Transitioning Into Product Management? 2 Ways To "Land" Well
Updated: Jan 17, 2021
So you have made the decision to switch to product management. From books to podcasts and forums, you have done the prep, and maybe even worked with a coach to nail your interviews.
Congratulations on your decision! A key decision you need to make is where should you start the product management journey? Should you change companies? Should you apply to open PM jobs in the company? On the same team?
First, if you have a single area that you just absolutely love and want to be part of that movement, go do that. I had someone on my extended team - he just loved Google Maps. When an opening opened up, he dove right in and accepted the opportunity, even though it significantly delayed his next promotion. That is okay. Success is a marathon anyway!
But if you don’t have one clear calling yet, and are more of a generalist evaluating multiple options, I recommend you minimize randomness and let probability work for you by minimizing the change parameters.
Here is what I mean.
Usually a successful product manager has to master or demonstrate excellence on three distinct dimensions:
Product - they need to know the product area (e.g. Google Maps)
Team - every new team, even if within the same company, has its own subculture. You have to build your network. You have to understand how things work and how decisions are made. This is a learning curve for someone new to the team.
Role or Discipline - this is the switch you are making in your function or discipline. For example, you might be switching from being a program manager or a QA professional to product management. You cleared the interviews to get the product manager role, now you have to learn what it takes to be a PM on a daily basis.
If you are one of those folks that is switching into product management within the same company, my recommendation is to keep 2 out of 3 parameters constant to maximize your odds of success. So start your product management career by staying on the same team and product area, and just change your function/discipline to product management. Product Management is not easy. Reducing the rate of change will help you “land” well as a product management. And once you start getting a few successes under your belt, you can evaluate if you want to move to a new product or team instead.
To reiterate, this applies if you consider yourself a generalist and are attracted to multiple roles. This approach is not recommended if your heart is not on the current product you already work in!
I have provided this guidance to many folks I know and it has provided an easier on ramp to product management. Good luck with your journey!
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