How is it like being a PM in a Tech Start Up!

Before I start off on my journey and experience, I believe it’s good to give some background information. I previously worked in a technological start up in Singapore. It was my first ever `real´ job, and I was hired as a mechanical design engineer. As all start-ups are, I wasn’t just a mechanical engineer, I was virtually everything. It was truly a wonderful place to understand and grow professionally.

I was initially part of a project which was technologically innovative and very difficult to hack due to the complexities of science (all the disciplines). After 9 months, I was moved into a new project which was the potential ‘money-maker’ project of the company. Technologically lighter, however more commercially driven. It was an easier product to make, on an engineering standpoint, but, it’s challenges lay elsewhere. As engineers, we are hardly ever given the education of the market. I had adequate skills as a design engineer to make a product, but I did not have any skills on making a ‘go-to-market’ product.

I had taken a 1-month course on Coursera called `Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society´ where I learned the art of Design Thinking. The gist of the course is Need Finding – Prototype – Test – Iterate – Test (until it’s market validated) – Manufacture ready – BAM! Sell! This process seems awfully simple, but there were plenty of things that had to be tested.

It took about 10 months of prototyping and market test validation for it to be almost ready. The final validation was performed in New York, since that was the market we were targeting. I had the chance to spend 5 weeks in New York and test the product and meet many people and professionals. It was a huge hit, professionals wanted distribution rights and were very interested.

Then I became a Product Manager... What does it mean?

At this point, I was told by Bossman that I was a Product Manager. Through my journey as a Product Manager, wasn’t always aware of my role. I evolved as the product evolved, it was very organic and holistic. I did not know the clear distinction between a Mechanical Engineer to a Product Development Engineer to a Product Manager.

Since I had worked with the product solo, I had full autonomy to go in the direction required. Due to this, I had the opportunity to grow like I couldn’t have otherwise in a larger group or a larger company. But often I did not really know what was the right direction and the appropriate steps to take forward. Since my role as a Product Manager wasn’t as diverse and demanding as compared to a product manager in a big Multi National Company, I was able to follow through with the help of articles, books and videos. However, I wish I was aware about a suitable framework to follow as a guide.

There are several frameworks that one can follow, such as Pragmatic Marketing, Silicon Valley Product Group, 280 Group. With one Google search, it gets very confusing as to which framework is suitable and who to give my money to ensure the highest value.
In Sweden, there is only one company that offers a certification on Product Management by a reputable association. ISPMA offers dynamic framework structures based on the role of the Product Manager. I found it to be fairly interesting and very helpful! I have added the framework below for any new and clueless Product Managers just as I was!

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About Sneha Barman

Background in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and Product Management. My professional roles have ranged from a design engineer, product development engineer and product manager where I primarily worked on commercial products to make it market ready. I am constantly curious and intrigued by technological advancements in all areas and the impact it has in the world and our lives. It’s a good era for me to be in!

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