Five things I wish I’d known before switching from Engineering to Product
This is sort of a personal story about how I switched from Engineering to Product in the last year, focusing on stuff I wish I had known about the Product side of life.
To start with, I think I should give some background info about myself. I finished my master's in Systems Engineering back in Argentina, during my time at college I was focused on software performance and programming languages, I was even applying to start a PhD and continue in the academic world.
After doing some mandatory internships to get my degree I found myself really self-involved with Frontend Development and mostly curious about why were we building stuff. This leads me to pursue a career as a Frontend Engineer, but after a couple of years I realized I wanted to be even more involved in what to build, and why to build it so I ended up transitioning to full-time Product Manager.
Product Management is harder than expected
And don’t let anyone tell you differently, expectations are always high and you need to please multiple stakeholders while carrying the vision of the product. You’ll find yourself switching from really distant topics every minute, from the report about tracking issues from BI to the yearly vision with your CEO, then followed by a discussion about a feature that will be released in 2 hours. And all this can and will happen in a short period.
Time management is super important
You’ll find yourself running from meeting to meeting, not finding time to do what you consider your time. It’s not strange to start struggling and find yourself working long hours, even working on the weekends. You need to learn how to organize yourself and organize your meetings, be prepared for every meeting, set goals and optimize them, every minute counts.
Managing stakeholders is a priority
Prioritizing the sprint is important, and adding cool new features to the backlog is important, but none of this can happen if you don’t have happy stakeholders across the company, you need to be the bridge between the product and the rest of the departments. Your stakeholders need to be informed of the status of the product or about any project that involves them
Communication is your deliverable
When I was in Engineering my deliverable was my code, which was translated into implemented features, now my deliverable is communication. As Product Manager, you are in charge of delivering features and reinforcing the vision of the company while you build a meaningful product, the deliverable for this ends up being the communication between parts involved in building this. The reports with the reasons why you need a feature, then the reports about that feature usage, also the research that validates the effort and so forth.
Don’t underestimate the business side
Coming from an Engineering background sometimes you can underestimate the importance of the business side, that’s a mistake, it’s pretty important to understand how the business works, not just for your company, but also for your industry. You need to dedicate time to understanding why certain business decisions are done and to be able to challenge them and make your own in some cases.
There are way more things I wish I’d known in advance, most of them related to the necessity of understanding your users, and following certain processes, but I think those are the 5 most important ones.
I hope it can help someone looking for a switch in their career, and never forget that it’s never too late to switch from one side to another, or even switch back because you realized it’s not what you were expecting.