Answering some of the most frequently asked questions about my career, software engineering, product management, transitioning out of the military, job search, life, and anything in between.
Some of these have made it to my social media pages.
Disclaimer: Take these answers with a grain of salt.
Do I need to know how to code to be a Product Manager?
No, unless you want to work on platform or developer-focused products like an API, SDK, etc.
Because, as a PM, you should be able to use your product.
You need to be able to understand how it works, its limitations, and its experience.
So, if you don't know how to code, you won't be able to use your APIs, SDKs, etc
Do I recommend you learn how to code?
Yea, it certainly helps. But you will more than likely not contribute to production code.
Do you know what every PM should know?
System Design, you will spend most of your time on this level and will be communicating with your engineers and other technical stakeholders on this.
How can I land my first Product Manager role?
Product Management is one of the hardest jobs to break into.
There are a limited number of entry-level positions, and often has this catch-22 problem of requiring PM experience.
Here are 5 ways people can land their first product roles.
1. 🎓Join an APM Program
- Usually, only open to graduating college students
- Join company PM apprenticeship programs
3. 🏗Create your own product/business
- Hire yourself and become the product manager
4. 🔀Internal transfer
- Join a company in a product-adjacent role like CSM, PgM, etc., then transfer internally to PM
5. 🦄Spray and Pray / Apply to every PM position you find.
- Apply 24/7 and network like crazy.
I personally did a combination of 3 and 4.
Career / Job Search
What is the 1 book that I should read to get ahead in my career?
If I can only choose 1 book, then it would have to be:
"The Startup of You" by Reid Hoffman (Co-Founder of LinkedIn) and Ben Casnocha
The book is packed with strategies and actionable steps you can take TODAY to grow your career.
- ABZ Planning
- Building Career Capital
- Specializing vs Generalizing
- Laser Career, Main Career, and Portfolio Careers
- What Domain Experts, "You" Experts, and Free-Range Experts are
And many, many more
Plus, the book was recently got revised and updated in 2022. So it's up to date with the current trends.
A bonus is if you've wanted to run a startup but have yet to have an opportunity, you can start by running your career as one.
What tech project should I build for my portfolio/side project?
My usual response is, "start by solving a problem YOU in your life."
1. You already know the pain points and problems, so you can start focusing on solutions.
2. You don't need to recruit a user to iterate through a solution. Because you have 1 guaranteed user, YOU.
3. At best, you make $$$ of it. At worst, you have a solution to your problem.
BUT, if your intention is to explore a specific technology, then you should just focus on a simple problem and just focus on using the tech.
Which one do you like more, product or engineering?
It's too easy.
Obviously, its product because I love having a full calendar and being in meetings all day.
Kidding of course...
To be honest. I love both.
Sounds like a cop-out answer, but it's true.
I didn't walk away from engineering because I didn't like it.
In fact, I still enjoy writing code in my free time.
I just wanted to focus on the different aspects of the problem.
Instead of focusing on the HOW (engineering), I wanted to solve the Who, What, When, Where, and, more importantly, the Why.
Fortunately, I have gotten the best of both worlds in the platform PM space since I can remain technical and still be able to wear the developer hat while focusing on product.
I do periodically think about going back and doing coding full-time.
I just miss the feeling of just putting on my headphones and getting in the flow of writing and reading code.