Building Freetrade

How to land a role in Product Management

Sam Poullain

August 21, 2020

Sam Poullain

Freetrade Senior Product Manager Glenn Drawbridge shares his story.

Freetrade Senior Product Manager Glenn Drawbridge shares his story.

Ever heard about the role of a Product Manager (PM)?

Or perhaps Product Owner (PO)?

These job titles are often interchangeable, and both relate to the discipline of Product Management. And Product is a hot topic right now.

Product Managers are at the centre of the action, working with engineering, design, research, marketing and data science to bring great customer experiences to fruition.

This means they are key decision makers across the business. So as businesses continue to digitalise and see the value in a customer-centric approach, it’s no surprise that demand for PMs is growing.

Because of this, I always get asked, “How do you land a role in Product?”

Here’s the advice I would give to my younger self.

Go where the action is

Ever wondered why so many people in the entertainment industry live in LA? It’s because California is a hub for all things showbiz. 

Not all tech is in Silicon Valley though, as hubs like London and Berlin lead the world in fintech.

Similarly, Jerusalem has a flourishing centre for biomed, cleantech and accelerators, ‘Programmer’ is the most common job title in Stockholm (yes, really), and Bangalore has around 4,900 active startups and counting.

Seek out the hub you want to be a part of and follow the opportunity. 

In 2015, I decided I needed to do just that, so I moved to London to try and hunt down an opportunity in fintech.

Read job descriptions 

It may sound like an obvious one, but diving really deep into the details of lots of job descriptions is a great way to help you understand what you need to land your dream job.

Choose the companies you admire and find the role you want to do. Pay close attention to what they are asking for, this is what you should focus on learning and demonstrating. 

Product job descriptions will often call out skillsets like having the ability to frame problems, collect data, perform analysis, arrive at valid conclusions and present data and insights to influence others.

They will mention tools and activities like being able to perform A/B tests. The good news is, even if you haven’t had tons of experience on these before, you can find courses and plenty of information about these tools, activities and skillsets online to help you brush up and understand the fundamentals. Here’s a handy list of free and low-cost online classes to learn essential product management skills.

Early on in my career, this is exactly what I did. It led me to learning SQL, taking a course in UX design fundamentals and becoming Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO). 

Get a mentor or ask to shadow 

Don't hesitate to ask for advice from people you’re inspired by and look up to.

As well as someone to learn from directly, mentors can lead to introductions with other influential people, job recommendations or just general learning opportunities.

It can be difficult to motivate yourself to get out there and start meeting new people, especially when you don't know a lot about the industry yet, but keep forging ahead.

You can find mentors by attending industry events, reaching out on LinkedIn or, if you are already working in a company, try reaching out to somebody in product and ask to shadow them for a week.  

One opportunity leads to another

Great opportunities in your career don't come along every day, so try to recognise and seize every chance you get.

Opportunities don’t always have to be a perfect fit. You’ll be surprised how taking chances and jumping on opportunities creates momentum in your career.

Have you seen a role which isn’t quite Product Management but has similarities? It might be worth considering it.

Some popular routes into Product are from other disciplines such as data science, design, marketing, software engineering, project management, customer support and more. There isn’t just one clear path. 

Educate yourself 

Early on in your career it’s easy to become frustrated when you read “must have x+ years” experience” for an entry-level PM role.

Why not try a different approach to demonstrate your skills?

Whether you can code or not, there are plenty of resources, many of them free, available for you to learn how to launch your first app into Google Play and App Store.

You could sign up for a training course that leads to a product, design, data or coding certification.

Try getting into the habit of creating and learning as you go. If you can talk through the process you followed to take an idea all the way to launching a living, breathing product you’ll be sure to stand out from the crowd. 

Consider joining a startup 

Plenty of large companies like Google are hiring Associate Product Managers (APMs).

This is a great way to get started in product, as these employers are looking for key qualities of a PM, like being smart, results-driven and adaptable to a fast-paced environment, rather than out and out experience.

Another incredible way to jumpstart a career in product is to consider joining a startup.

Here at Freetrade, Product Managers are empowered to get our hands dirty first and foremost. We are small and lean enough for PMs to get involved with the entirety of the business across all disciplines, and to work alongside our founder and the rest of the senior leadership team. In a startup environment, everything still remains to be done.

Freetrade is no exception.

Our team here work can more freely, gain experience in less time and in areas they wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience in larger organisations. It can be an excellent way to move into a role in Product. 

If you’re interested in joining Freetrade, you can see the roles we’re currently hiring in Product and other areas here.

When you invest, your capital is at risk. The value of your portfolio can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you invest.

This should not be read as personal investment advice and individual investors should make their own decisions or seek independent advice. This article has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and is considered a marketing communication.

Freetrade is a trading name of Freetrade Limited, which is a member firm of the London Stock Exchange and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales (no. 09797821).

The views expressed above are those of community members and do not reflect the views of Freetrade. It is not investment advice and we always encourage you to do your own research.

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