How tough to transition from Software Developer to a Product manager
Personal story included ! FAILURE story to a SUCCESS story
Life is too short to do things that you do NOT enjoy !
If you’re reading this you must be planning to make a move from a SDE to a PM or a TPM.
My Personal credibility to write this blog
I was a Dev at Expedia, cleared TPM interviews and transitioned as a TPM at Expedia. And then I cleared TPM interviews at 3 companies in India, and also cleared 4th interview at S&P Global and working here as a Product owner.
I have interviewed with several large corporations and have vast interview and work experience.
NOW , Let’s start!
Different types of PM/TPM ?
Are you a SDE planning to move from being a SDE to a PM or a TPM or a PO?
PM = product manager
TPM = technical product/program/project manager
PO = product owner
Let’s keep aside pure program and project management roles aside for now.
DIY Checklist — check whether you should jump ?
- you think you can’t write code anymore?
- you can’t be at top of the game writing code ?
- you can be at top of the game as a PM but not as a dev?
- you have good communication, analytical , strategic , planning, business, leadership, collaboration and negotiation skills?
- you also would love to know more about the business side of things? not just tech
- you love being closer to the customers ?
- you want to startup or start a side hustle ?
- you want to enjoy working on the other side of problem-solving ? ->problems such as user acquisition/activation/retention, revenue growth, increasing CLV and figuring out pricing, revenue models and business models etc
Personal alert: my reasons for moving to a TPM are: 2, 3, 4,5,6. I was not aware of no.7 when i was moving to being a TPM. But i learnt that later.
Let’s discuss what the jump costs you ! What are the risks of making a move !
Risks of moving ?
Agree that there’s a risk in moving. Of course the risk can be high or low or no risk depending on your luck.
High or Low or No risk depends on your luck
Yes , luck ! There’s a certain amount of risk involved in moving to a different role. What is the risk though? Let’s explore.
Let’s take my personal story:
I transitioned from being a Data Engineer to a Technical product manager. I had 4+ years a DE and I am quite confident about my DE skills, I could clear any interview.
But I chose to becoming a TPM. I could clear the internal interviews for Expedia and became a TPM.
I became a TPM, and proudly showed off on LinkedIn :)
And then bad fortune hit me, badly ! :D
My team at Expedia was laid off
I was just 7 months old as a TPM and I lost touch as a Data Engineer. I cannot be a premium TPM neither can I be a premium DE now. Of course I could try for TPM roles in other organizations and could become one. But that would be an entry-level role, all my 4 years experience as an Engineer before would not be counted as much.
I will have to accept the pay cut. There will be competition in the market, there will be TPMs who will be better than me. My confidence was low.
But then my journey moved in a different direction.
However the risks are:
- if you’re fired and your TPM experience is low, it will be a challenging time for you
- if your family is completely dependent on your income, that’s even more riskier
- moving into a new role = you’re beginning your career all over again.
- if you don’t have a learning attitude, if you can’t keep your seniority aside, you can’t succeed in the role.
- people younger than you could be performing better at the role.
- you might have to do courses and certifications to get better at the role
- and you have to do the daily grind of the job, which will be very different from your what you’re currently doing
Overcoming the risks
- Move to more stabler teams or companies
- Move to teams that are more willing to help you out
- Keep doing certifications even before you move into the role , so you’re market ready any day you’re fired
- Work on a 3month side project in your company before making a complete transition (this is a common practice in companies like Expedia)
- Work on part-time in your same team (this is a common practice in companies like Expedia)
- for a PM or TPM interviews there will be a different set of questions that you will have to face. keep practicing them here: www.tryexponent.com and https://www.productmanagementexercises.com/ . you have to pay for these, but it’s worth paying. be market ready anyday
- be willing to learn from anyone around you
- get periodic feedbacks from people around you as a TPM
- Have some good bank balance :) so any risk wont hurt you much
Some risks can’t be foreseen but be aware and ready for them.
Pay difference ?
There will be pay difference. As I specify in every blog, the Developers are premium resources in any organization.
But do not worry. TPMs and PMs are also very well paid. They come very close to a developer, in terms of pay. +/-5% will be the difference between a dev and a TPM of same experience level.
Should you make a jump ?
I told you the criteria above whether to make a jump or not.
But I feel life is doing what you love doing !
Personally, If I want to do something I will do it. Whether you will do it or not — depends purely on your risk taking ability and the resilience built into you.
When should you make a jump ?
Jump NOW !
You can right away jump into being a TPM or a PM. Or you can do baby steps by taking side projects in your company or by doing certifications on the side.
But, jump NOW ! Enjoy life !
Life is too short to do things that you do NOT enjoy ! Move like a kid !