Where’s the dev manager?”But it turned out he was technical and understood the business.
Interesting, I thought… what is this role exactly?Side note for those that haven’t worked at Microsoft.
Program management is product management.
The discipline started there when other tech companies had product marketing and product management as a single person.
Microsoft was the first to split them up.
The first to have someone completely focused on what we should build, why, and a little bit of how.
And they call it “program management”.
In 2001, I got a call from a friend who used to be at Apple with me and whose company (WebTV) had been bought by Microsoft.
“Sari,” he said, “we need program managers here and I thought of you.
”He knew, before I did, that I was a PM.
Even though we had both spent most of our careers at Apple where they didn’t exist.
I joined the team (leaving a ton of Apple stock behind, whoops…).
My friend left for Google shortly thereafter.
But I had found my calling from a discipline perspective and never looked back.
Final Thoughts and Some AdviceMy story is one of someone who is a PM at heart and found her way to it organically.
So my first question for you is exactly that:Are you a PM at heart?Look hard at why you want to be a PM.
It’s hard to understand what the role is if you aren’t already doing it, so how do you know?.Why are you drawn to it?.Read some of my other blogs.
Are you sure?Are you doing the job already?.Without the title?If you are in an engineering, project, program, or design role today and you don’t have a PM, who is doing the work of the PM?.The work — defining the product, driving things forward, being the catalyst for hard decisions getting made — has to get done.
If it’s you, and it’s your favorite part of your job, then that’s a good sign it’s the right role for you.
It’s also how you can pitch yourself in an interview.
Try it where you are.
If you do have a PM, ask them if you can help in some way.
Most PMs are going to jump at the chance because they are overwhelmed with work.
Yes, you’ll have to do it in addition to your day job.
Making the switch in your current organization is what I recommend, if at all possible.
You already know the product and the technology and that is a tremendous help.
Let your PM leader know you are interested.
Find out what they look for.
Ask for ideas for how you can practice the skills required or prove you have them.
Take a class.
Get some training.
There are a bunch of product management classes you can take.
I’m not going to recommend any particular one.
The main thing a class will help with is getting you exposed to what the role is and give you some vocabulary.
And show hiring managers that you care enough to devote time and energy.
It will also extend your network.
Speaking of network… What I don’t think helps all that much is “networking”.
What I mean by that is attending networking events, meetups, or conferences.
The relationships you start there may help you in a couple of years if you nurture them.
But they won’t help anytime soon.
Use your network.
I do think your existing network can help.
That’s how I landed my first PM role without really even intending to.
Someone thinking of you as a great option is the best way to get any job, including PM.
So let your existing network know you want to make the switch.
And no, I don’t know a short cut to building a good network ????.
I sincerely hope you find your way to being a PM and love it as much as I do.