Product School

A Product Manager with an Engineering Background — Alumni Stories

Ellen Merryweather

Author: Ellen Merryweather

January 9, 2023 - 4 min read

Updated: January 24, 2024 - 4 min read

It’s impossible not to be proud of our awesome alumni! They come from all over the world to hone their craft, learn new skills, and show off their passion for Product.

We got to chat with Fiona Nataprawira, a Product School alumna currently working as an Associate Product Delivery Manager for 10Pearls in Virginia, USA. She graduated from one of our online Product Manager certification cohorts, and is here to share her experiences with us…

Fiona Nataprawira
Could you tell us a little bit about the different roles you’ve previously held?

After my career transition from fashion to tech, I started my role as a Front End Web Developer which then extends to include UI/UX design.

Moreover, I started to be more involved in activities that require client engagements. Prior to starting my tech job, my roles include customer communication and relations, business operations, some manufacturing logistics (supply chain management).

I can see you’ve taken part in volunteer work in the past. How did you benefit from this? 

My volunteer works focused on project management activities, which I did during my career transitions into tech. I volunteered for local Project Management Institute chapters in the Washington DC metro area, working and collaborating with fellow project managers who mostly have been in the IT/Tech fields. 

This helped me gain more insights as to what skills I need to develop and what career moves I needed to take to bring myself closer to starting a career in tech.

Two people working together
What drew you specifically to Product Management? 

As I expanded from a technical individual contributor to roles where I have to engage with clients, I realized that I enjoy being the “middleman” between our engineering team and clients. For me, translating business requirements into technical solutions provided a different kind of challenge that I thrive in.

This also applies the other way around. I learned that communicating a technical product solution to business clients can be quite difficult for our engineers. Simplifying the complex technicality of a product and translating it in a way that brings excitement and engagement to business clients gives me a kind of satisfaction knowing that I am helping and contributing to both sides of the equation.

How smooth is the transition from UX Engineer to Product Manager?

I can say it has been a well-balanced transition. My UI/UX experience does help a lot with my current role. A lot of what I do previously (customer requirements, wireframing, prototype design, working with developers and engineers, etc) is definitely a big part of product management. There are certainly new knowledge and skills that I am gaining as I grow in my new role, especially on the client-facing sides of things.

I believe these are skills that get sharpened with experience, working with different projects and different clients.

Ux design
How did you find the online learning experience, compared to more traditional education?

I personally prefer in-person interaction. However, I was really satisfied with my class with Product School. I did really feel like I was in an actual physical classroom. Our teacher Vishal was very engaging and the program was designed in a way where students were encouraged to interact and work as a team.

How can someone get the most out of being in an online cohort?

Definitely don’t hold back. Ask as many questions, and engage as much as you can. Reading the materials prior to class (as suggested in the curriculum) was very helpful for me.

Especially if you are already in a product management role, use the program’s case studies to compare it with real-life work situations and gain insights from that. And of course, do all the homework and exercises!

tech on desktop
What did you do for your final project? Did you enjoy the process?

I created an opportunity hypothesis presentation for Spotify features.

The process was not easy but exciting as we get to use what we’ve learned in the class (and we learned a lot of materials) and be creative. It was quite an achievement.

What are your main goals for the future?

To grow my career in product management, get my masters in business and further my career as an executive.

What advice do you wish you’d been given when you left university?

When you start feeling comfortable and not challenged by what you do, that is a sign for you to learn something new and start planning your next career move ASAP.

In your career/ job, you are bound to do things outside of your official roles. As long as these extra “roles” give you new knowledge and make you feel challenged, accept and play along with it, as you will find that these are the skills that can help you go further/ expand your career.

Updated: January 24, 2024

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