An Update to My Own Career Transition
I’ve been writing a lot about transition into product in my blog, including my own transition and takeaways, end to end product job seeking process, and some interview deep dives. What I have not covered much is the transition after one breaks into product. This is curious because if we look at our entire career, you will most likely have more transitions as a product manager, than into being a product manager from something else. Well, unless you transition in and out of product multiple times 😉.
It’s so true in my own experience. So far, I’ve only transitioned into product once, and ever since I’ve transitioned to numerous different product roles in different companies. You might end up transitioning less or more than I have, but I do believe that we all are likely transition much more in modern careers in tech, than any career a decade or two ago in all industry. Why? I believe the constant change in tech also impacts how we all manage our careers in it. Expecting non-change through retirement is no longer realistic or optimal. It certainly doesn’t mean one should always seek to hop between jobs as frequently as he can. It’s more of always staying on our toes and going with the waves of changes as needed.
So I’ll look to cover more on transitions as a product manager going forward (while continuing to help with breaking into product!). In this post, I’m just going to start from:
📖 An update about my own most recent transition
🔑 My key takeaways from it
As always, I hope sharing my experience is helpful for you to think about yours!
My Career Update
Earlier this year, I could totally feel how hot the tech job market was, especially relative to last year when COVID first hit. How did I know? The simple personal metric of recruiter reach-outs per week said a lot. Another interesting metric persistence: number of repeat messages per recruiter without my response. (I sometimes felt bad not responding after 5 daily emails, until I’m numb ☺️ )
This intrigued me. I then decided to go back to the job market: started answering recruiter messages and stepping into the interview processes. For three additional reasons then the market hotness itself:
*Like mentioned above) As a PM in tech, it’s wise to evaluate your market position once in a while. Doing so during opportunity abundance is good.
As a product writer/coach, I wanted to go beyond theory and test it on the battlefield for real
There were changes in my current job that prompted me to evaluate if there’s a better opportunity for my career aspirations
So I went on to kick off a 2+ month interview journey. Here are some stats (not to brag, just to illustrate):
I started conversations with 15 companies (across FAANG, Fresh IPOs, pre-IPOs, and earlier stage startups).
I finished the process with 6 (out of 15). 1 out of 6 rejected me at the end of the process.
I did not finish the process with 9 (out of 15). I intentionally paused 8 after either knowing I wasn’t interested, or that I’ve decided to take an offer. 1 out of 9 rejected me before I finished the process.
I received 5 offers (out of 6 I finished the process with). I accepted one.
So I decided to leave my current role at Lyft. I will be joining Google this month. This decision obviously was based on a careful evaluation which I shared in an earlier post. I can only tell you that it was not an easy and straightforward decision.
Change to me always is bitter sweet. I’ll miss what I have at Lyft, and I’m for sure excited about my next adventure at Google as the next page of my career!
My story is not meaningful if there’s not some key takeaways that I believe might be relevant to your own transitions. So here you go:
Calibrate with Market Hotness: regardless of your current state and competency, the opportunity you’re exposed to is partly a function of how much the market is on the job seeker side (more job supplies than job seeking demands). I happened to have experienced job seeking in both a cold market (last year) and hot market (this year) and the difference is night and day, in all fronts. Manage your expectation and strategy according to the market status is better than having the same ones regardless.
Rejection is Normal: However qualified you are or however well you’re prepared for the interviews, you still could be rejected. Partly because no one can always perform 100% perfectly, consistently. But it’s also largely because, rejection might not always be your “fault”. Remember interview is a matching game. You could be a very strong product manager but still is not a best match for a specific team. There’s also too many interviewer subconscious biases and so on that’s totally out of your (as a candidate) control. Don’t beat yourself up if you get rejected. Just reflect and move on.
Time Management is Key: I get this question a lot: how do you manage the interviews (with so many companies) while still managing your full time busy job as a PM? It’s hard. I also had to stretch to get through it. Carefully assess how you spend your time (for work and non-work), de-prioritize some items (e.g. your hobby, side gig) for now, force yourself to be more efficient in existing tasks (yes there’s always improvement chance), and be prepared to spend some nights and weekends.
Expand Your Options: time allows, expose yourself to more opportunities in parallel. This serves several purposes: First, it trains you to be more proficient in all interviews. Second, you ultimately need options to negotiate in your favor. Third, it provides you visibility into “what’s out there”. Job seeking can be more than just landing one offer in the end.
Sequence Interviews Wisely: strategize how you schedule your interviews based on a number of factors like 1) when do you usually perform the best, 2) how badly do you want the opportunity, 3) how relevant and leverage-able each interview is. You don’t want to randomly schedule interviews as they arrive. Your time is already very limited. Carefully strategize.
Patience: it’s probably obvious, but sometimes not so much. You need patience throughout the process to drive the best outcome. You can easily lose it after some lengthy and stressful interview processes, and be like: “Are you kidding me, one more presentation round, after all these intense interviews?”. “Don’t you dare low-ball me with your meager initial offer, it insults me and I’m gonna walk away”. All of these are (unfortunately) part of the game. By stepping into the game you’ve agreed to play it. Play it through the end with patience.
I’ll be sure to share my new experience as I have them! Also rest assured, that I’ll continue to serve the community with my newsletter, to help you manage your own product careers and transitions. I might only adjust the frequency of my new post based on how busy I am onboarding to the new role!
As always, please do reach out for any question, feedback, or your personal experience! It always means a lot to me, and also helps remind me whether, how, and how much, these articles are helpful to you!
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re preparing for your own transition and need my help!