Transition to Product Management

When I quit my job at Sendlane at the start of August of 2018, I didn’t know where life would take me.  Pushing further ahead into engineering felt like it was only taking me further away from something I was missing.  I couldn’t imagine working on another project that didn’t inspire me, the money wasn’t worth it.  I wanted to take a long break away from the day-to-day I had become used to, and hopefully recenter myself and connect with my sense of purpose.  In my final months at Sendlane, I craved purpose with an intensity I had not felt since my cancer experience in high school.  I wasn’t depressed, but I was not happy and I was sure that I was not entirely fulfilling my talents. 

After Sendlane, the time I spent working for myself seemed to pass by faster than I anticipated.  I had imagined having more time to reflect, read, travel, and get in touch with a side of myself that I felt I had ignored to sustain a career as a software engineer.  I never actually felt like I had the time to do those things.  I spent time finishing work on my house, running my own business, and spending my free time with my girlfriend.  Although I never felt like I had an abundance of “free time,” I was able to quickly and frequently change directions with my business as I learned from each project. 

I read as much as I could on running a small business.  I learned a lot about how I could manage and grow my business, but I realized I was losing sight of why I quit my last job in the first place.  I wanted more time to do the things that mattered most to me.  My business wasn’t what mattered most to me and I realized that growing it was never going to get me any closer.  But running a business was helping me understand the importance of management and leadership.  I knew that in order to be a great manager and a great leader, I had to really care about the mission and purpose of my company.  Building custom, high-quality cabinets and furniture was not going to make the impact on the world I had in mind, and I couldn’t see myself being an effective manager in my own company.

In time, and after many books, I began to envision a future as a manager and a leader focused less on my individual contributions and more on helping others achieve their best and working toward a shared goal.  With this new understanding, I was able to see a future in product management.  I realized that I had a skewed perception of software engineering.  I was able to look back and see how my primary concerns as a developer were around building a viable, useful, and thoughtfully designed product, which are important as an engineer, but paramount to effective product management. 

Once I realized that product management was a better fit for my talents and interests, I immediately focused my attention on looking for product management positions that I was qualified for (and many I probably wasn’t).  I felt that I had the experience and the right motivation to be a great product manager, but I knew this was going to be hard to convey through my resume.  I must have revised my resume at least 5 times, but I actually landed an interview with the company I work for now, SeeScan, with my first revision.  The first version of my resume was not traditional.  I detailed my experience in paragraph form over bullet points, because I knew how much I hated scanning short descriptions of people’s work experience.  It always seemed to beg questions I wished I could answer without waiting for an in-person interview.  I guess I could say that in hindsight, my approach worked because my resume caught the attention of a company that I’m very excited to be working for. 

On the surface, SeeScan didn’t seem like that interesting of a company to work for other than the fact that they built tools.  Their website seemed a little out of date and it wasn’t clear whether they were selling any products yet.  It wasn’t until my phone interview that I learned how their tools were sold under the Ridgid brand, but I had never worked with their products.  They were sounding more interesting, but I still didn’t know much about where their products stacked up in comparison to competitors.  It wasn’t until my first in-person interview that I realized how interesting the company was.  They had an amazing engineering culture that was building state-of-the-art camera and sensor technology that were also incredibly durable and reliable.  I was hooked pretty quickly.  The more people I interviewed with, the more excited I became about the prospects of working with them. 

They made me an offer that I accepted after my second interview.  I just finished my first week and I’ve had the chance to meet many awesome and interesting people in different departments of the company.  I’m honored to be able to work with such a diverse group.  I’m looking forward to a long and prosperous future with this SeeScan and I’m excited to help lead through the challenges and opportunites ahead.