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Careers clinic: Getting started in digital product

We teamed up with three product leaders to chat about careers in digital product as part of CanvasFest 2020

CoWomen, Unsplash

Last month, I was lucky enough to take part as a panelist in a digital careers clinic, part of CanvasFest. Hosted by 383 Product Director Leon Barrett, we were joined by Pip Jamieson, Founder & CEO of The Dots, Sarah Timmins, Portfolio Lead at Eversheds Sutherland, and Bhavesh Vaghela, VP of Product at Callsign (and Canvas 2021 speaker) to chat about how they ended up working in digital product, what they look for in candidates, and what to think about when you are searching for your next role.

Getting started in digital

Firstly, we discussed the different routes our panel had taken in their careers to lead them to digital product. The consensus was that many of us have squiggly careers; the panel’s routes varied from marketing, project management, and digital transformation. Bhavesh’s tech obsession led to working in defence, banking and data analysis, whilst Pip was an economist working for the home office before starting her own very successful tech company – without a tech background!

383’s Nick has a similar story about finding his way into a careers as a digital strategist – it’s often more about the skills and ideas you pick up along the way than the specific roles you’ve worked in. What came across from the panel was how important soft skills and core values are in breaking into the digital industry.

Elevating soft skills

Our panel all agreed that when recruiting, a curious mindset, a customer obsession, vulnerability, and a willingness to ask questions are all key soft skills they look for. A positive mindset is also important, alongside a focus on solutions and alignment with a company’s values.

If you’re just starting out in digital product or considering a career change, try to learn the lingo and jargon. Ask people in the industry what they do and understand how that fits into product development. Be inquisitive, google anything you don’t know or understand, sign up to free courses, join webinars and read and listen to blogs and podcasts. All of this will show you are willing to learn and pick up new skills, even if you don’t have experience yet.

Networking support

There are various approaches to getting yourself in front of the right people when you are looking for a new opportunity, aside from applying from advertised roles. Networking can really give you the edge.

A good starting point would be to immerse yourself in professional networks like The Dots and LinkedIn to build an authentic profile. These platforms are full of contacts and industry professionals you can connect with. Alongside the all important job opportunities, building your connections can help you learn.

Don’t approach networking with a ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude, however. The most successful networking comes from mutually beneficial conversations and relationships. Don’t be scared to be vulnerable and honest and ask for advice.

You can also find relevant events and meetups, virtually or in your local area, all of which can increase your knowledge, grow your network and ultimately open doors and present you with opportunities – Canvas Conference, for example, is a great chance to hear from product leaders and meet people in the industry, and if you’re in the midlands, you should look up Birmingham Tech Week and Birmingham Design Festival too.

Presenting yourself

When it comes to your CV, the panel agreed that making it short, sweet and relevant to each role you apply for was very important.

Ensure your soft skills and core values jump out of the page. Your passion projects, side hustles, or entrepreneurial endeavours should all feature, with links included where possible to show your work in real life.

Aligning values

Recruiting diverse teams should be extremely important to all hiring managers, and our panellists agreed this is particularly relevant in the digital product world. We can’t deliver a product that is user friendly to a diverse audience if we don’t have a similarly diverse team.

Ask what your future employer does to ensure diversity and equal opportunities within their workforce. A company’s values and beliefs are there to help you find an organisation that aligns from the get go, so don’t be afraid to ask these types of questions to ensure longevity in your next role.

Searching for your next role in digital product? We’re always looking for superstars to join our team. View our open roles here and drop us your CV.

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