From Programme to Product Management

“Getting out of my comfort zone was really hard.”

From Programme to Product Management

Alex had been thinking about a career change for a long time. When redundancy loomed, he decided to make his move and threw himself fully into the process. Here's how he retrained, built up a new community of friends and landed the job he'd been dreaming of.

What work were you doing previously?

I was Programme Manager for a large international telecommunications company.

What are you doing now?

I'm now Product Manager for a small, fast-growing internet company.

Why did you change?

It wasn't a huge shift, but it was a move that felt important.

My old job was all about delivering products to market. I wanted to make more of an impact on the products we were putting out there, rather than just doing the delivery.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

It had been on my mind for quite some time, but I never made the jump.

Due to a reorganisation, the role I had was made redundant, so it was the best chance I had to make my shift.

Are you happy with the change?

Yes. 100%.

What do you miss and what don't you miss?

My old line of work was more structured.

Product management is more 'in the jungle' – you have to make decisions through not-so-structured methods, and that's taking some getting used to.

I also miss my previous colleagues, as I had made a good group of friends in the company I was working for.

How did you go about making the shift?

I prepared for some time beforehand by doing courses for the specific new role I wanted to do.

I went to a ten-week course in Product Management, for example. I got to know some really great people there who had the same motivations as I did, and I still keep in touch and get inspired by them. I also went to product management meetups, read books and did online courses related to the field.

How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?

I put money aside for my further education.

I also had income insurance. This is something I'd recommend to everyone, actually. It gave me peace of mind that finances would not be a problem if redundancy came along, and when it did happen, it really made a big difference.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

Getting out of my comfort zone was really hard; by which I mean going out into the world and finding out about the new role I wanted to do.

I had to make myself put money aside for courses, put time aside to learn the new skills needed for the role, and find opportunities to network with people that were in the field I wanted to move into.

It's easy to get into a routine of complaint and not work for change to happen. I was really lucky that I was pushed outside of my comfort zone by my previous employer. It just forced me to make the change I was looking for.

What help did you get?

Family support definitely helped and was encouraging.

Also, for me, outplacement services were really useful, as they taught me how to prepare my CV, present myself to the market, and network in a much better way; basically they taught me the tricks of the trade to find a new role.

As I said before, I also did many courses, including a couple with Careershifters. The first one was the London evening workshop. After that, I was clear that my values were not aligned with my previous employment and that I was only still there because I valued the financial stability. Then I moved on to take part in the Career Change Launch Pad. That made me re-evaluate my career to date, and also helped me realise that making a career change was not that difficult!

What have you learned in the process?

I've learned that change, although scary, is very positive in many cases.

Realising that I could add value to other organisations, not just my old company, has been really valuable. I also learned the importance of continuous education, how important it is to never stop learning. Although it's hard to study while working, it always pays dividends.

Finally, I've got to grips with the power of networking, and how asking for help can lead you to a job you really love.

What do you wish you'd done differently?

I waited too long to make the change.

I wasn't enjoying my previous role any more and already had the capacity to be Product Manager long before I finally made the change.

I also wished I followed my gut more. Too many times, I was full of analysis-paralysis. I think following my instincts and believing in myself would have been more productive.

What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

If you're not happy in your current role, take financial precautions by putting money aside and getting income insurance, and start looking for new opportunities.

Go to courses related to the area you want to move to and talk to people in the field you would like to work in.

Try to embrace the whole situation as an opportunity to do something you love, rather than just complaining about your current role. Life is too short to do something you don't like and change is easier than it looks!

What resources would you recommend to others?

If you might be made redundant, I would really recommend an outplacement service.

Updating my CV, learning how to network, having the opportunity to do mock interviews and gain other basic skills that are useful in looking for a new role helped me get back on my feet. I also met great people during the process. Everything was so useful, and the lessons and new network contacts are still there for me to use in the future.

The second recommendation would be some of the courses from Careershifters. They helped me figure out my next career path. The short London workshop put my values into the picture of career development, and Career Change Launch Pad put some challenges in front of me to help me realise change wasn't as difficult as I'd imagined. The courses helped me understand myself better in relation to work, gain more confidence in myself and get into action.

Thirdly, I've learned so much from MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and resources. Sites like Coursera, or Udacity have improved my professional skills, for virtually no cost, which have proved fundamental to my current role.

What lessons could you take from Alex's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at hello@careershifters.org.