Moving into Product Management After Years in Other Roles
In this episode, Eva Beasley, Product Manager at UiPath shares her story about how she moved into a product management after years in technical support roles. She shares why she thought the product manager role was for her, and we also discuss:
how her time in technical support got her ready for the role in product
being a woman in product
advice to others on how to move into product
how technical a PM needs to be
if she was surprised by any aspects of the PM role
product, management, role, eva, integrations, product manager, kudos, realized, engineer, step, work, resources, create, stressful, feel, items, erg, navigate, support, helpful
Welcome to Product Voices, a podcast where we share valuable insights and useful resources. To help us all be great in product management. Visit the show's website to access the resources discussed on the show, find more information on our fabulous guests, or to submit your product management question to be answered in our special q&a episodes. That's all at product voices.com. And be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite platform. Now, here's our host, JJ Rorie, CEO of Great Product Management.
Hello, and welcome to Product Voices. On today's episode, we're going to be talking about a career in product management and some ways to successfully navigate the role and really be successful in sometimes a stressful role of Product Management. My guest is Eva Beasley, she is currently a product manager for UiPath working on integrations and APIs. She has been in product for the past year and previously was a Technical Support Engineer for over 15 years. When she's not working, she can be found working on her master's degree in it or volunteering with product board or force. Eva, thank you so much for joining me. I'm looking forward to the conversation.
Thank you for having me. This is such a wonderful opportunity. So thank you, JJ.
Yeah, it's funny, we were talking, I feel like I know you because we've been on Twitter together. We're LinkedIn. I mean, I feel like you know, folks in the product community on Twitter and other places, or we're like friends, but we haven't actually ever spoken. So this is gonna be a great conversation.
Exactly. It's so nice to meet a wide diversity of people in the product space and see how they got there and see what they're struggling with and how we can help each other. And I just, I love the community. I feel like we're all cheerleaders for each other. Exactly, exactly.
So So tell me a little bit about how you got into it. You've you've been in product management now for about a year. Tell me a little bit about your journey from engineering to product management.
Unfortunately, it was not the easiest of things. I found out about product a little bit later on, it was probably around 2019. And a manager had actually told me, you know, you wouldn't be a good product manager. And I never let that go. And I think maybe he thought I would forget about it. But when someone says, Hey, you would be good at something that I'm going to try my hardest to become that person because that's the only way you can really grow your career. But taking a step back, I had launched and led an employee resource group for women and tech at a previous employer. And I realized looking back, getting that erg launched and then leading that erg, I was involved in so many different product management tasks, from having Discovery sessions with women in my organization, from doing all types of items to get the ERG even started to have presentations with leadership to get it approved. And it a light bulb moment basically went off where I was like, Well, I think in a way I'm doing product management. So that's basically how I got to where I am today. But it did take about 29 months. And it was not the easiest journey to be honest. Yeah, it sounds like it. So So tell me a little bit about that. You you you are a woman in tech ubit were engineering in engineering for many years. Now you're in product management is not the easiest thing, right? There's there's a lot of companies that are striving for, you know, more hospitable environments and diversity and that sort of thing. But being a woman in tech isn't necessarily the easiest thing. So tell me about that. Has that made you a stronger person? You know, kind of navigating the world of technology? I think so. And just to kind of take a a quick revelation is I wasn't actually an engineer, I was more on the Support Engineer side. So I will not lie and tell anybody. I am a developer know how to code my, my coding skills are pretty much looking at existing code and trying to figure out what's wrong not creating code from scratch, but got it got it I made to I couldn't I couldn't write a line of code if it if my life depended on it, but you're still in and around engineering. So I love that. Okay, so sorry. Go ahead. No, that's fine. And I think I'm just being told that things were too hard for me. things needed to be passed on to my male colleagues, being told that I was frankly not good enough to have that proverbial seat at the table and that made me a stronger person. I know This really has no place in our society today, especially now, we really do need to be more diverse and inclusive of each other. But hearing those things definitely made me a stronger person to stand up for what I believed was right, and to really fight for that career trajectory into product.
Yeah, that's great. And I love to hear it. And it's, it's unfortunate that that that still exists out there. But I love how you you just kind of took that as your mission to keep going. So tell me, I mean, what advice would you give to those folks who are, you know, women or men for that matter, or nonbank binary, etc, anyone trying to, you know, start in product management or find a job in product management? What are some of the pieces of advice that you would give?
I think I would start out by saying that some companies might not know what they want, as far as if they want a product manager or a program manager, I would definitely start out deciding what your strengths and weaknesses are and what you like day to day, maybe at your current job, make a list of, okay, this is what I love doing, this is what I don't love doing, and kind of see where that falls, because product and program management are very different fields. And I made the mistake myself a couple of years ago saying, Oh, I would like to be a product or program manager. Well, I realized now though, they're very different roles, having done both of those roles. But yeah, I think just kind of listing out what you would think you would really enjoy doing because at the end of the day, who wants to go to a job that they don't love. And that would be, you know, obviously helpful to kind of figure out what qualities you like doing day to day as far as stakeholder management, discovery, you know, creating specifications, having these conversations with all these different internal colleagues, I mean, the list goes on and on and on. And then I would also just join communities, like on Twitter, or LinkedIn that can really help you, we had mentioned that the product community is filled with people that just really want to help you succeed in your day to day. And I think that that has been truly helpful.
