Q&A - February 2022

Q&A - February 2022

Getting into a product career appears really challenging for many people, and this raises many questions. Below are a few of the questions I've seen this month and how I'd be looking to respond:

I'm a Business Analyst at ZS Associates for the past 8 months. I'm looking to transition into Product roles at Product companies and was hoping to get an advice on this transition.

The first thing to remember in this kind of situation is that transitioning into product management from another area of the business is the way that the majority of people get into the career.  There are very few, if any, 'pure' product managers out there who have gone straight into a PM career without experience in another business function.

When it comes to transitions, there are usually two main reasons that this seems like a viable option:

  • Proximity to product roles - i.e. working alongside the product team and experiencing some of the things that they do and how they go about it
  • Shared skills - i.e. skills in your current role that can directly transfer across to a product focused role.

This is the same regardless of the transition, but this question specifically looks at the transition from being a Business Analyst.

If you look at the job definition for a BA you get "a person who analyzes and documents the market environment, processes, or systems of businesses." and according to Robert Half, "the typical roles for business analysts include creating detailed business analysis, budgeting and forecasting, planning and monitoring, variance analysis, pricing, reporting and defining business requirements for stakeholders."

When you compare this to the job of a PM you'll see there are an immense number of shared skill, and in fact, BA to PM is the second most frequent transition because of this.

Areas I would look to try and increase my experience in to support this transition would be in identifying problems, understanding the product delivery process, and prioritization.  

Often BAs are asked to look into a problem, rather than identify them themselves, so understanding how to proactively identify an area for improvement would be beneficial.

BAs also tend to write up the documentation around a subject, but the delivery is left to others, whereas from a PM perspective, they are more involved all the way through the process, including after its release.

And finally, as mentioned, BAs are often given tasks to complete, whereas as a PM the PM needs to determine the areas to prioritize on, not just for themselves, but for the entire organization.

I have been in consulting roles for the last many years, specifically with tech companies helping with business operations / product operations. Really keen on moving into the PM space now but am seeking advice on how to best transition. e.g. should I pursue some PM certifications or anything else? It’s been a tough effort so far trying to convince hiring managers to consider my profile.

As mentioned with the above answer, transitioning into product is a common activity, and with the experience this person sounds like they have then transitioning shouldn't be an issue.

I'm not convinced that PM certifications are required to get a PM role.  They're nice to have, but as there isn't a standard body that issues a recognized certificate, just doing a course might not convince the recruiter you're experienced enough.

I think in this scenario, the issue is really about how the person's experience is being presented to potential recruiters.  It sounds like there are many product skills being undertaken, but often people use their resumes / CVs as an opportunity to write an autobiography instead of an advertisement. 

Whenever you're applying for a job what you are doing is trying to sell yourself to the recruiter in the same way that McDonalds are trying to convince you to buy a burger.

You should be playing down information that isn't going to be relevant to the recruiter and playing up all the ones that are.  In this case, the person shouldn't be talking about being a consultant, but instead framing themselves as a product specialist.

I will be finishing up Product Management course at Product School at the end of February. I am looking for a product management internship (unpaid) or associate product management role.

I've previously written posts on internships and getting work experience and these are great ways to get yourself in the door.  By far the most frequent way for people to get their first product role is by moving into it within the company they already work for.

Ways in which you can make these kinds of opportunity happen include:

  • Using your network to find a way in the door
  • Research companies that you want to work with and offer your services 
  • Join product communities and push yourself forward 
  • Look over a wider area that you normally would do
  • Register on job sites to get alerted to opportunities (LinkedIn has 88,000 opportunities in the USA, 4,000 in the UK, and 11,000 in the EU)