Career Stories and Advice on Product Management and Product Marketing

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By Jennifer Gridley – Have you ever wondered how different people break into Product Management and why they stay? Would you like advice from great Product Managers on how to do the job well? Are you interested in sharing your story and advice with others? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you’ve come to the right place!

The Boston Product Management Association (BPMA) supports Product Managers and Product Marketers by offering incredible opportunities to network and learn. One such opportunity is Career Night, a FREE event on Tuesday, March 27th from 6:00-9:00pm in Cambridge. In addition to meeting with potential employers, attendees will have the opportunity to talk with other professionals about career paths and seek advice.

Here to help us get these conversations started are three local leaders in Product Management. Please show your support for Product Management and Product Marketing careers as well! Join us on the 27th and share your own story by leaving a reply below. 

Name: Emera Trujillo 

Years in Product Management: 10+ years

How You Got into Product Management: While working in customer support, my department head recommended I apply for an entry level product role at our company. My love of solving problems has kept me focused on solving problems for customers in ways that meet the needs of the business.

What You Love Most about Product Management: Making the unknown less terrifying. Figuring out how to make technology work. Charting new territory. Talking to people. Thinking hard about how to make things easier. Taking risks.

Your #1 Piece of Advice to Aspiring Product Managers: “Innovation without execution is hallucination.” Product management isn’t just about ideas. It’s about bringing ideas to life by bringing together people, resources, and market opportunity. And bringing those together involves a lot of communication. Some days, it’s all you do. Hone your communication skills and keep honing them.

Name: Melissa Appel

Years in Product Management: 10 in Product Management but five more before that in product, generally (engineering, user research).

How You Got into Product Management: I got a job at SolidWorks as a PM because I had interned there during college and because I had used SolidWorks professionally. Essentially I was hired as an expert user to design the product I knew so well. This was my first job in software and my first introduction to product management and UX.

What You Love Most about Product Management: I love solving problems, both product problems and stakeholder problems. I love telling stories and bringing clarity to complex ideas and situations. I also love making products that make people’s lives a little easier.

Your #1 Piece of Advice to Aspiring Product Managers: Be confident and sell yourself! Product management is about telling a good story and getting stakeholders on board. Figure out how to spin your past experience into a compelling story that has the right components to make up a product manager, even if they weren’t all at the same job. If you find you’re missing some key components, seek out volunteer opportunities or just do your own project.

Name: Saikrishna Chavali

Years in Product Management: Five years

How You Got into Product Management: As a data analyst, I routinely used quantifiable data to communicate project progress. That led to being asked to improve the performance of the firm’s ad products. At the same time, I stumbled onto user research concepts. So, I married a bit of my own user research with data analysis to improve the product’s performance. One day, the CTO of the startup asked me if I had any interest in Product Management. I had no idea. But I definitely loved his description.

What You Love Most about Product Management:

  1. Love telling stories around solving real customer problems
  2. Love aligning people’s intentions and actions
  3. Love the challenge that improvement is perennial but perfection is impossible

Your #1 Piece of Advice to Aspiring Product Managers:

  1. Assign more time than you originally think to communicating your message (strategy, tactics, decision etc).
  2. For important decisions, communicate the same message in at least three separate ways, times or places for it to stick.
  3. For those “big ideas”, “ideators”, “strategy” folks new to PM, sweating the details on UX, documentation and bugs in your products (a/k/a execution) is more important than coming up with next big strategy.

Jennifer Gridley, MBA is a business strategist, change agent and storyteller who has held a variety of corporate leadership roles, most recently in Product Marketing at athenahealth, Inc.  With 15 years of experience rooted in Investor Relations, she loves helping companies to grow and meaningfully improve product differentiation, customer understanding and go-to-market results.  She currently volunteers with the BPMA and is planning her next career adventure.

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