This month, I transitioned from Product Marketing to Product Management in tech. As fantastic as my experience was in marketing, I am thrilled to tackle this new challenge with some very familiar roots. In college, I spent a lot of time building a nonprofit platform for women entrepreneurs in developing countries to raise money for small-scale businesses. This was among the most fulfilling experiences of my life. There is something so special about building a product that genuinely helps the lives of other people and I want to get back to doing that. I knew I had to get that feeling back.
Recently, my husband’s brother (7 years younger than us!) got admitted into Babson College. It made me reflect back to my time in college and more recently as a new grad. Honestly, things can be really confusing right out of college, especially if you’re like me and moved to a whole new city as well.
I graduated college in 2018 so it’s been just over two years in the working world and I feel like I’ve learned an immense amount in the past couple years, many of which I wish I had known when I graduated. I hope that sharing these lessons help other young professionals who might be feeling a little lost with all the craziness of 2020.
As I reflect on my last 2+ years, here are some lessons that I wish someone had told me as a new grad.
Lesson #1: Embrace that change is constant and value the journey
One thing that astonished me about tech is how fast things move. I had always thought that big companies with thousands of employees must move very slow (especially based on my previous internships). I quickly learned that in tech that wasn’t the case. Things moved really fast and I found that I had to work really hard to stay on my toes. At first, I clung onto my projects like they were my children. I didn’t want to accept that things had changed and I needed to shift attention to a new project. I would always think “I’ve put so much time and effort into this, I can’t let it go. I need to fight for this to come to life”. I was too focused on the end result that I wasn’t able to quickly adapt as things changed.
I’ve now learned over time to appreciate the journey over the end result and that embracing change is healthier than fighting it.
While it’s hard when something gets reprioritized due to changing circumstances, you still learned a lot by going on that journey of working on that project. Holding onto something really tight is just going to make things harder for you and prevent you from supporting the company with what it needs right now. It’s also important to remember that these changes happen all the time and aren’t a reflection of you personally. So just keep trekking forward — you never know what you might learn with this new experience!
Lesson #2: When working with other teams, learn how to speak their language
One daunting element of being in tech as a non-tech person is that there’s a lot of technical terms and things that I didn’t fully understand when I started. But overtime, I’ve picked up some of the terms and it’s helped me drive alignment to get key projects done.
It’s one thing if you say, I need your help on this to drive X marketing goal. It’s another thing if you say I need your help on this to do X which supports Y engineering goal. The latter is far more compelling to encourage partnership as it helps them understand how this supports their team’s charter.
You might be wondering how to learn their language. There’s a couple ways to fine tune this — spend a lot of time reading docs/posts from their team. Understand what matters to them and what they want to achieve this half. Set up 1:1s with this partner outside of times you need to ask for something to build a relationship and offer to help them as much as you can. The first time you ask for something shouldn’t be the first time you’ve talked to them. Overtime, you’ll get better and better at understanding how to speak their language.
Lesson #3: Show up, even if it’s just to ask questions
When I started my first job out of college, I was hyper aware that I was constantly the youngest person in the room, often surrounded by people with 10+ years of experience than me. This oftentimes prevented me from speaking up and sharing my POV because I didn’t want to sound dumb. But I’ve learned over time that speaking up is so important for becoming part of the team, even if it’s just to ask questions. Sometimes the team is so deep in the weeds that asking a question can help them understand that something was missed or should be reconsidered. That’s the value that you can bring as someone newer to the company. So show up, share your thoughts, and ask as many questions as possible. This will help cement your place as a key team member, which you are, and remember you were hired for a reason!
I’m Prabha, PMM to PM in tech, previous nonprofit founder, and Babson alum. I love giving back and helping young professionals. For more career resources, check out www.thecareerproof.com. All views are my own.