How I inadvertently became a PM
I stumbled into the field of product management by accident really.
When I started my university undergrad, I chose a program based on the flexibility it gave me, because I had no clue where I wanted to end up. Many of my friends had their sights set on specific career paths like law or medicine, but I had no specific inclination. I always did well in school because of a constant worry that if I slacked off, I would cut off my opportunities later down the line. In choosing a university program it was the same story: I’d do a double degree in Business Administration and Computer Science with the hopes that one of these fields would spark a passion in me, and lead to a career.
It was a bit of a foolish plan from the start, as I had never taken a business or computer science course before entering university. But the years of highschool hadn’t led to any strong career inclinations so I figured trying something new wouldn’t hurt. The allure of a co-op program, combined with a multitude of athletic and academic scholarships also meant that I had a lot of wiggle room - if I hated the program, I could do something else having wasted very little money.
After my first year of university, I went down to work in Australia at the head office of Hungry Jacks. During my time there, the project I enjoyed the most was creating wireframe designs and doing product research for online ordering. This was back before the dominance of UberEats and DoorDash, so much of the research was done through looking at how successful pizza chains like Dominoes had created excellent ordering experiences. I didn’t really realize, but this was the first real taste of product management - and it tasted pretty good from all the “market research” I did ordering food online and documenting the positives and negatives of the experience.
During my next placement, I took a job doing product marketing and growth analysis for a midsize e-commerce startup. Here it was drilled into me the importance of falling in love with the problem, not the solution. When I created content for the blog, or wrote ebooks it wasn’t about steering the customer towards the startups product everytime, it was about finding a problem that people faced and coming up with the solutions for them. Sometimes this meant our products were recommended, but sometimes the solution was something else entirely.
I then decided I wanted to try my hand at actual development work