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My road to Senior Product Manager at Microsoft

The full history of how I got to where I am today


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Dr Bart

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a year ago | 20 min read


Breaking into Product Management is always a challenge and I know that first-hand! Let me continue the story about my journey today :)

Microsoft Prague office

Breaking into Product Management is always a challenge and I know that first-hand! Let me tell you a little about my journey today :) It’s a really detailed account that I wrote piece after piece over the span of recent weeks. With further adieu, let’s begin!

Early days: Working at a start-up and discovering the position

I started my professional career in a small start-up, idibu :) I remember the times when it was just the owner, ops manager, SINGLE developer and yours truly on client support and many other minor positions. Four people fighting to keep the company afloat in the boss’s flat as the office. However, the company grew, more people were hired and I was doing much more of the project management work (suggesting urgent product changes or bug fixes and seeing them rolled out to the code) without much decision-making… for a time.

As the boss (The product decision-maker) started pursuing other business ideas, I got to make more and more product calls myself. I am not sure whether I put the title “Product Manager” in the email footer as my own initiative or I was called one on a performance review call, or any other meeting for that matter. But it popped up there.

Those were great times with very impactful work done that defined the company and its growth vector for years to come. I was really proud of the product changes I issued and could point fingers at the big contracts those generated.

This is where the story breaks the joyful tone. It was my 7th year of idibu and I knew it was time for me to go. I wasn’t learning anything new, most of my days were not really productive and due to how the company was shaping up, I was no longer in any decision-making capacity and instead… being there?

That was the first time I decided to confront my experience and see if I am ready for the world of Product Management in the world.

I wasn’t. At all.

The way how a B2B start-up operates and how other, mature, companies operated back then were worlds apart. I was able to get interviews (though my resume from those times looks laughable right now!), but I was simply a weak and inexperienced candidate. I was also a little over 70–80% into completing my PhD, which also made me look bad (It is a stigma in Poland, that a lot of people start doctorates just to impress, but hardly ever actually finish them).

Those were harsh times, full of disappointment, confusion and sadness. The brutal reality was that getting a new job was going to be close to impossible and even some of my loved ones said, in frustration, to let it go and stop going through the self-torture of multiple failed interview processes!

At some point, I recall getting a bitter-sweet success of an offer in another town, a lower salary and bad feelings about the company in general. Thus, I did what a good Product Manager should be always able to do: I refused the offer! Never regretted it, even though it took additional months before the dream job finally arrived!

Job interview learning loop of feedback

So, if my math is correct I decided to move on from idibu 3 years before I actually accepted my next position. Let me tell you a little about that time. Let’s start with my first-ever Product Manager job interview at a Polish company called “Spartez”. They have been purchased by Atlassian a while back, but back then they were a relatively small company creating plugins for Jira.

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