Engineer to Product Manager: The Job Offer

After 18 interviews over 4 months, I received a call from my potential boss and I received a job offer! If you’ve read my other posts, you know it was a whirlwind to get to this point. I was offered a job as an Associate Product Manager and would be focusing on the company’s internal systems and tools (aka Business Systems). It was a tough decision because I was finally offered a job in product management, the pay was what I was looking for, the company checked off all the boxes, but the role/product wasn’t exactly what I wanted (well, not in the beginning)

Talking with the COO in more detail, I got a better sense of the role, the importance of it and I became much more excited. It was also tough, however, because I was going from a Senior Engineer title down to an Associate Product Manager title. While I don’t really care about titles, this one was still a little tough for me to swallow, but I looked long term and knew I wasn’t going to be an associate for a long period of time as long as I knocked it out of the park. So, it was a small sacrifice for the longer-term benefit..

The Decision

I decided to take the job. At the end of the day, the role, the company, and the opportunity checked most of the boxes. Was the product the sexiest thing on the market? No. But I had high visibility and would work closely with senior leadership across the entire organization. When making the transition, you don’t always have a large pool of companies to look for and you don’t want to just take a job to just take a job. You want to be interested in the company and see room for learning and growth, especially as a first time PM. I had started the interview process with a few other companies, but I wasn’t as keen on the product, team or opportunity so I decided to cut ties with them.

I called my new manager to tell him I was accepting the offer. It was a great feeling sitting in a glass room at my old office with the biggest smile on my face and I had accepted the offer. After all the interviews, ups and downs, frustrations and the ongoing conversations with my girlfriend (now fiancé), I did it.  I was proud and thrilled to start, but it was hard too. I liked my job at the time and the company was great to work for, but from a career perspective, it was the right move.

What to Look for in an Offer

Ok, while I was really looking for a Product Management job, I wasn’t just going to take any offer. You want to be compensated well, get good benefits, have room for growth, understand the team and the people you are going to be working with, culture, etc. While I believe there should be some sacrifice / risk in taking this type of leap, it should be calculated and you shouldn’t undervalue yourself. 

Here are a few things I looked for:

  1. Compensation— Using tools like Glassdoor and talking with my friends, I went in with a compensation range in mind. I ended up negotiating mine and was able to do so given the research I did as well as speak more to the value I was bringing to the organization. Remember, it isn’t just salary. Think about items such as stock options, bonuses, 401K matching, etc. Understand how they came up with the compensation packages. Some places offer a little less salary, but offer things like catered meals, more time off, etc. Find out what is valuable to you and stick with it. 
  2. Room for growth — I was offered an Associate Product Manager position so my questions were around how soon until I would be considered for a full-time PM position, what does the process look like, has anyone else gone through the process, etc. You want to see room for growth, so if they don’t have a great answer or it is something way out there (like 3 years), it may not be the best fit. 
  3. The Team — Sometimes you interview with all the team members or just some. When talking with the hiring manager, dig a little deeper on the team you’ll be on, the different types of people you’ll be working with, etc. As a Product Manager, you are in the center of it, so you have to consider your team and the other teams because you’ll be interacting with them more than most other roles. Being a Product Manager is already hard enough. Not have a supportive, high energy, high output team surrounding you makes it even harder. 

I was beyond excited when I got my offer and almost blurted out ‘Yes!’ when I got it. But, I took a deep breath, took a step back and reviewed the offer in detail and had a follow-up call for clarification and further discussions. I highly suggest you do the same. 

Side Note

I won’t go into too much detail about my first product role, but I ended up absolutely loving the product/systems I was able to work on as an Associate Product Manager. I worked across every team within the organization, so I was able to meet and build relationships with individuals at all levels. The best part was that I gained a deep understanding of how my company works from an organizational perspective, which is something most PMs don’t get, at least down to this level of detail. All of it has greatly helped me in my new role with a new product (spoiler). Also – The people that I got to work with were fantastic. I still have daily morning coffee with a couple of them.

I am writing a series of blog posts about my transition from engineering to product management. Click here to get the master list.

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