Finding Your Next Challenge
Today marks the end of an era in my life. Today, is my last day at Qlik, where I worked for 9 years, 6 months and 9 days. It has been an absolute roller coaster and a ride I will never forget. In the time I have been here, we went from an up and coming intimate garage band that was punching above it’s weight, to the innovative incumbent that the company is today.
In making this decision, I had to perform some deep introspection and ask myself some difficult questions, and along the way I realized that this is a map for Product Managers out there, a map that can help decide when and how you should be considering a career change. My decision boiled down to three simple questions and I encourage you to ask yourself these questions on a regular basis. As a PM, you develop expertise in prioritizing, in finding a product-market fit and in influencing the future direction of a company. I am here to tell you that you need to learn to apply these same principles to your career.
Influence The Future
If there is one thing I want you to take away from the time you will spend reading this, it is the importance of following a deliberate strategy, while staying flexible enough to respond to an emergent strategy. Far too many times we find our careers floating like a cork in the ocean and that is ok once in a while when you want to ride the wave (i.e. following emergent strategies) but it is critical that you have some rough ideas of where you want to steer your career and build a deliberate strategy. Early in your career of when exploring new industries it is great to follow an emergent strategy. Over time, you will find yourself benefiting from more deliberately targeting industries, skills or companies of a certain size that you should be adding to your portfolio. At the same time, during times of change, remember to be open to emergent strategy. How to go about it? Read on.
Product Market Fit
A key part of the PM function is to help find Product-Market fit. With products in general, an acceptable solution is to discontinue the product if an appropriate market fit is not found. When you are the product, however, it is in your best interest to try to avoid the …discontinuation. One dimension I encourage you to think through is your comparative advantage and specialization vis-a-vis the size of the business. It is easy to fall into the trap of defining this market as a technology (Mobile, front end) or even an industry. I would encourage you to define your market by the value you have delivered to a business vis-a-vis it’s size.
Do you specialize in taking a startup off the ground? Is your superpower in defining the market and finding users that help companies cross the chasm? Are you great at stabilizing and turning around mature companies? Each of these requires a different approach, skillset and risk tolerance and it is important you understand where you are. This is not to say that you must be stuck in one of these, but you need to understand where you current skillset is and where you want to be, so you can assess your next steps.
Any PM worth their salt needs to be able to prioritize requirements for a team. How many of us apply those same principles to our career? When one starts as a PM, the skillset is primarily limited to basic backlog grooming and understanding user needs. These are fairly hygiene, but as you grow in your career, you are responsible for things ranging from developing a vision to pricing strategies to building a PM team from scratch. A number of key skills are required that will call upon various parts of your brain to be exercised and while an education in principles of business management and user experience are helpful, it is generally a good idea to gain experience by throwing yourself in the deep end. Create a backlog of the skills you want to achieve. For me, a few years ago, some of these were: Financial accounting, leadership, pricing (economics), M&A. I ended up creating a prioritized list and working on specific projects that helped me develop the most important skills first. This approach really helps narrow down the problems you want to solve first and focus your bandwidth on areas most impactful to your growth (and your company’s as a result). Want to learn more about M&A? Raise your hand next time an integration project comes along. Accounting? Spend a few weeks chasing down a deal through to booked revenue.
Goodbyes are never easy and as goodbyes go, this one is particularly difficult for me. However, what makes it easier is the exciting new journey ahead of me. I am really looking forward to joining a group of extremely talented and dedicated people who are at the cusp of revolutionizing how businesses become more resilience. For more on that, stay tuned…
/ Vinay Kapoor
Vinay Kapoor - Greater Boston Area | Professional Profile | LinkedIn
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