4 Key Reflections on the Pursuit of Product Management

If you've been striving to become a product manager for an extended period, join me in unpacking my experiences over the last few years. The goal is to offer actionable tips derived from my reflections, enabling you to start implementing them today for greater success on your journey to becoming a product manager.

Jensine Mattis
March 15, 2024

Hello there! I'm Jensine Mattis, a current advertising account executive embarking on a journey to create products that foster positive societal change and advancement. With a background as a former social worker and psychology, my mission in the field of product management is to ensure that individuals of diverse abilities and backgrounds are not only acknowledged but also feel seen and heard through the solutions I develop.

Beyond my 9 to 5 responsibilities, I am committed to building community and advancing Black product managers as a regional lead within the Black Product Managers organization. My next career aspiration is to secure a product management position within SaaS, eCommerce, or Artificial Intelligence. If you're ever interested in exchanging career tips, feel free to connect with me.

Let's delve into four primary reflections from the past two years of pivoting to product management.  

Join an Upcoming Cohort!

Get real-world experience to land your dream role in tech. Join us as a Product Manager, Designer or Developer, and put your skills into practice by shipping a real MVP! 🚀

1 | My lack of confidence has cost me more opportunities than any other job applicant will

Embarking on product management as my next career move has been a journey testing my confidence, susceptible to fluctuations based on circumstances, my mood, or surroundings. In a field demanding depth of perspective, thought leadership, and autonomy for success, confidence becomes an unspoken prerequisite to thrive. It transcends mere outward appearances and corporate presentations; it's rooted in self-belief, which, in turn, stems from lived experiences.

During my formative years as a child, I faced bullying due to aspects of my identity that were beyond my control. These experiences fostered a belief that I'm not valuable or good enough to be great, leading me to put myself down before others are given the chance to. As I grew older, I grappled with social anxiety, sought validation from others, and struggled with self-confidence.

Surprisingly, these challenges have persisted into my adult life and have led to various mishaps along the process in trying to achieve a product management role. If you’ve consistently faced situations that reinforced negative self-beliefs, your confidence may gradually diminish, prompting the need to foster positive experiences as a countermeasure to the negative ones. 

Reflecting on my product management interview at LinkedIn, I vividly recall being in a state of shock, stammering in my speech due to negative thinking and disbelief in advancing to final rounds. I discounted myself, fixating on the absence of top companies on my resume or Ivy League degrees in my "tell me about yourself" pitch. Browsing through the experiences of past successful applicants on LinkedIn proved unhelpful; instead, it led me down the rabbit hole of social comparison. My focus on perceived lack of experience, rather than confidence in my transferable skills, led to a subpar interview performance.

In hindsight, the crucial mindset shift should have involved highlighting relevant skill sets from past experiences related to product management. If I weren't qualified or deserving, I wouldn't have been considered for the interview.

Being a product manager is a results-driven role, requiring a willingness to learn and possess a growth mindset. The potential for growth is limitless, and I advise against allowing accolades, official positions, or formal education to dictate potential success. I’ve learned that growth and making an impact begins with unwavering confidence.

However, confidence-building in all aspects of life, specifically in a professional context, requires consistent practice to gain experience and self-trust. One area of my life that I’m actively improving is building authentic relationships. Regarding the social anxiety I mentioned earlier, I intentionally attend social events with a friend as a networking practice to learn how to effectively create relationships in large group settings. There's indeed a science to networking in these types of settings, and I make it a monthly practice.

To refine confidence for the next opportunity, recognize your worth and accomplishments, and confidently embrace them. For example, to meet different product managers across professional fields, I seeked out technology organizations that increase my exposure to these types of professionals. In my outreach to speak with them, I always frame it as I want to learn about their journey and tips to excel in a product management career.

Overtime, some of these interactions lead to mentorship or friendship. In the beginning of taking action, it can feel uncomfortable, but remaining consistent will breed confidence and discomfort will lessen.  

Actionable Steps: 

1. Visualize the successful outcome you desire 
2. Create an action plan by writing 2 -3 tasks that will help you achieve the goal
3. After each task completion, reflect on the experience – whether positive or negative – to identify areas for improvement or simply to cheer yourself on. 
(Photo by

2 | Relying solely on online applications will not help me secure my first product role 

You're likely aware that relying solely on online applications for product management roles isn't the most effective strategy. I've accepted the reality that my application might go unnoticed in a queue of 5,000. Over the past two years, I've interviewed with Asana, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Meta. Wondering how I landed these interviews? The key was finding the humans!

However, as mentioned earlier, once you locate the humans at your target company, confidence is crucial in approaching these interactions. For instance, when applying to Asana, I participated in a 2-day workshop hosted by Asana product managers, focusing on preparing candidates for the application process.

Through networking, I connected with product managers overseeing the rotational program (the humans) and got the chance to apply and start the take-home product case a few hours before the application went live.

Reflecting on my Pinterest APM application, my approach varied. I attended a virtual event hosted by the company and received a thank-you email afterward, encouraging attendees to reach out for job opportunities. I sent a tailored email expressing interest in the APM position, leading to conversations with three recruiters managing the program. It all began with attending a simple online event to connect with a human being. In today's job search climate, creativity is essential, but if other strategies fall short, remember to locate the humans to get ahead.

