I’ve been through this process almost to the letter and have found it rewarding and challenging but also stressful and frustrating at the same time.
I started my IT ‘career’ (more a string of jobs with some progression) in support before moving into roles as a developer, business analyst and project manager. All of this was over a period of around seventeen years and often I would be doing all of these at the same time.
Whichever company I worked for I always had to understand the business and its goals. Many people can just turn up to work and turn the handle for 7.5 hours, but I’ve found this leads to high levels of frustration. Even if you don’t agree with the direction and decisions a business is taking having the knowledge can only benefit you and if it means you are better suited elsewhere then it’s time to get out.
I decided I wanted to move from a BA/PM role into product development but how could I achieve this when ‘stuck’ in a techie role? The first thing I realised is that it wasn’t going to be given to me and there are some big barriers to break down especially between IT and Commercial. I needed to be known by the existing product managers so simply started to discuss the business with them and what they were working on. I also used my knowledge of our platform (using newspeak now) to suggest new ideas and services that could be offered. This led to the product managers and business development teams asking for my help on proposals, which were mostly technical. It’s very rewarding to win new business based on a proposal that was 80% yours, and there is no better way to get C level (sorry, newspeak again) attention.
However, I had to fight for eighteen months, constantly putting myself forward, which felt very uncomfortable, and working on many proposals outside of my ‘day’ job before I finally got the opportunity to move into a more commercial role. It can be a very frustrating time when all this effort might come to nothing. I thought hard work and successful bids would get me what I wanted but there are many people who will take that success as their own even if their input was minimal.
Dropping the technical jargon and sadly replacing it with management bullshit comes with the territory. I don’t mind discussing markets, profitability, margins, cost of business, P&L, ATL & BTL marketing etc… but a part of me dies when I have to discuss, consumer empathy, audience loyalty, the brand narrative, etc….
I’ve now been in a product management and business development role for three years. There are still some really frustrating times but in my product area I control the strategy. This is very liberating but I’m also responsible for the profitability and will be shown the door if we don’t hit forecast, which brings its own stresses.
I’d advise anyone in an IT role to read some non-technical business books. Rather than learn some obscure programming language read about project management, product management or marketing. This will provide a better understanding of business in general and make you more valuable to the organisation.