My name's Neil and I'm a Senior Product Manager at Onfido which is a company that does remote identity verification and background checking. I started my career wanting to be a videogames programmer so I did Computer Science at University, and then as a Masters, and I got my first job at Playstation as a Developer Support Engineer providing third party video game developers with help using our SDKs and any problems that they had.
I really enjoyed that job, but I found that the the thing I really enjoyed about it was talking to developers and finding out what problems they had with our SDK, and being an advocate for those developers when helping other people work out what the future development of our platform should be. And I found that I wasn't as passionate about the engineering side of things as other people around me, and I feel like software engineering's one of those jobs that unless you're the most passionate person about it you're never going to be a fantastic engineer.
Ao I started steering my career more towards the side of gathering feedback, listening to customers and just generally being an advocate for doing whatever it is that they need to do their jobs better, and from that position I just started doing more and more Product Management. I moved on to developing what we call non game applications at PlayStation so video streaming apps, social networking apps, and things like that, and then after a stint doing that I moved back to games and I was on a team that was building web services for PlayStation Network.
And then after seven years or so there I joined Onfido to try something completely new and do the startup thing which was quite an exciting thing to do after working for a giant corporation for a long time.
Why would you recommend Product Management as a career?
A lot of people describe Product Management as being like the CEO of the product, so it's a fun way to try being a CEO without having any of the stress. It's great to have direct control over the future development of how something is made and working out what the most important things to deliver are, and finding ways to deliver as much value to customers as possible.
What do you look for when recruiting Product Managers?
I think the main thing is really strong communication skills and the ability to zoom in on the detailed level of something and get really ingrained into being a perfectionist at the detailed level, but also being able to zoom out and see the bigger picture. And then beyond that, depending on the role, sometimes a technical background helps but I don't think it's essential. It depends entirely on what kind of product it is and also if people have experience with different software development methodologies, or have participated in any kind of software development process before, I think that's a really big help.
What advice would you offer someone considering a career in Product Management?
I think getting involved with different Product Management communities is really important. Recently I've benefited a lot from different Slack communities I've joined. Just talking to different Product Managers and seeing what kind of problems they're solving. Attending events is great. Beyond that I think just reading up a lot about the different methodologies that people use and staying quite current in both the technical side of how software is delivered in a modern environment is really helpful, but on the other side of that keeping yourself very aware of what's happening in the wider tech industry and different trends and different emerging markets and things like that I think helps a lot.