How to Get Your First Product Job

Startup Institute is lucky to now have over 300 alumni who work in variety of startups across the world. Our alumni not only impact the startups they work at but also contribute to our practitioner-led instruction and offer advice to our current students. Adam Sigel, an alum of the Product & Track, recently wrote a blog post about securing a product management job. Thanks Adam for allowing us to use your blog post! 

Lately I’ve been meeting with students from Startup Institute Boston and many of them are asking how to break into product management as first-timers. It’s a great question, since there isn’t a clearly defined career path into the role. (I can only think of one company that’s so product-oriented that it hires junior PMs.) Given how many times I’ve answered the question now, I thought it was time to introduce a more scalable answer with a blog post.

Thinking back on how I managed the move, here’s my advice:

Get a Job That’s Product-Adjacent

Product touches virtually every aspect of a small company—customer experience, development, design, user acquisition, and community, just to name a few. Good product managers translate a strong understanding of one of these disciplines into the others. You can learn a product through its code, its positioning, or its users.Think about what you’re great at today and what you can learn to be great at over time. You want a career in product management, not just a job, so think of it in steps. Get another job that gets you into product management. Engineers who show a knack for prioritization and learn user experience can make the transition to product management. Customer success managers who understand user pain and learn how to work with engineers can make the transition. Designers who understand how to bring delight into an experience and learn analytics can make the transition. And so on.

Product is the application of technology to address user needs, so you can come at it from one side or the other. If you know the technology inside and out, you’ll be in a great position to know how to apply that to changing user needs. If you know the users inside and out, you’ll have an easier time determining what to ask of the technology.  

To read the entire post, click here.

Adam Siegel is the UX Product Manager at Aereo. He is based in Boston. Say hello to him on Twitter @adamsigel.