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Understanding a Product’s Life Cycle

Sagar Patel

Vice President, Software Developer at BlackRock

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Problem

"In my first few years as a programmer I was very focused on the need to build a specific functionality. This is great if you want an understanding of how to actually build things but not sufficient if you're looking to comprehend the entire life cycle of a product. This is the challenge I faced as I transitioned from senior software engineer into a technical product management position."

Actions taken

"As a product manager, I found that I as an individual had to learn the entire life cycle of a product on my own. There wasn't - and still isn't - an all encompassing Product Manager Manuel out there so the roles and responsibilities vary greatly between industries, companies, and products. But I knew that if I learned the life cycle of my newly assigned product that I could essentially become an effective product manager. So I dug deep and gained the knowledge for each individual step of selling the product. I worked closely with our marketing team, sales team, with our relationship management team, and with our sales engineers. I was determined to understand the process each and every step of the way. I went as far as gathering information on how a specific line of code became part of an application that the user would eventually handle and how that line of code could drive revenue. I think a mix of looking internally and externally will give you the well-roundedness needed to be a product manager. You want to understand not only how your organization does things but also how the industry as a whole tackles it all. I spent most of my time internally focused but I also resourced a fair amount of books. Additionally, there were third-party schools out there that taught different aspects to get one integrated into the product life cycle, although I personally didn't take this direction. Furtherstill, had I had the opportunity to get mentored by a product manager within the company I would have jumped on that."

Lessons learned

  • "Learning the life cycle and becoming an effective product manager was really about gathering a hodgepodge of information. There is not one tell-all source and I think it was greatly beneficial to me that I had to dig deep and discover these things on my own."
  • "Take the time for self reflection. Personally, I left my previous career as a lawyer because I was unhappy. I loved engineering and I knew that I loved the product side of things which is why I transitioned to doing both. In fact, I'm 50% software architect and 50% technical product manager. I reflected on the time and effort it would take for me to make these transitions and I was ready and eager to invest. But not everyone's path is the same so be sure you know which direction you want your career trajectory to go instead of just looking ahead to the next immediate job."

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Sagar Patel

Vice President, Software Developer at BlackRock


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