I started my career in a startup, where I was hired as a post-graduate business school student. My job title was Product Manager (PM) because my skills were not easy to categorise. I was not a Developer, and I was not a designer. I had no idea what the job of a PM was, but I was about to find out. So I started doing a variety of different things.
I did research-related tasks, I crafted presentations, I talked to potential customers, I asked questions, I tried to understand problems, I communicated, I explained ideas, I wrote concepts, I connected people, I asked for help, I gave feedback, I experimented, I documented, I learned, I observed, I said no, I imagined solutions, I wrote requirements, I tested it - we launched it.
Being involved in the entire process of creating a product from scratch allowed me to see through so many different lenses. I worked closely with so many different people, who all were very knowledgeable in their domain.
Talking to them and learning from them gave me so much insight into their fields, mindsets and ways of working.
It was super interesting to find out how Marketing and Sales work.
It was challenging and rewarding to look at the product from a legal or compliance perspective.
Watching designers craft an outstanding user experience was amazing, and talking to developers completely changed my understanding of how things work.
It felt like I was becoming part of each "department" for a shorter or longer period, and I could find out for myself what kind of work I enjoy.
The way to frame and solve problems differs a lot, and it was interesting to observe how different people with different professions see and navigate through the world.
Those insights were helpful to figure out what kind of person I want to become in the future. Especially early in the career, it can be overwhelming to have too much choice regarding your profession.
What do I like?
What is my talent?
What do I want to become good at?
All those questions can be challenging to answer, and often times it takes a lot of time to try different things.
Working as a PM is like a cheat code. You will be able to try different things in a very short amount of time, which allows you to try and adapt quickly.
After 2,5 years at the startup, I was sure about my future career. Instead of focusing on design or development, I decided to keep working as a product manager.
I simply enjoy it too much to discover a problem from different angles and help to find the best solution for the problem. This way of thinking is what I am good at and what gives me joy. And I can't be thankful enough to have learned this early in my career.
So for everyone, who is struggling to find out what they love or what kind of professional path they want to take. I can highly recommend trying different things.
Do different jobs and figure out what aspects of work you enjoy. Being a PM is probably one of the most efficient ways to try multiple things in the shortest amount of time.
But you have to consider that each and every company has a different understanding of what a product manager is. Responsibilities and task can differ a lot, so make sure to use the hiring process to figure out what the company expects from a PM. Take care of those who use Product Management as a synonym from Project Management.