In today’s post I wanted to share how I changed my career, and what it took to go from Tech Consultant to Product Manager in 6 months. As shared a few times, I’ve been navigating a career change for the most part of the year. I’ve spent the past 6 years working in tech; my roles were usually on the consulting and customer facing side; doing solution consulting, managing projects and implementations and customer success.
While I enjoy client work and all the perks that come with it, for a while already I was craving the idea of having a specialization or a more “hands on” approach when it comes to building things, and not just consulting on them. Luckily, I was already somewhat exposed to the role as part of my day to day interactions, so I knew what I was getting myself into. In addition, by knowing and polishing my strengths over the last few years, I knew that the change was the right thing for me and in line with my strengths.
How I changed my career and how long did it take
It took me approximately 6 months since taking the first steps towards the career change to signing the job offer. To be honest, I don’t know if this is a lot of time or little time, it’s simply how it worked out for me. I am sure there are people who switched faster or on the contrary took a longer time. I was already working in tech and being familiar with the role overall, software processes and so on, so I don’t think I started from zero, but at the same time I didn’t have actual hands on experience on it, so I still had to work for it.
Worth saying that with the change I have taken a very minimal pay cut, something I am quite pleased with. Given that PM salaries are higher than IT Consulting I am fairly confident I will build back up and even more quite easily.
Before going into the steps I took and how I changed my career, while my advice can be used for a change similar to mine, I think these learnings can be applied to changes in many fields. The approach is quite thorough and tackles different aspects that can help increase your chances for a switch.
So here it is, here’s how I changed my career and what it took to go from Tech Consultant to Product Manager in 6 months.
This was the first thing I did and my commitment to actually working on the career change. It costed some money (a few hundred euros) and felt like the right trigger for commitment. I signed up for a Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) training & certification as my very first career change move back in February. Two training days later and I had a certification to bump up my CV.
2 Coursera Specializations in PM and UX Design
I signed up for two courses to boost my knowledge and complete my background. One Specialization in Software Product Management (made out of 6 courses) and the Google UX Design Certificate. Coursera or other learning platforms are great for quickly boosting your CV into the direction that matters. I think these courses were a great addition to my CV, as they clearly showed I was seriously interested in swicthing.
I have to also say that in the interviews I often got questions or mentions about my certifications and courses, so I would say they definitely helped with the career change. My advice here is not to wait to be finished with this type of courses. Based on the length they can take several months to complete and especially if you are wokring full time. I added them on my CV from the start as “in progress” education and it was never a problem.
I also picked up a couple of books in Product Management to read on the weekend and round up my knowledge. This is more informal work I did on the career change, but I still wanted to make sure I cover all fronts and soak in as much knowledge as possible. My picks: “Inspired” and “Empowered” by Marty Cagan. The most recommended reads in the field.
CV re-work x 3
I revamped my CV three times to get better results. I gave it all in the CV revamp and made sure to highlight all my PM-related experience and skills. It was a game-changer in the job search and getting me interviews. I completely reformated my CV to make it easy to read and highlight my achievements. A big part of it was building my stories to highlight PM skills, which I believe was essential. I went through all my past projects and approached them from a PM perspective to show my thinking and how my skills are transferrable.
Interview prep & mock interviews
I watched a lot of Product Management interview prep on YouTube. This to me was essential, and luckily, there are tons of it. It helped frame things the right way and get into the right mindset when it comes to PM interviewing. I picked up a few extremely helpful frameworks to use in interviews and structure my thoughts. My favourite, the Exponent channel on YouTube and especially this video.
In addition, I also did mock interviews and practiced at home with my partner. For interview prep I also built a deck/document with product stories and answers and frameworks for different types of questions. From the introduction – it’s so important to have a good, quick and thorough introduction smoothly told – to specific questions such as what my favorite product is, how I would measure success for a product/feature, past successes and mistakes etc… so I could easily come up with an answer when asked or have a framework top of mind.
Applications, Interviews & Case Studies
I applied in batches and sent somewhere around 30-50 applications. Once I redesigned my CV, I started getting calls and interviewing. I probably did around 7-8 first stage interview and approximately half of them went through second and/or third stage (case study, team day etc…). For some of them I was not a good fit, while for others they were not a good fit for me. I have to say that the interviewing part and the case studies were the easy part for me. After a couple of them you get used to it and it goes pretty smoothly. I think after the basics in terms of competence are coverd it’s all a matter of people and if you click with them/ they click with you. That is why for the interviews where it didn’t work out, I never was too bothered about it.
One last thing important in interviewing is paying attention to the casy study and really investing time in understanding the questions first, and preparing it as well as possible. It’s extremely important to show care in terms of design if it’s a ppt (don’t shy away to use the company’s branding guidelines; keep it nice and simple), structure around presentation and problem solving, and learning mindset for what you don’t know. When I am part of the interview process now, this definitely plays a huge part.
Reflecting on the career change journey, I have to admit that despite working on the change quite relentessly, I still had moments of doubt. I thought it might not be for me or it might get too uncomfortable; especially because by the end of it, I was very comfortable at my last job. Anyways, for those thinking of changing jobs or careers and feeling afraid of it, I would say, don’t worry because that fear is natural. And not only that but the opposite to comfort is not just discomfort. It’s also growth and excitement and new people, and a whole lot of opportunities. From my experience, the grass can definitely be greener on the other side. Especially as long as you plan it a little and take your time to understand where you’re heading to.
So this is it, this is how I changed my career. Any other career change or job change experiences around here? Would love to hear from you and how you’ve navigated yours.