Slack Product Lead on Building A Non-Technical Product Career (Part 2)

When my product career began, I didn’t even know that I was on a path to becoming a product manager. Simply put, I had to get a job. After graduating from college as an English major, my original career plan was focused on the world of publishing. However, I entered the job market during the height of the 2008 recession – and I needed to pick a new career fast.

Thankfully, a good friend of mine had started to work at Etsy and was raving about it. From the creativity in the building to perks like health insurance, how could I say no? Little did I know that my first role as an entry-level customer service rep would ultimately kickstart my product career.

When I started out, I didn’t think that any of my skills directly applied to my new role. In other words, I knew that I could write academic papers and make coffee. As a result, it felt like I was starting from zero. However, I quickly learned that non-technical skills manifest themselves in ways that will help you develop as a product manager.

There’s a quote from April Underwood (current CPO at Slack) that summarizes how to think about your current skills.

“It doesn’t matter what you did before – what matters is that you were good at it.”

With this in mind, I started to realize that many of my non-technical skills were quite useful in my new role. For example, I didn’t know how to write customer service emails when I started out. However, as a barista – I knew how to keep a line moving. So, I figured out how to optimize the customer service experience by crafting responses that effectively “kept the line moving” by providing customers with answers.

As I got more comfortable with answering tickets, I learned to pick up on patterns for common problems. Simply put, you shouldn’t keep answering the same tickets over and over without getting at the heart of a given issue. As a result, I started connecting with our engineers / designers / etc. to develop tools that ultimately improved the product.

In the end, product managers need to use a lot of different muscles to make things happen. While it may not seem like it from the outset, “English major skills” are applicable to a product career.


Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 3


Please to leave your comment

Load more comments
About the Speaker
Jaime DeLanghe
Products That Count Senior Product Marketing Manager
Jaime DeLanghe leads the Search, Learning, and Intelligence Product Team at Slack - responsible for building data-driven products that make it easy to find everything you need to get work done. Prior to joining Slack, Jaime worked at Etsy - leading a team of product managers responsible for the Etsy marketplace across platforms. Jaime holds a degree from Wesleyan University.

Recent Posts