My unremarkable path to becoming a product manager

The note I wrote the first day I found out about product management.

The note I wrote the first day I found out about product management.

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.

The fateful YouTube video where I accidentally learned about product management.

Becoming a PMMark Rabo