Product management is a relatively new career track, but it’s already become one of the most sought-after roles in tech. Product managers determine high-level strategy, and convert it into realistic steps across multiple departments - which means they need to speak the languages of design, engineering, marketing and operations. And in order to be on track for leadership roles, they’ll also have to apply design psychology, roadmaps and development sprints along the way.
For someone who’s new to the field, that probably sounds like a lot. Which is why we give every Product Management Flex student a personal mentor: someone who’s already built their own product management career, and is dedicated to helping their mentee understand the material and succeed in the course.
To give you a better feel for our program, we spoke with one of our mentors, Sunil Jagdale. Sunil has worked in tech for nearly 30 years, and is currently a product management leader for a Fortune 500 industrial company. Here’s his perspective on who should pursue a product management career, and why he believes you can excel in the course––even if you’ve never had a job in tech.
How did you get involved in the tech industry?
I started out as an engineer, and then worked as a software developer for 10-15 years. I eventually started managing projects and teams.
Why did you choose a career in product management?
I was working in a startup when I was introduced to the notion of technical product management. The idea of bridging the gap between tech and marketing was new then. Product management really brings together all the different areas that I worked and gained expertise in over the years. It involves working with people across different functions; understanding engineering, user design, marketing, finance and budgeting.
What makes someone a good fit for a product management career?
There’s not one single background that’s going to be a perfect fit for product management.
You can pursue your area of interest with product management. You need to have that desire, and you need to be able to cross the multiple areas, from tech all the way through UX, finance, marketing and so on. You don’t need to be an expert in every area. You just need to know which experts to go to.
What kind of background and experience do most of your students have?
Some of them come from a technical background, and some come from a different domain. For instance, one of my mentees was in education: she was working on her doctorate in education and had no tech background. So she was very apprehensive in the beginning. But a lot of tech products are being built in the education space, and she will be a perfect fit for that.
What do students really love about the course?
Before taking the course, they’d never really given any thought as to how a product comes to be. Everybody uses an iPhone - but most people don’t give too much thought to how the features came to be, and what went into deciding on the design.
In the course, when we talk through the different methods, techniques and approaches of product management, we teach what really goes into building these products. And that’s what’s interested students the most. The process of building products.
Why do you like mentoring with Thinkful?
I used to be an adjunct professor at University of Cincinnati, so I’ve been in a similar role before. I jumped at this opportunity because I knew I wanted to teach again.
What I like most about it, is the fact that I’m able to benefit somebody through my experience. It is gratifying to be able to use my knowledge and experience to benefit students starting out in their careers.
That’s what attracted me to teaching in the first place, and that’s what I like about the mentor role.
What advice do you have for prospective students?
Go for it!
To a lot of people, it is intimidating. Especially for people who don’t have a tech background or haven’t worked extensively in tech. But they do have expertise in some other functional areas. So build on whatever skills you have and don’t be intimidated by it. You’ll take advantage of your existing knowledge and skills in product management.
Product Management Flex will give you the skills you need to turn ideas into real-life products. So you can design KPIs and build storyboards in whatever industry inspires you. And you’ll do it all in only six months, with an experienced mentor at your side.
Browse our curriculum and apply today to take your place among the world’s next workforce.
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