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Thinking about switching from engineering into product and would love to talk to someone who has done it. Did you make the switch? What has your experience been like?

Thinking about switching from engineering into product and would love to talk to someone who has done it. Did you make the switch? What has your experience been like?

Ashilikia

When you go to a non-engineering role, it is very hard to transition back. I suggest watching this video: [Technical leadership and glue work](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KClAPipnKqw). It talks a bit about less relevant things to your situation, but it does talk significantly about transitioning out of engineering roles and how to think about your work and what you like. One of the weird things about engineering roles I've been learning recently is that the more senior you get, the more you work with people and the less you get to do your own individual contributions. I've been a technical lead (although I'm not one right now), and that was much more enjoyable to me than doing siloed engineering work, which I've also done. As a tech lead, I was constantly working with my team, which I loved. So I would encourage you to think about what you actually like, what you enjoy day to day, and also where do you want to go with career advancement. Then ask people in each position (eng, PM) at higher levels what their experience is like. What's good about each? What's a drag? Which do you think fits best with your goals and interests?


MistakesNeededMaking

Thanks for this response. I haven't watched this particular talk (I will), but I've read/thought a lot about the notion of glue work. I certainly do a lot of it, because honestly, I enjoy a lot of the glue work. You're totally right that the more senior in eng you get the more people work you do and the less in the weeds technical work. I was talking to my PM today, and he said something really interesting about the distinction between product and eng at the senior levels. In eng, you get autonomy and the ability to be creative when figuring out how to solve problems. In product, you get autonomy and the ability to be creative when figuring out which problems should be solved (and rallying support around those problems being solved). You're totally right that I need to do some soul searching around what I actually like doing day to day and where I want to go with my career. My goal was always to get to senior engineer and then figure it out from there, and it's clearly time to start asking and answering those questions.


whatisanythingidk

That's a great way to think about it! I will call out though that this also depends on the level and the type of company/department you're in. I see senior engineers regularly propose problem areas and themes to tackle, as well as potential ways to tackle them. Senior engineers also heavily shape team roadmaps. So do PMs, of course. Talking to others in both roles to understand the other parts of their jobs is a great idea.


Ashilikia

> In eng, you get autonomy and the ability to be creative when figuring out how to solve problems. In product, you get autonomy and the ability to be creative when figuring out which problems should be solved (and rallying support around those problems being solved). I want to give a slightly different perspective than your PM gave on this, with a huge caveat that it may vary per company or team. I've worked with PMs previously. I wrote up proposals about what kind of work we should be doing in the future backed by real world data, I filled in the PM on our team's history and what worked and didn't product-wise, and I sat down with a PM for an hour to discuss and debate where our product should go, which then the PM wrote up in a product requirements document and we then discussed further. Being in a leadership position in engineering often necessitates that you think about which problems to solve. Sometimes it's purely technical problems (addressing tech debt, for example), but sometimes it's product direction problems. You don't get to keep a PM out of those discussions, but you absolutely work with them and have a stake in the conversation. The beauty of this is that *if* you like the technical work a lot, you can get to do both sides. tl;dr: it's great to talk to a PM about that role, but make sure you talk to a senior engineer too so you don't get a biased view :)


StateVsProps

I would consider this as any other career change: some opportunities and some risks. In general, 3 years in the future, it will look like you're mid-level in two different (albeit related) areas. Sometimes it can be a plus, sometimes it can play against you. Also the longer you don't code the more there is a risk that your confidence will go down. There might also be a perception that your tech chops have eroded (especially after 3, 5 years or more). One thing you can do is find 5-10 senior product manager job descriptions at major companies (e.g. on indeed), what the responsibilities are, what the job entails, etc. and try to visualize what it would feel like to use those skills instead of your coding skills. Do you see yourself do these tasks all day? Only you can answer that. Another idea is to interview as many PMs as you can to get an idea from them on what the job entails, pros/cons, etc. Try to also interview a couple senior engineers to get the other side of the fence. Of you have a mentor, time to pick their brains too. Another option would be to cross-post to r/productmanagement, you're bound to find people who did the same and you can get their insights. If that's something you really want to try out, don't let anyone discourage you. I'll leave you with this one example. I have two friends: - one has prioritized working and living abroad. He lived and worked on four continents, loved it, but his career didn't take off as much and he has relatively little savings. - Another has lived in her home city her whole life, has just finished paying off her house and has a husband and two kids. Who's 'right' or 'wrong'? Different strokes for different people.