My Product Origin Story
My journey into product management is a bit convoluted. It took some trial-and-error and a few different roles, but I eventually found my home. So my story is pretty much like everyone else's who has gotten into product management. But I'll tell it anyway.
My first taste of product management was in a role I had at the computer labs at BYU. My title was Student Manager of Personnel. So many of my responsibilities were around hiring, scheduling, promotions, etc. But another aspect revolved around managing different products for all of the computer labs and its employees.
One such product was a brand new internal employee website. This was really the heart of our organization, where everyone could find their schedules, swap shifts with other employees, manage their training, do reviews and find all other information for their work. And we set out to rebuild it completely. I had the chance to work closely with the developers building it (an extremely talented group) in order to make changes, give input, and guide the overall flow. Having been there for a long time, I knew many of the features that needed to be incorporated and added. I also had the chance to talk with other users to get feedback and ideas. It was my first chance to really do product management at some level (though I didn't know it at the time).
Unfortunately my time in that role had to come to an end as I graduated. And I had to start on another path. Goldman Sachs was building out some new teams in Salt Lake City, and (ironically) one of them was a product management team within the fixed income group. Again, I still didn't have a full understanding of product management, but was excited to help build out a group in a new office and the role seemed like it had a lot of great opportunities, so I jumped at the chance.
Now, product management at Goldman Sachs has a lot of different flavors. At its heart, it is the same as any traditional product management role. You work cross-functionally across the business. That includes working closely with sales teams, marketing teams, management, traders, operations, etc. On the technology side, it means working closely with a variety of technology groups to build out functionality, both internally and externally. And of course, it includes understanding clients and users. Anticipating their needs and developing products and features to help them. Now at a place like Goldman Sachs, that includes financial products like mutual funds and investment strategies. But it also includes many of the technology focused components as well. External websites, online tools and internal reports and tools. The things you think of when you think of traditional product management.
Many people go into product management at Goldman Sachs with the view of moving to one of the teams they work with eventually. That may mean sales or trading or portfolio management. A few will stay within product management as well. My original intention had been to go into portfolio management after working on the product team. So that is the path I started down. I took two levels of the CFA exam (pretty much a designation centered on portfolio management). But I began to realize that I didn't want to do portfolio management, I wanted to be a product manager.
With that new realization, I started to shift my focus. Since product managers tend to wear many hats at a place like Goldman, I wanted to start working with a group where I could really be a product manager (as opposed to a junior portfolio manager or something like that). And I was fortunate enough to find just the right group. As I began working on our money market products, my role became more and more product management every day.
I've had the chance to work on many different products and features. That includes the launch of multiple new mutual funds (it is Goldman Sachs after all). But I also led a team in redesigning our existing external site. And then helped lead the effort to start to sunset our existing site and create a brand new external site with lots of new functionality. Internally I led a team redesigning some of our regulatory reporting. This involved all the data and software tools we used to create these reports and working with internal and external stakeholders to create a new process and end product. I've also had the chance to work on many other features and products within this group. I'll be detailing more stories in other posts, so be sure to check back.
So that is how I got into product management. It has been an exciting journey and continues to be something that I love.
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