Transitioning from Marketing to Product: A Non-Tech in Tech

Andrea Gonzalez

eCommerce and Product Management Director at Self Employeed



My skill set is not traditionally tech, however when you meet people in tech you realize there is no such things as a traditional skillset.

"there is no such things as a traditional skillset."

My college degree gave me a solid foundation in marketing which became my first 5 years in professional work experience, and what I planned to be my career forever. I peaked as a Customer Loyalty & Retention Manager for a $500m online grocer, designing digital marketing programs rewarded shopping behaviour and encourage more.

Then a pivot to my career occurred when I was cherry picked for an internal role to lead the customer migration of 400,000 customers to a new storefront as part of a major replatform project, required to scale the business to reach its $1billion revenue goal.

This was more foray into tech because during pilot we were very quick to realize: there were huge customer experience gaps for the consumer, causing a 40% deficit in sales. I quickly switched into requirements definition, leading UX to understand customer pain points, defining product roadmaps and directing developers to make changes that eventually resulted in the successful completion of the full roll out and migration of all customers.

Since then I've worked on some amazing products, led teams of developers, architects and other functional and platform experts to define, build, launch and support products that help grow businesses, delight users and drive value. Now, I am a leader in technology strategy, product management and delivery.

But how, I'm just a marketer. Surely.

Actions taken

  • I said yes and never stopped saying yes. Despite having experience or formal skills in tech, after some hesitation I said yes. My hesitation came from the concern the role wouldn't serve what I was picturing to be a formidable career in marketing. But I'm glad I said yes to the role but also yes during the replatform project - yes to responsibilities in change management, yes to responsibilities to implementation and UAT, yes to every chance I could to be fully present in the opportunity and be fully in the world of platform delivery.
  • I spent a lot of time listening, observing and learning. Projects and big launches are a fantastic learning experience - I used every chance to get deep learning and taking on tasks that would support them. Curiosity helped me learn about the full development lifecycle (SDLC) and I was fascinated. I also loved working with the experts around me and observed them deeply. Growing up, my mum gave me the belief that nothing was impossible, and that everything could be learned - and now often, I find myself executing tasks that I learned from others.
  • I learnt the lay of the land and developed real relationships. Part of being successful in tech is understanding the framework of technology, delivery methodology and other concepts (example: ITIL) which are consistent across any organization you join. Learn these keys and align experts across each area - example Security - and get to know them, what's important to them, when to use their expertise, what they look for etc. Tech is about pulling on expertise throughout. The more you get exposed to their specializations - the more you learn the how to ask the right questions to get the outcome you need.
  • When I didn't know, I asked. I used non-technical methods to understand technical concepts - "can you draw it out for me?" "can you help me understand X better?" "oh so it's like X?" - and people were more than willing to show me. Use what you know to help you learn what you don't is a great way of learning. I also had to learn: in tech, you're not meant to know everything - no one does. Instead, you realise there are specialty skills across each area that need to work in concert - so instead, focus on getting enough knowledge to know enough, then orchestrate.

Lessons learned

  • Freaking out is normal, but not worth the energy long term. It's unsustainable to exist in the panicked feeling of "I can't do this". Negative self talk is a force of nature but bowing down to it 1) isn't going to help you with the task in front of you and 2) be productive in any capacity. Find a way to channel this energy elsewhere, you've got no time for it.
  • Don't start the conversation with "I don't know" - it's an instant credibility killer. In any situation, there are always things you will understand better than others. Start from what you do know then ask questions, find reading and understand important gaps where you do need knowledge. Just don't sabotage your efforts to do so before you even try.
  • Learn the ropes at a smaller scale. It's a good thing to run a development project on your own - it can be online - Example: code a website or run your own eCommerce store. This small project can help you get empathy and awareness of what's to come - no matter what level you are.
  • Own your strengths, there are plenty of them. It turns out, most technical people feel inhibited by a lack of other business experience, so you're actually at an advantage.
  • Remind yourself you have earned your right to be there, and your point of view based on your very rich experience is required so, don't hold back.
  • Buck up and buddy up. Get some advocates across the team who you can soundboard with when you're stuck - everyone needs them. And buck up, tech isn't the smoothest of journeys but it's brilliantly fun and challenging. Give into it fully and enjoy!

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Andrea Gonzalez

eCommerce and Product Management Director at Self Employeed

Technical ExpertiseTechnical SkillsCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionSkill DevelopmentLeadership RolesEngineering ManagerAgile, Scrum & KanbanTraining & MentorshipTeam & Project Management

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