I'm Jess, and I work as a Product Manager at Hire Space, which is a startup that helps people find venues for events, and I started there three years ago working on the Sales team. About a year in I then became Product Owner, so sort of doing day-to-day activities like user testing, day to day problem solving, and prioritisation. And then about eight months after that, so last year in March, I became Product Manager taking ownership and responsibility of all of the websites and starting to do more long term business impact and strategy work as well as continuing design and working with the software engineers.
Why would you recommend Product Management as a career?
I would recommend Product Management based on, I think, if you like people essentially then Product Management is the perfect job because there's kind of two aspects of people in Product Management. There is the surprising and delighting the users, and that's not just solving problems for users, it's solving frustrations for them. Because they're real people at the end of the computer. So rather than thinking about it in terms of solving problems, then it is solving frustrations.
So, for example, a venue manager at Hire Space sitting in their office and looking at the calendar thinking "I've got two weeks completely empty". That's not just a problem, that's a person who has a frustration that needs solving. And so the great thing about Product Management is that you get to use your problem solving skills and project management skills to really help someone.
And then the second bit is working with a team of great people who can problem solve in lots of different ways. So you get to work with Marketing, and Software Engineers, and CEOs, who all think in completely different ways. And so the fun bit, the bit that I'm really passionate about, is linking up all those problem-solving capabilities to solve people's frustrations.
What do you look for when recruiting Product Managers?
I think we look for Product Management in kind of roughly four different areas. So we're looking for people who can do root cause analysis on problems. So identifying what are just symptoms of an underlying deeper problem and what is the problem itself. So you make sure you're solving the right thing and not wasting time.
And then I think the ability also to communicate with lots of different people, and the ability to lead which I think often boils down to being able to create and share a vision so people know where they're going. So all the different people that you're working with know exactly what part they're playing in achieving this vision. And so also that you know when you have achieved it, or not.
So I think those two, the root cause analysis, and the people skills. And then the last two would probably be, one being bold and being prepared to take risks, and ask silly questions and then kind of a fourth one which I don't think is spoken about enough of being humble. And so making sure you're not taking too big a risk. So you're balancing that out, and being able to easily say actually this isn't working, let's try something else.
What advice would you offer someone considering a career in Product Management?
For anyone considering a career in Product Management, firstly they're lucky that they know what Product Management is and so can consider the career! I would say if you are not currently in a role that is connected to anyone doing Product Management at the moment, start building those connections by asking lots of questions.
So if you say are working within a company at the moment that has a software engineering team then just walk into them and ask them. Or if you are a student or graduate, then starting to learn more about the industry, and starting to make contact with people in the industry so you can ask them lots of questions. And roles such as researcher, or customer, or community support, are great roles that give you the kind of experience in the digital realm that will develop your skills which you can then start building and moving into Product Management.
But it's lucky, because it is a role that requires knowledge of so many different disciplines that you're not particularly at any advantage or disadvantage no matter which background you come from.