Meet Virginie Adams, Product Manager at MetaCX
Job Title: Product Manager
Degree Path: B.S. in Computer Engineering and Mathematics, Masters in Engineering Management Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Hometown: West Bloomfield, Michigan
Current City: Indianapolis, IN
What led you to your getting into tech and this occupation? What was your first job in tech?
As a kid, I thought that I wanted to be a math teacher but my stepdad was an engineer and I realized I could still go into math and learn engineering. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do exactly and started studying computer science and then switched to computer engineering as I realized that I liked hardware more than software. After my senior year, I realized I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and didn’t really want to just be an engineer. I decided my next step was to get my masters degree.
My first job in tech was the Catapult Program at ExactTarget where I rotated through services, marketing, and product. I ended up becoming a Program Manager which was a role I didn’t even know was an option when I was in college.
What has been your career path so far?
All of my roles have been around being a program or product manager. However, I’ve worked to help launch new products to market. I’ve worked at Salesforce, a big company, and now I work at a startup.
My Roles have been: Catapult > Project Manager > Product Adoption Manager > Program Manager > Product Manager
When you think of a day in your life, what are the main work activities you do or responsibilities you have?
I help determine what we should build next on our product. I work with our leadership to break down their vision and with our engineering teams to understand how long something will take to get to market.
Help us picture your work environment.
I spend most of my days in meetings. I have the ability to work from home whenever I want, however, I prefer to be in the office. Most of my work happens on my computer or my phone. I work with a lot of people that are remote.
What do you love about the work you do?
It’s determining what’s next, not the how. I get input on how things get built but the main thing about my job is that I help determine in what order we develop features and how to break them down. I also get to work with a variety of people in the company which I love! As a product manager, you have to incorporate and think of everyone work.
Which personality traits, interests, and abilities are important or common for a person to succeed in and enjoy this occupation?
I think you have to be a problem solver, and you have to like working with a lot of people and not be bothered by contact switching.
Which tools/technologies or technical skills are particularly important for a person in your job to be proficient in?
Depending on the product you are building you may not need the technical knowledge. My degree has helped me be able to work closely with engineering but it is not a requirement.
Which soft skills (aka general business skills or employability skills) are particularly important for a person in this occupation to be proficient in?
Communications, teamwork and time management are key in this role. Negotiation also helps especially if you have multiple people leading a vision or multiple founders in a company. Being able to clearly articulate ideas on paper is another key aspect.
From your experience with new grads applying for and beginning jobs in this occupation, are they missing any particular knowledge, skills, or experiences that hold them back? Please describe.
I think being a product manager out of the gate is really hard because you have to understand the industry your product belongs in really well to make good priority decisions. Starting as a business analyst who can help conduct the research is a solution to get into this career path.
Which resources, people, books, websites, etc. would you recommend to those who want to learn more or advance their skills in this occupation?
LinkedIn has good videos on product management and creating roadmaps. I would also recommend the website Pragmatic Marketing.
What encouragement or advice would you offer to others considering this occupation or wanting to stand out amongst others?
Get in the door at a company and do your research on the industry the company is in. Learn the competitive landscape – that can even be done before starting a job.