Actionable Steps: 

Think like a marketer when creating a job search strategy. Ask yourself the below:

1. Whom do I need to speak to? 
2. Where do these individuals spend their time? 
3. Is there a specific conference or panel discussion attended by recruiters and hiring managers in my chosen field? 
(Photo by

3 | Meaningful connections with people outweigh mere awareness of your existence 

Networking proves rewarding only when you master the art of building and sustaining relationships over time. In the last two years, I've amassed over 1,000 LinkedIn connections. However, when it comes to how many of these connections I regularly speak with or who have a genuine interest in my well-being and success, I couldn't say. The challenge lies in maintaining relationships while navigating the pressures of securing my first product role and managing a 9-to-5 job. Despite completing various programs and joining organizations, very few can vouch for my work ethic or know me beyond the digital realm.

Recognizing this pattern, I realized the need for a change. Prioritizing connections with whom I genuinely resonate and who share similar interests or values is crucial. Without this, maintaining a network can feel like just another job. It’s essential to be realistic about the number of people you aim to stay in touch with. I used to track my network by adding names to a spreadsheet along with details from our last conversation.

However, trying to implement an effective job search and application strategy is overwhelming and adding another list of things to track didn’t work for me. Now, I find myself moving away from emphasizing the quantity of relationships and instead focusing on the quality of each connection. 

Recently, I initiated an accountability partnership with a friend I met on LinkedIn. We initially connected during a Twitter Spaces session where she, along with a group of product managers, shared tips on landing a product role. Her perspective resonated with me, sparking my curiosity about her journey. Following a virtual event where she spoke, we began a one-on-one conversation and have stayed in touch since.

Reflecting on our interactions, our friendship evolved organically, rooted in shared interests like poetry writing, corporate experiences as black women, and a similar sense of humor. Our conversations were never forced but rooted in genuine support for each other. This is the kind of authentic relationship I aim to build with more mentors and inspiring individuals over time. Such relationships allow others to understand your character and mindset more deeply.

Actionable Steps: 

1. Reflect on someone in your career whom you admire, sharing similar perspectives, interests, or goals. 
2. Send them a message requesting time to catch up.
3. Review their latest posts to guide the conversation, inquire about their recent setbacks or successes, let curiosity flow, and express your desire to stay in touch. 
(A picture with my team at the Black Product Managers Network after wrapping a partner event)

4 | Having great ideas is not enough, you must be an executor

In the last two years, I've learned that execution plays a pivotal role when striving toward any goal. Personally wrestling with procrastination and self-doubt, I've grappled with maintaining discipline to complete tasks or achieve objectives.

At times, the struggle to execute is rooted in the fear of making mistakes or appearing uninformed to others. This brings to mind a time when I joined a founders residency program with a motive to develop product management skills without a clear understanding of the role. In this accelerator program, I had to use the company’s no-code software to build a minimum-viable product in 10 weeks.

Throughout the program, my focus was on building a solution to help Black designers gain visibility for their businesses in local cities. When it was time to start implementing the lessons learned from the development lectures, I encountered the issue of not understanding the features that needed prioritization or how my product differentiated from others on the market because I skipped an important piece of product development: customer discovery.

Prior to the program, my effort in understanding the issues of Black designers involved reflecting on my experience creating home designs for family and friends, and engaging with the home design community through online groups and events. Through those experiences, I learned that Black designers face diversity barriers within the industry that negatively impact their business growth and visibility.

By failing to conduct effective customer research, I struggled to launch a viable product within 10 weeks. I kept encountering dead ends in my development because I wasn’t sure if it was the right decision.

This experience taught me the importance of understanding the correct sequence of steps when executing. The 'how' in executing on an idea is crucial to reaching success, as it's directly tied to saving time and money. My ideas and heart was in the right place, but I believe a better roadmap for success of a product is rooted in obsession with the customer’s problem.

In retrospect, an alternative approach would have entailed dedicating a minimum of 2 to 3 months to product discovery, aimed at gathering both qualitative and quantitative data concerning the experiences of Black designers in the process of building their businesses.

This would involve actively listening to a diverse range of experiences across various parameters such as age, education, and location, in order to identify patterns and disparities. The overarching lesson to be drawn from this narrative is that successful execution comprises a series of well-defined steps to aid in achieving goals or completing a given task.

Should you encounter challenges at any point along your list of steps, consider seeking guidance from mentors or peers to gain insights that can help overcome obstacles. Reflecting on your experiences will enable you to recognize and address the barriers that may hinder success.

Actionable Steps: 

1. Outline the steps required for your desired goal or task.
2. Seek feedback on your step breakdown from a mentor or peer.
3. Initiate the execution of the first step without overthinking; simply take the first step!

Securing a product management position can be exceptionally challenging, given the barriers of education, experience, and strength of social network that may be stacked against you. Reflecting on my endeavors over the last two years during this professional transition has been a source of solace, allowing me to acknowledge various successes and learn from failures.

At the core of my primary reflections is the crucial lesson of being open to building new relationships. Recognizing that people are central to overcoming challenges, I recommend an approach to be curious to understand their work, process, and personal mistakes.

This approach allows you to apply successful tactics employed by others to improve your own life. Despite the highly competitive and perpetual nature of today’s job market, cultivating a supportive community can help lighten the load and offer encouragement through each rejection. Always keep in mind that you are just a connection away from securing your first product management position. 

Are you an aspiring
Product Manager? The Co.Lab program is the perfect place to gain real-world, cross-functional experience that you wouldn’t get anywhere else because you’re going to be owning a product life cycle . Follow us on on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn for the latest updates.

Stay up to date with Co.Lab

We'll be sure to keep you in the loop

Get more information

Have questions? Our team will get back to you as soon as possible.