How I got into... product management
Maria joined Hutch as a product manager in early 2021. Here she is to demystify the role and explain exactly what it means to work as a product manager in mobile gaming. Read all about her career journey, and stick around for her top tips for getting into the industry…
Maria's Career Journey
What did you do before Hutch?
I was a product manager for a games publishing platform and before that I worked in an AI start-up for financial regulation technology, in a tech consultancy setting up outsourcing teams and my first jobs were in the long-distance fishing industry.
What made you want to apply for the job you now do?
I honestly stumbled into it because someone showed me that product management was a career choice! I had no idea such an awesome job existed before being told about it. From what I gather this is fairly common because product management doesn’t (currently) have a widespread university degree like other professions.
My university degree was in graphic design and I did an MBA in business strategy as my post-grad but I always felt like I had not found the right role for me. When I joined the AI start-up I had a mentor in the leadership team that told me he thought I’d be an excellent product manager and that I should try to pursue it. I followed his advice and I’ll be forever grateful because I love my job.
What’s your job role at Hutch?
I’m a product manager on Top Drives. Some of my responsibilities include collaborating with the game director to define the game’s roadmap; competitive analysis and keeping in touch with market opportunities; doing game deconstructions; exploring, designing and scoping new features; refining work with the team to prepare scrum backlogs for sprint planning; validating the success of liveops and features through data.
Any particular skills, experience, characteristics that you think were instrumental in getting your job?
Being a generalist is a strong suit in product management. Understanding the core pillars of design, business, production, data and engineering is extremely important because part of the role is having multi-disciplinary conversations. Usually product managers have a strong suit that they can lean into but it’s critical to ensure that at least the core pillars of all disciplines are being studied to become a great product manager.
One instrumental characteristic is to be a calm person because the product manager will usually be in the eye of one or more storms going on at the same time. The person in this role needs to be able to lead, keep up motivation and positive spirit even when times are tough. It’s so important to be the person in the room making people feel comfortable to learn from their mistakes and not be judged when something goes wrong.
Anything else interesting about your career journey you’d like to share?
I started my career selling canned fish and learning how the factory worked. I changed industries a few times and now I’m in games. It’s never too late to change your path and to learn a new industry if you put in enough hard work and dedication.
Don’t lose hope when someone tells you that you can’t make it; persist and believe in yourself. If you’re like me and sometimes you lack some self-belief then I found it invaluable to believe in others who believed in me.
What do you like most about working at Hutch?
Hutch took care during my recruitment process to understand my career expectations and where I wanted to be in 3-5 years and now I’m getting internal mentorship to help me reach my goals. For me this is really important because I feel like I’m invested and have room to grow so I’m hoping to stay at Hutch for years to come! Taking the time to understand how the company can help individuals reach their goals is special and something I’m very grateful for.
The fact that everyone is so nice makes this a lot easier as well. Any time I’m curious to learn something new about another discipline or how another game solved a problem, everyone at Hutch and the wider MTG family is more than happy to spare a few minutes to share knowledge.
What career advice would you give your younger self?
Be confident to present facts about your achievements and weaknesses that you’re improving on to back up your career progression such as a salary raise or promotion; it’s healthy to self-promote your factual results and progression. Have these conversations with your line manager throughout the year and don’t wait until the end-of-year review.
Don’t be afraid to be upfront and direct about your career ambitions and expectations, it’s important for the company to know what you expect to stay for more than a couple years and how to support you with mentoring.
What are the best 3 tips you would give someone looking to get into a similar field?
Be curious. Keep your ear to the ground, sign up to newsletters, listen to podcasts, read books, continuously play new games, stick to a couple of games to experience their long-term progression and more. To be a great product manager you need to be in tune with the wider industry and not just your game or market segment.
There’s no right path to get into product management. You can come from any background such as engineering, business or marketing, and you don’t need an MBA. Many of the required skills can be learned by being self-taught and practicing at home. For example, learn from different sources what steps you’d go through when creating a new product or a new feature and create an imaginary product or the next feature for your favourite app.
Doing your own game deconstructions, and not just reading deconstruction articles, is one of the best exercises to become a better product manager, explore new ideas and stimulate your creativity. If you do them often you’ll notice that over time you’ll build up valuable soft knowledge to apply in your day-to-day.
What’s the best bit about your job? And what’s the hardest part / the bit you wished someone had given you a heads up on!
It’s so hard to pick one, there are so many best bits! I’ll have to go with having the opportunity to work with all disciplines of the team and company. I find it’s a lot of fun to jump from improving our production process to digging into a hard customer support enquiry, to forecasting; every day is different and exciting.
The bit I wished someone had given me a heads up was to be ready to accept and live with a high amount of responsibility. Product managers have to make decisions on a daily basis and sometimes we’re going to make mistakes that can have a significant impact. Personally I like this aspect of the role but I can’t deny that it can be stressful at times.
If you're looking to start a new chapter in your career, check out our current vacancies here: hutch.io/careers. We'd love to hear from you!