And, and I think the last thing is definitely trying to find a mentor. At a previous job, before I was a product manager, I had a great mentor in the product department. And he used to give me little assignments, and basically like take home case studies, and then I would present them to him later on pretending he was like a C level executive. Just trying to get out of my support shoes and get more into a product. Person shoes, so that that was helpful as well.
Yeah, that's really cool. That's an interesting way to kind of get the practical side of the experience before you have it. So great advice. All of those. Yeah. So I want to ask you kind of a side question here. Do you speaking of you know, not not being an engineer, technical person? I'm the same way again, don't don't have that technical background. Do you feel now that you've been in a product manager seat for a year? You know, how do you feel about a product manager needing to be technical? Do you believe a product manager needs to have a technical background or a technical acumen?
Well, I think first of all, you need to decide where what product you would like to work on and then take it a step further and decide on what facet of that product that you would like to work on. So obviously working always in SAS environments for the last few years, I've always been that I've had this technical role wanted to know how things worked. So I honestly always loved getting into integrations, and figuring out how like Single Sign On worked and things like that. And you need to know the proper terminology. So if you want to work in like API's or integrations, you should really read up on you know, the basic of rest API's how these different items differ from each other, as far as like a post or a GET or a poll for integrations, basically, how systems kind of work behind the scenes together those type of things. But if you don't want to get into like integrations or API's and say you want to get more on to a non platform or non services pm role, more of like a front end role. I don't think you necessarily have to be technical, but it would be good to just learn the terminology that your engineers may use like, are they using programs, such as LaunchDarkly? For feature flags, are they using, you know, different development systems in JIRA to kind of create their their coding. I think again, it just depends on what facet of the product you want to be involved in. But I don't necessarily think you need to be technical. It's just really knowing what the terminology is. And kind of figuring out acronyms, I mean, to this day, I'm learning new acronyms every day that I previously didn't know, in product. And I think that that's helpful, it can definitely not hurt you. But no, I don't think you have to be an a full fledged engineer in order to transition into product.
I agree with all of that. I think a level of literacy and understanding of how to how to converse with engineers and other partners. And, you know, the terminology and that sort of thing is important. But But I agree, I agree on that. So thanks for that. That tidbit.
Curious, you mentioned earlier about someone telling you that they believe you you would be a good product manager was that the first moment you realize that you wanted to be in product? Or was there some other point in your career where you thought you know what this may be an interesting place to transition into.
I honestly, didn't really think about transitioning into product before my manager had said that at the time. I knew that I wanted more, because me personally, I was getting a little bit burnout with support work in the on call on the weekends. And you know, the, the constant being screamed at because something wasn't working. You know, you just take it as it goes. But after over a decade, I was like, what else could I do in it to go to that next phase of my career. So I think him saying that kind of put the idea in my head, and then being a Smee on a certain product line and working with customers. I was like, Well, this is something that's really intriguing to me. But I think that that definitely started me down the path. And I never forgot about it. Like I said, when he said that to me. And I just kept, kept trying until like until I got to where I am today.
That's great. And and in your first year, what have you found that you loved about the role, or maybe some things that you didn't know about the role and, you know, either, you know, don't care for too much, or just or were surprised about being part of a product manager role.
I mean, I think at the end of the day, it's there's many similarities between being in a customer success department versus a product department. When I started out on product, I was actually a product owner. And it was interesting, because I was told one of my main to do items were to create user stories. And I'm just thinking in the back of my head, I'm like, isn't there more to that. And I just, I realized between being a product owner and then transitioning and becoming a product manager, I really liked the pm role because of getting to have that internal and external communication with stakeholders and being able to to really own your feature from beginning to end and seeing it developing.
