Looking for advice on how to pursue a career in product management? Look no further. 

RedCat Digital sat down with Carlos Silva – a previous VP of Product at Jinn to get his expert tips and career advice for life as a product manager.

Some background on Carlos: before life as a product manager, he worked at consultancy firms Accenture, Deloitte and EY – meaning that he came to product management with a fresh perspective. After working at Jinn, he’s since been at a number of payments companies, most recently Flyt.number 

Without further ado, here’s the condensed version of his top tips:

Shift your mindset

There is a fundamental mind shift required if you’re switching careers from a job like consulting. As a consultant, your job is to help a specific client, either through advising them on a strategy or through delivering a project to achieve a concrete goal. But as a product manager, you have to solve a problem for an entire market, otherwise, your product will not succeed. Being aware of this distinction, and then dealing with it, is essential in a product management role.

Do your research

First, do your research. That means reading newsletters, going to events, reading blog posts and relevant media and importantly, speaking to people in the industry.

That leads on to the second point: use your network. If you’re coming from a different career, it can be hard to justify you as a hire, from an employer’s perspective. One good way of making that justification easier is if you have someone you know vouching for you. That worked for Carlos, who was able to demonstrate knowledge and passion for product management in interviews and was offered a job. That means network + doing your research = results.

Third: have a side project. When Carlos was still working as a consultant, he started working on a side project with the intention of bringing a product to life – which eventually became the Connector app. No matter how small the project, don’t underestimate what you can learn from it.

Working at a startup

Processes are different at a startup compared to big corporate companies – and there is often less support. Carlos found, for instance, that when he was hiring at Accenture, he was given training and there was a formal HR process, which was later not the case at Jinn. 

The important thing is accepting “good enough” and focusing on the main aim. In a startup, you are really trying to match a product and/or service with a market, and you’re not sure whether that will be successful. Your focus needs to be on achieving that success. For everything else, take it to a level where it is “good enough” and move on. There will be time to have a second pass from “good enough” to “high standard” when and if the business survives.

Dealing with the C-suite

If you’re a product manager, there’s a chance you’ll deal with the C-suite, which can be interesting and challenging in equal measure. Here are Carlos’s tips on dealing with the top bosses:

First, be comfortable with “not knowing”. Planning sessions with CxOs can be very intense and in many cases, you will be making decisions that are based on incomplete or estimated information. You need to be comfortable telling CxOs that you don’t know the answer to something and you are basing your decisions on a certain rationale rather than complete data.

Second, learn to deal with disagreements. Different members of the C-suite have different priorities and so will clash.  These disagreements are frequent and they are healthy – only through debating the issue will you get to the best decision – but they do require a good amount of stakeholder management experience to deal with. That’s a skill you should try to learn.

Motivating a team

Rule number one when moving into an executive or leadership role is that you must stop being a product manager. As a product manager, you are passionate about your product, the vision, the roadmap, but when you step up to manage a product management team, you need to be more focused on your team. 

There are some overarching themes that can help – you want each member of your team to have autonomy, mastery and purpose. But on a more pragmatic level, things like frequent one-to-ones, team retrospective meetings and periodic career planning, will all help keep your team motivated.

The best thing about product management…

… the variety means there’s never a dull day.

 

Follow the link to read the full interview.

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