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Alumni Spotlight: Hear what Alex has to say on continuing a project begun at Co.Lab and getting to Google.
Following a summer internship in 2019, Alex knew that she wanted to work in Product Management. She had keen interest in the intersection between business and technology and had conversations with people working in the field of Product Management. She however decided to complete her degree in Management Information Systems after which she began working as a risk-assessment consultant at EY.
Even while executing her role as a consultant, she remained determined to move to Product Management. She was passionate about it and excited to solve problems in that area. Soon enough, she identified a few roadblocks that passion and excitement could not eliminate. Firstly, she did not have a background in building anything from the ground up; secondly, she had had difficulty finding a mentor from a non-traditional tech role; and finally, she had no Product Management experience. Many who decide to pivot to tech face a version of these problems so in order to give herself a fighting chance, Alex sought out possible solutions. After coming across Co.Lab on LinkedIn and making enquiries, she saw an excellent opportunity to have some mentorship as well as the prospect of being able to learn Product Management and also gain some experience.
Working with Co.Lab turned out to be an investment with great returns because in her current role as a Product Strategist at Google, Alex’s job requires her to work with stakeholders and to focus on go-to market strategies. She analyzes the value proposition of the product and best marketing channels for them. With this she then works with the sales team to equip them with knowledge via trainings and support materials to make sure they can deliver the product to the users. Working in a team as part of the Product Management online bootcamp Program at Co.Lab taught her the technical language others were speaking, how to build a functional team dynamic and how to set and manage expectations. According to Alex, Co.Lab gave her exposure to cross-functional collaboration and changed the way she viewed her tech journey.
There are two things Alex is specifically grateful for. One is the pace of the learning at Co.Lab which is instrumental to her work today.
“Co.Lab is a program where you learn and grow and build so much within a limited period of time and Google is a big company which functions at a very fast pace. I feel better able to navigate it because of my Co.Lab experience.”
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Another thing is the support she received from the Co.Lab community during and even after the process of job application. The connections she built have outlasted the cohort. Her mentors helped her with interview tips when she reached out and they continued their mentorship even after the end of her cohort.
“I was able to form friendships with the members of my team as well as other PMs in the cohort. We’re still in touch these days and give each other tips and support each other.”
In a rather exciting turn of events, Alex and some of her Co.Lab team mates recently launched their app ‘Sidekick’ on Google Play Store. It was the project the team worked on during their time at Co.Lab and on completion of their program, they submitted the winning UX demo. As the project was in a problem area that they really cared about, they felt a duty to see it to completion so they worked on it even after the cohort ended. Today, it’s a living, breathing app that allows you to track and prioritize up to 5 relationships each week, so you can make time in your schedule for those who matter most.
The saying ‘Third time’s the charm’ rang true as she was employed by Google after her third application within a number of years. What sort of changes did she make between her first and third applications, to better position herself for the role she wanted?
“I acquired real product experience through Co.Lab and took initiative at my workplace by tactically taking part in and initiating projects that bridged the gap between where I was and where I wanted to be.”
For example, It was a major requirement of her job for her to have had experience managing stakeholders. As the Product Manager in her Co.Lab team of individuals working remotely in their different roles, trying to create a single product, she learnt the language of the job, how to tailor the features of the product depending on whom she was communicating it to, and other skills required to manage stakeholder expectations. She recalls learning about User empathy the hard way when her first Products Requirement Document was heavily criticized by two of her mentors at Co.Lab. As it turned out, she was more focused on the idea of the product she wanted to create than on the core problem the product was to address. After this was pointed out to her, she had a complete mindset change and modified her approach so that she began by first, identifying a problem and then worked towards solving it rather than hop on just any new, cool idea. Also, eventually shipping a product demonstrated to her employers and to herself that she had the mindset to make such things happen.
She took on assignments at work that gave her exposure to products and delved into opportunities that allowed her craft a convincing narrative about herself. This is why she believes that more people should ask themselves:
“Is there a way I can take advantage of the current situation to build the skills I need instead of always doing something new?” In this way, they can maximize their current jobs in order to carve out opportunities that might be beneficial to their end goal.
The one thing she advises is for everyone to be unafraid to experiment.
“In college, I was in a very safe mindset of ‘I need to have a job when I graduate’ or ‘I should not try this because I have no time to fail’. Now, I think failing and learning to experiment helps to challenge yourself. At least when you fail you know what needs improvement. Each time I fail, I learn something and I’m a little closer to my goal”.
She finds it especially critical in job applications, to learn to fail. “Sometimes a job is asking for 2+ years of experience and you don’t have 2+ years of experience so you don’t apply. Maybe just apply? The worst thing that will happen is you’ll be rejected.” As a person who sent out 200+ job applications, we’re confident she knows a thing or two about the process and we’re willing to take her word for it.