I did not have access to the internet while studying and because of this, I did not have the information which would have helped me choose the right career. I was a good student with good grades. I went with the flow and entered a college with a good reputation, picking a major which had good career opportunities.
On graduating from university with a degree in engineering, I ended up with a job at a tech company as a software engineer. I was good at my job but I was not entirely satisfied with what I was doing. By now, I had access to the internet, which I found to be a powerful tool and I met some very talented people, who still remain my friends.
I then started exploring different career options. I reached out within my social and professional networks – my friends, university seniors and people whom I had connected with on Linkedin in order to figure out the kind of work they were involved in. It was then that I came across the role of “Shopify Product Manager”. The definition of the role was vague and it seemed like it was not as structured as my software engineering position. However, from what I learnt about it from my research, it seemed to suit my personality and my goals. I decided to switch my profession.
What I have learnt so far doing product manager job at shopify, one has to be good at decision making, have good communication skills – including writing and speaking, have leadership skills and a lot more – that you need to have a host of different skills.
My journey was not as simple or smooth as this write up may make it look – there were failures and pitfalls which taught me lessons which help me to this day.
Below are some of the questions that can help students to pick the right things in their career.
How does working at startups compare with working at large companies?
In a startup environment, the work that you do has the potential to be more impactful as compared to working in a reasonably sized or mature company. Since the environment is fast paced and there is a crunch for resources and people, every individual working for a startup is expected to take as much responsibility as they can handle and take complete ownership of their tasks.
I was fortunate to have started my career with an early stage startup. Working there made me realize my true potential by pushing me to my limits. It gave me an opportunity to develop my leadership skills, which is one of the essential skills of a good product manager.
Large companies –
While working for a multinational company, you learn the importance of structured work and processes. In such a company, before sharing your ideas, you need to think through them thoroughly and have them in a presentable state, since you will be working with lots of people with different skill sets. You hone your documentation skills and learn how to communicate effectively. There are usually multiple teams in large companies. You work mainly in one team and get to master one domain, which has both pros and cons.
Life at Shopify –
Shopify comes somewhere in between. It’s a large company but has the work culture of a startup. My experience with Shopify so far has been amazing! There is tremendous value placed on data driven decision making and because of this, the data collection and processing mechanisms are mature. This gives me the data that I require in my decision making process. Apart from this, I find that there is a whole lot of educational material made available to me which gives me the chance to develop myself professionally, as well as personally. Shopify also values individual autonomy which gives me the freedom and sense of ownership while building world class products.
What was your first job or nuggets from jobs you had that helped you to get to where you are today?
I started my career with a startup where I played multiple roles. It showed me that if I have the motivation, anything was possible. Since there were no strict boundaries of what I could and could not do, I tried my hand at various roles and in the process, I figured out my strengths.
How do you prepare to get Shopify Product Manager Job?
During the early stages of my career, I used to prepare by looking at what other candidates had to say about the companies they interviewed at. This gave me an idea of the type of questions to expect. Although this method did help, I now prefer the following –
- Since I interview for product management positions, I first go through the products of the company I am interviewing at. This gives me an idea of what the strengths and shortcomings of the product. I then make a list of improvements, enhancements or new features which would showcase my skills to the interviewers.
- I try and learn at work every single day so that when it comes to interviewing for a position, I am already prepared and don’t have to do anything special. This is especially useful because interviewers can sense if the candidate is genuinely knowledgeable.
- As far as possible, I read about the company, their culture and new things they are doing.
Books that helped you?
Amongst the many books out there, I found the following very interesting. The cover various aspects of product management, including design, leadership and management.
The design of everyday things – Don Norman
Hard things about hard things – Ben Horowitz
Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products – Nir Eyal
Product Leadership – Nate Walkingshaw
Deep Work – Cal Newport
Things are changing very fast in product management, how do you keep yourself updated. Please list techniques or newsletter, podcasts, events etc
- On Medium: Start by subscribing to people who write on product management. Medium recommends articles based on your subscriptions and these are relevant and useful. I write about products on Medium. One of my colleagues at Shopify writes amazing articles on product management. Ravi, from yours Productly has some great articles too.
- I reach out to product heads, directors and product managers in other companies and meet them over coffee. This is another great way to know what’s going on in the industry. Maybe someone else is doing something differently, that you can learn from. In any case, cultivating relationships like these is always helpful. It also keeps me on my toes and makes sure I am not getting too rusty with my current role and responsibilities.
- I attend conferences and other events based on my interest.
- I am subscribed to product communities online and stay connected with other product managers there. This way, I am up to date on what’s going on, since a lot of these communities are very active, having great content.
What can you recommend on CV?
Focus on your particular area of interest. Also, it is important to focus on the impact that you had, rather than a description of the products that you worked on. This can help catch the attention of those who scan your CV.
Advice for someone looking for product management job?
- Reach out to other product managers on Linkedin and ask them out for coffee. This is a great way to find potential companies to work at. You get information about the company from an insider. Something that may not possible if you go through other channels.
- Attend meetups. You will meet lots of interesting people working for great companies.
- Spend at least few years working at a startup.
- Read as much as possible.
- During the interview process, make sure to ask good questions and learn about the product that you are building beforehand – this signals interest and will surely impress your interviewer.
Why do you think you were selected for shopify product manager job?
By learning about the product that I will be working on, I conveyed interest, passion for my profession and earnestness, to which the interviewers responded positively. I took all stages of the interview seriously and avoided being complacent.
Lessons from jobs that you couldn’t get.
I like to look at the positive side of things. Rejections are a part of any job search and I consider it to be a part of my learning process.
When I really want to join a company and don’t get selected, I think it’s their loss more than mine. I keep working towards improving my skills and many times I have ended up in better places.
Renuka Thakur builds products at Shopify. She has 8+ years of experience across large corporations and startups. She’s passionate about solving problems. You can find out more about her on Linkedin or read her articles on Medium.