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Life of a Product Manager, by Ellen

Coding can lead to very different careers in tech. Ellen, who did Le Wagon with Batch #348 in January 2020, is now a Product Manager, which is a key role in the tech industry. Let's follow her in her daily tasks to better understand what it's all about...
'I can "talk the talk" with the development team now, which makes communications more smooth and efficient. I applied my coding skills when reporting bugs, as sometimes I can point out what is wrong specifically.' 

Hello! Can you introduce yourself to our community?

Hello everyone, my name's Ellen Zhuang, I'm also 32 and I was in the same Batch of students as Sean in January 2020. Currently, I'm a Product Manager at FURNISHD., an early-stage startup focused on interior design service and furniture eCommerce in Australia.

What did you do before joining Le Wagon Australia?

Before Le Wagon, I was a Product Manager in China. I've worked at a few global tech giants such as Baidu and Trip.com Group as well as some fast-growing startups, driving and delivering B2C and B2B products and services in the eCommerce field. I've always been interested in programming and wanted to have a chance to dive into the full-stack development field to better understand the tech industry. I thought doing a coding bootcamp would help me achieve that goal - and it was also a good opportunity for me to make more friends as I just came to Australia for 3 months when I decided to join Le Wagon.

You are now Product Manager. Can you tell us more about your role?

The Product Manager role varies in different companies, depending on the industry of the company, the size of the company, even which team you're in! If you're a PM at an early-stage startup, your scope and responsibility expand way more than if you are working in a bigger company. You are an 'All-Rounder'. When working in a bigger corporation, you have to focus on one specific area and dig deep. But no matter which company you are at, there are always three keys aspects: Communication, Analysing, and Documenting.

A typical day of mine starts from doing stand-ups with our scrum team to see everyone's progress. Then, I check my mailbox and analyse the website data on Google Analytics. After that, I report the project progress briefly to the CEO and have discussions with stakeholders if necessary. I usually arrange time-consuming tasks in the afternoon, like managing the product backlog, writing product specs for the next sprint, doing some research, or developing product strategy and roadmap. When our developer or designer has any questions about the product requirements, we will quickly have a catch-up on that. Other than that, PMs are in lots of meetings, including but not limited to daily stand-ups, sprint grooming meetings, sprint retro meetings, product demonstrations, meetings with stakeholders, user interviews, etc. Hence, time management is super important!

How do you apply the skills you acquired during the Bootcamp?

Doing Le Wagon was more like a bonus for me as I've been on the track of PM for 8 years. It turns out that the programming mindset and coding skills I acquired at Le Wagon make me stand out more in this competitive job market. More importantly, I can "talk the talk" with the development team now, which makes communications more smooth and efficient. I applied my coding skills when reporting bugs, as sometimes I can point out what is wrong specifically. Oh, I also programmed the HTML email signatures for each coworker to save the designer and developer time! Haha

What would you say to someone thinking about joining Le Wagon Melbourne and thinking about becoming a Products Manager?

Here are some characteristics that I think make a great Product Manager:

1) Empathy (the most important one). Empathy in product management means being able to listen, observe and care about their users. A Product Manager needs to walk in users' shoes in order to understand their needs, problems, and pain points.

2) Curiosity. PMs must be able to learn fast in order to gain insights and make decisions on the product. They have to learn both the business side of the product (understand the business model, the market opportunities, the target audience etc.) and the technical side (be familiar with the tech stacks your company uses, have data analytical sense, etc.).

3) Strategic thinking. A Product Manager is almost like a mini-CEO. They need to understand the product strategy and how it aligns with the overall company strategy. They also need to know the product vision, how it will generate customer value and what is the differentiating advantage over its competitors

4) Communication. PMs spend much of their time communicating their ideas, thoughts, plans and proposals! They form a bridge between users, marketing, sales, designers, and engineers. The best PMs are skilled communicators who have the ability to communicate user experience, data analytics, marketing and business strategy, and technical limitations and challenges.

'In product management, there are always three keys aspects: Communication, Analysing, and Documenting.' 

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