Yeah, I think it was just interesting, the different components and the different moving parts. I mean, working with like, legal, that wasn't something that I would have thought when I first started. Obviously, making sure that your your feature is able to be shown in the way it's shown, especially when you're working with different vendors. I think that was surprising. I mean, there's so many little tidbits that you don't even think about that goes into these features before they become live. And then the other hand is really thinking about features that maybe are on the decline, like basically looking at insights and data and things like that, taking a step back and saying, I mean, should this really be out there still or should it be enhanced? Or what can we do for increasing adoption and looking at those metrics? So yeah, what I love about it, though, is that every day is is different and you don't have that, you know, logging into work and as far as in the support role, refreshing your your ticketing system to see what new tickets can't come in. I feel like it's so much more because you Do I get to get involved with so many different items on the on the pm side? Yeah, I love that. And that's a great way to kind of summarize what what product is. But because of all those things, right, the different things and, and the kind of the different stakeholders who you work with, in all of the moving parts that you mentioned, sometimes it's a stressful role, have you, you know, found a way that you've, you know, been able to navigate kind of everyday stress? Well, I think in a remote setting, it's sometimes really easy to lose yourself and be on an island. Because a lot of times, when you need something from your colleagues, you're literally just pinging them about work, you're not really pinging them about anything personal, usually not, I mean, everybody is so busy. So I honestly try to take a step back and put conversations back in rather than just stating, you know, what you need from a professional level, like see how people are very big and giving people kudos at my previous work, and at my current employer, there's a way to recognize co workers and I really tried to do that just to be like, Hey, thanks, thanks for going the extra mile, or thanks for helping me out with this problem. And it's really helpful to kind of see that kind of be able to take a step back and, and, and recognize each other because it is stressful. And I think realizing, when you are overcome, I know burnout is a is a huge issue, especially with, you know, people in these remote roles. And kind of looking at the warning signs. Just basically taking that breath, taking that step away. Taking a walk outside in nature, if you are feeling kind of overwhelmed by everything. I think that that's all helpful. And I did get an email the other day from Women Who Code and they had said, A good idea is to keep a brag book, which I love. I don't have a brag book, but I'm definitely going to implement this in the future. And, and just show how far you've come just start jotting in that that notebook about, hey, I accomplished this on that day. And I accomplished you know this a few years later, and blah, blah, blah, and just having that reference to, to realize that you are doing great, and you're continuing to to flourish. Those are just some of the items that I would kind of think of
Yeah, I love that. All of that. And I think it's such a great point of, you know, we, because we're all working remotely, for the most part, we it is a little difficult to to wrap in the kind of personal side of things. And so you're just asking about transactional work or just asking about work questions.
And so to bring in that, that, you know, the kudos and the in the support system, I think is really important. So that that's great. And I love the the brag books, a great idea. Lisa Zane on on Twitter and LinkedIn, another product leader was talking about something similar cheerleading, I think, is what she called it. And if somebody sends you kudos, or somebody sends you a Slack message or an email that said, thanks for your work, or you did great here or whatever, just take a take a screenshot of it and save it and on the bad days kind of look back. And I think I thought that would also say same as brag brag book was kind of a really interesting way to kind of keep keep the fire going in product management because it definitely can get stressful at times.
Yeah, that definitely. And by the way, I absolutely love Lisa and I love everything that she's doing. So definitely check out Lisa's posts on LinkedIn and Twitter because she's doing amazing things for the the product community for people that want to get into the field. So thank you. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, go Lisa. So she'll be so excited that we were talking about her on this episode. She was on an episode not too long ago. So maybe I'll link to that too.
Okay, so final question for you. Eva is you know, you've you've probably found some resources that you've enjoyed, and have found valuable over the last year or two or three as you've been learning product management and really kind of honing the craft any resources that you would share that you believe are valuable.
So the one thing I will say is, there's a lot of resources out there that cost a lot of money. And so it's sometimes hard and overwhelming to decide which one to choose because some of them are pretty pricey, but there is a free resource I found and I love free and it's called product ability. So if you Go to productability.com, I believe they might have a waiting list. But what they do is they send you use case assignments for possible topics that you would like to kind of get more involved with, whether it be strategy or vision or spec writing. And you can kind of choose from a list and they basically, a real product manager works with you in in a notion workbook, and will give you a prompt and you respond to it. And then you get that feedback when you let them know that you're finished. So definitely wanted to send kudos to product ability, because I have taken some of their assessments previously. And it like I said, when when I did it, it was it was free. So that's always a plus.
That's really cool. I hadn't heard of product ability. So I'll check that out. That's a great resource it sounds like.
Yes, very good. It's just it's good to get some real life experience, because I feel like some of the case studies that you might be handed or some of the, the examples online are a bit, you know, out of reach, or a bit unrealistic, but with productability, they give you like, really valuable cases that can really be done in the real world.
Eva Beasley, this has been such a fun conversation. Thank you so much for joining me finding the time and sharing your story I, I love to hear people's stories of how they got into product management, how they're navigating the various nuances of the role. And so thank you so much, again, for being here and for sharing your story with the audience.
Thank you for having me. And again, if anybody wants to contact me or ever have a virtual coffee chat, I would be more than happy to do so I love meeting new people. So thank you again.
Awesome. And we will link to Eva's LinkedIn and Twitter, on product voices.com as well as the show notes, so you can contact Eva and stay in touch because she is awesome. I again, am a friend of hers on Twitter. And I feel like I've known her for years now. So, again, Eva, thank you so much. And thank you all for joining us on product voices. Hope to see on the next episode.
Thank you for listening to product voices hosted by JJ Rorie. To find more information on our guests resources discussed during the episode or to submit a question for our q&a episodes, visit the show's website product voices.com And be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite platform.
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