Psychology Aficionado to Product Manager

Beyond Textbooks to Tech: A psychology graduate's inspiring journey into health tech product management

Cathy Xie
December 14, 2023

Growing up, I believed what I studied in school was going to be my career for the rest of my life. It wasn’t until my last year of university that I was proven wrong. Because somehow a year later, I ended up in the health tech industry as a product manager.

So what exactly happened? And you might be asking how I did this?

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I always had an innate curiosity to understand people, so naturally, studying psychology seemed like the perfect fit. But the truth is, I’ve always craved ownership and being able to build things – something I didn’t get much pursuing psychology.

So, during my last year of university, I reached out to hundreds of startup founders, asking for an opportunity to work with them. A few days later, a wellness e-commerce startup got back to me and this was the start of my pivotal journey.

My convocation ceremony – I remember feeling so anxious about if I made the right choice to pivot into tech on this day!

The role was eye-opening for me. I got to experience working intimately with a team in a fast-paced environment, dig my hands in product, R&D, marketing, but most importantly – ownership over a special project. A few months later, I worked at another tech startup in a product/UX role. Here was the first time I was exposed to the world of user experience, design, and working in a product team. I loved it. I love that I could use my knowledge in human thinking (thank you psychology degree!), own a piece of the product, and work in a cross functional team.

After these experiences, it was made very clear to me where I belonged. I decided to take a risk and pursue full-time work in tech. Somewhere in the middle, I discovered product management and all the pieces clicked – it was exactly what I wanted in a career. And after MANY rejections, interviews, and coffee chats – I landed in an APM role at a health tech startup (and the rest is history).

My most recent trip to San Francisco! I had some time away from work to reflect on the past year and although there were definitely some ups and downs – I was so grateful for how much I learned this year and being able to do what I do.

So, looking back, here are the three main takeaways from my experience to break into tech and the world of product:

1. Get the Experience

Coming from a non-tech background with only experience in clinical research, it was so important for me to get experience in tech and product – whether that be working on a personal project or working in product related roles. It helped me prove to hiring teams that I was able to use my existing experience and apply it to another field – also known as transferrable skills.

This wasn’t just for job seeking purposes, but getting experience also helped me understand what’s important to me. I found out I loved creating and building things, working with people, and most importantly, I wanted to make a meaningful impact in people’s lives.

2. Know what I bring to the table

Applying for PM positions meant I also had to understand what I could bring to the table (and the more experience you have, the easier this gets). For me, I knew my strengths were in building relationships, being adaptive to changing environments, etc. – so I made sure that these points stood out. Then, the next steps were revamping my resume to align with PM responsibilities/skills and creating my portfolio.

3. Connect with people

Having mentors and a network that you can learn from and connect with is crucial when breaking into tech. I joined slack communities, discord groups, and read tons of reddit threads for aspiring product managers. Building relationships and having coffee chats helped me understand the PM role better, improve my resume and portfolio, and actually helped me land my first role!

To sum it up, straying off the “traditional” path can be scary. But sometimes, taking a risk and creating your own path can take you somewhere you belong – and remember, you belong in tech ;).

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