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How I started a career into Product Management with no technical background

5 min read

Roughly 5 years ago, I was a full time practicing dentist in Pakistan. My day started with rushing to a job I did not like and it pretty much ended with that too. This was going on for a few years before I came across a quote that changed my life. 

The quote went a little something like 

“There is no such thing as a right decision, you have to make the decision right.”

Basically, this quote says that there is no such thing as a wrong or bad decision in life. So what if I studied all these years to become a dentist, the only bad decision would be to think that I have to stick to it and that there are no other better alternative options. Then I realized, that…

“Grass is greener where you water it!”

… and these two quotes were all that I needed to stop what I was doing, and start what I wanted to do. 

This was not an overnight decision. I consulted other people that knew me well and started asking them for recommendations. My cousin and my brother in law played a key role in helping me discover product management as a career option. After picking their brains for a couple of days, I decided that I will make the jump from dentistry to product management. 

Despite having many challenges, such as my parents not being on board with me taking such a risk, having expenses such as rent and food to take care of, and not to forget, I had no technical knowledge whatsoever, I decided that I will give it my 100% and make this decision right.

With a little bit of financial help from parents, siblings and my own savings, I decided to completely stop dentistry and take admission at the General Assembly. 

For those of you who do not know what the General Assembly is, I highly recommend clicking the link and exploring more about what they do. I will summarize what it is for the sake of continuing with my experience. General Assembly is an online and in-person workshop/class based learning center where they hire professionals from major companies, such as Microsoft, Facebook, etc and have them teach small classes of 20 to 30 students who are looking to completely grow into a profession, such as product management. 

General Assembly was costly but definitely worth it. This is not a sponsored post, so don’t worry, I am not trying to sell you anything here. The reason why I say it’s worth it is that I made my tuition fee back in 2 to 3 months. There are many loan options that they provide as well in case financial limitations is something that is blocking you from making that decision. 

After 3 months of more than 12 hours a day at General Assembly, working on projects, networking with people at meetup events, I reached a point of saturation where I could almost no longer take in any more work/study load. It was at this point where I needed to get a job or go back to the old one because the apartment in NYC was not going to maintain itself and free pizzas at meetup events was not going to be the lifestyle I had expected for myself. 

It was this point of saturation that made me want to go from 100% to 110% and really move the needle. I realized that at this point I had basic technical knowledge of how things work, thanks to General Assembly, basic User Experience knowledge and pretty decent Product Management knowledge, again, all thanks to my instructors and students at General Assembly for providing me with the tools that I needed to succeed. 

I immediately started applying for jobs. Online and at meetup events in NYC. After 200 job applications and rejections, it was YourGuru.com that offered me my first position as a product manager. Thanks to the CEO, who believed in me, for giving me the opportunity to grow his business and prove myself to myself that I am making the decision right, I was able to help his company pivot, raise over 4 million dollars, and expand nationwide. 

It was at this point where recruiters started to recognize the impact that I was making in the industry that they made me offers that I could not have turned out. I decided to explore new opportunities and worked as a Product Owner for companies like ExxonMobil, Alibaba, Capital Group, EY, and more, all at the same time.

I will leave out the monetary growth out of this discussion as that was not the intention for why I went into product management, but I will mention that excelling in product management came with all the hard work I was putting into my passion. And it can for you too. 

Because of the success I had, I decided to pay it forward and have helped numerous people break into product management roles and I love helping people explore if that is the right fit for them. I still have a lot more to learn and grow and that will never stop, but I did want to take a hot minute from my life and share my experience with you all in case this is something that you are looking to explore further. 

You can connect with me on Openiun, just click on my profile picture or name, and ask me any questions if you have any. I would love to hear your thoughts and help you out if that is what you’re looking for. 

Click here to see which course I signed up for at the General Assembly. They are offering them online now, so commuting or moving to NYC is two fewer things to worry about.

Written by Qasim Naqvi

I question everything that I cannot see, and especially what I do. I present my thoughts, which are merely just observations of what surrounds my existence.

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