? How do I make sure this passion comes across the table to my counterparts?
I started to do a few things
- Product Management Courses: Basic Product Management concepts are something you can learn in a class setup. They provide you with the concepts to see how product management is done (at least the initial steps). You can then use the learnings to get into a role to gain experience, connect with product people and learn from mentors. I have written more about how to do a product management certificate and if it’s worth your time including what value it can provide. You can read that here.
- Side Projects: I did many small side projects to build my portfolio. When I was introduced to Product Management, what amazed me and brought me closer to network and connect with product people was the community in Toronto, Canada. Now when I moved from Canada to Linz, Austria, I somehow missed that. I saw that Linz has a great ecosystem of organizations with great product people and leaders working to solve business-critical problems. So, what I did next provided me so much value that you’ll be amazed! I founded and organized Product Tank Linz via Mind the Product. The community has grown from merely 5 people to 75 people in exactly one year. This gave me a chance to reach out to product leaders and pioneers for being guest speakers for the Linz community. And most importantly I was able to network, learn from different product experiences and anecdotes.
- Freelance Roles: I worked multiple roles as a Junior/ Associate PM as a Freelancer for startups and Product consultant organizations. This definitely wasn’t easy, since I was working long working days. After 8 hour workdays, I was putting between 4–5 hours to work in a PM role to gain experience and to level up. This provided me the opportunity to work on many interesting products and problem space. It gave me confidence in my product management skills and most importantly it made me realize that this transition is a learning process.
I recently gave a couple of talks when about my journey of transitioning from a Software Engineer to a Product Manager role. I was asked which of these three helped me create the most value to get a product manager role.
The answer is all three! The courses gave me perspective and basic knowledge around product management practice and frameworks. Building a community helped me to connect with people and learn from experienced product people. Freelance roles were pivotal for me to actually work on real-life problems and collaborate with cross-functional teams. These multiple roles and side projects helped me build the core PM skills which I have experienced in Part-1.
This process took some time. Doing product management is hard. But if you have the passion for it, you are curious to learn, you are adaptive, and can evolve with the changing trends and disruptions, then these value nuggets or opportunities that I have explained will help you to level up your product management skills.
Everyone is unique. This process from a complete transition took me 14 months. I know many product peers who have done it faster. But you need to realize what works best for you. You need to carve your own path, your own recipe to help you transition successfully to a Product Manager role.
I call this, the “Discovery” Process. You discovered Product Management. From Part-1 and Part-2, you have made steps towards starting somewhere in your journey. You have stepped up and created some value for yourself, doing multiple things, projects, podcasts, communities, etc., the list can go on forever. Once you are at a point where now you can leverage your hard work and feel confident in your PM skills, you can start interviewing for product roles! That is a challenge of its own. That will come in Part-3, the final blog for this series!
Till then, take care and happy learning! :)