My unremarkable path to becoming a product manager
On June 11, 2013 I didn't even know what a product manager was – I didn't know the position even existed! That day for whatever reason as I was waiting for a friend, I came across a YouTube video for a game called Racer. Daft Punk had just released 'Random Access Memories’ (which I was into) and one of their collaborators did the music for Racer, so it showed up in my feed. Either way, I clicked it.
Right near the end of the video is a 5 second clip with a woman named Angela Strange. Under her name is her job title "Chrome Mobile PM". I don't know why I noticed it but I did and searched "mobile PM" in Google. What I found blew my mind – I'd discovered a job made just for me… a generalist, jack-of-all-trades, with a bunch of random jobs on my resume. It was a revelation and from that moment on I put all my energy into becoming a PM.
A lot of people ask me how I got my first job with no experience and I have to say it wasn’t anything remarkable – it was standard stuff.
Researching what product management was
Learning the terminology
Understanding the theory and process
Learning what PMs do day-to-day
Messaging friends to see if they knew any PMs I could talk to
Talking to a few PMs
Looking back on my experiences to see how they connected to PMing
Updating my LinkedIn profile to highlight the PM skills
Creating a portfolio
Practicing the PM process with my own ideas
Finding ways to get in front of people hiring
The one thing I didn’t do was apply in through the normal job processes – my resume was a ridiculous random pile of jobs that no one would consider even for a moment. The only way was to get in front of people and explain why they should take a chance on me. (I’ll talk more about the specific tactics in future posts.)
It took a year and a half to get my first PM job and I put in a lot of work, but there were no tricks, no special connections, nothing fancy. Actually, the most important thing was always thinking about how I could play to my strengths and simultaneously acknowledge my weaknesses like not having any experience. In the end it was just time and effort and something anyone could do.