How did you find your role as a PM?
Originally, I was a software engineer. When I started constantly asking my business counterparts why we were doing a certain thing, or if I could join the customer meetings, they eventually asked if I wanted to join their team. Product was a natural transition because I had the technical background but was also very interested in solving customer problems.
What was your background?
My background is pretty technical. I was a QA Engineer, then a QA Lead, then a C#/.NET developer before becoming a PM about 8 years ago.
What is your favorite thing about being a product manager? It is really rewarding to create something from nothing, then hear from a customer that it has improved their lives. Very few jobs let you create something and get it out into the world at scale the way tech can.
What is the skill you use the most as a PM?
Communication! So many different stakeholders to communicate with, and you need to think of what is important to them, and find a way to tailor your communications to each. You also have to be very concise and clear in your writing, especially if you work at an asynchronous, global company like I do. So much of my communication is in writing.
What is an example of a day in the life of a PM?
We have a lot of meetings. We meet with customers, with different stakeholders across the business, and with our internal engineering teams. You will likely spend some time each day working on defining the roadmap broadly, and then narrowing down specifics of what is to be worked on. There is also time set aside to check in on the business sensing mechanisms: competitive analysis, your key performance indicators (KPIs), quantifying trade offs (if we do X instead of Y, we will get Z revenue). It’s a lot of different stuff every day, so you need to have good time management skills.
What are morning or evening routines that support you in your role?
Clearing my head through long walks, working out to help with stress
What advice would you give someone looking to move into a career as a PM?
As a PM, you need to have a lot of influence, but you have no authority on paper. You are no one’s manager, but you have to get your team on board to contribute to your vision. You need to be humble and admit when you don’t understand something – it helps build trust with your team. Always share the “why” behind why you want to do something with your team – they deserve to know. Ask for their input. And don’t be afraid to be confident in your decisions, but also realize when something needs a pivot.
Hannah Sutor is a digital identity and privacy expert. She currently works as a Product Manager at GitLab. She advocates for people to take control of their digital footprint by educating on privacy related topics on instagram – @theprivacychick. Find her on her there, or at her website: heyidentity.co.