How I became a Product Manager without technical experience

There is no easy way to get into Product for the first time — nor there is only one way to do so. I’ve learned a lot in the process and I hope that by sharing my experience, someone out there will benefit from it!

Before jumping in, a little bit about me: I’m Alicia, I’m a Product Manager based in London and I became a first-time PM after 2.5 years of perseverance. My background is in Account Management, where I’ve worked with many customers, from 2-people companies to some of the biggest brands in the world. As you can guess, I didn’t have prior technical experience, but that didn’t stop me from getting there!

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.” — Steve Jobs

Now looking backwards, I want to share what worked best for me, in the hope that it will help you create many dots, which will ultimately connect you to your first role in Product.

Meet with other PMs

You might already know people around you that are PM themselves or works with PMs. In that case, I would highly recommend reaching out to them, having a chat and learn more about their own experience and how they landed in Product Management. But if you don’t know anyone in the field, that’s okay too, there are many ways to meet people through networking events, conferences, or talks.

If you’re anything like me (an introvert), you’re probably dreading networking events. Small talks and crowded places are not my favourite things. But I forced myself out of my comfort zone and I’m so glad I did because I would have missed a lot. It gave me so much insight about the role, from different perspectives and from many industries. If you are based in London, here are some Meetups I would highly recommend you to join:

  • Product Tank: Available online at the moment, but if you attend in person you’ll need to book your (free) ticket in advance, this is a very popular one, and for a good reason! These events are happening pretty much everywhere, you can find your closest meetup here.
  • The Product Group London: The format is slightly different than most Meetups. There’s a topic for the evening and participants are free to share their experience and debate on it. You’ll have the opportunity to talk to fellow PMs at the end if you stay a little bit (sometimes around free pizza!).
  • Women in Product London : Another one I’d recommend, I’ve heard many great talks there.

My tip to survive these places if you’re really not a fan? Give yourself a clear exit plan that won’t push your limits. For me, it was something like “I will attend one event this month”, or “I will have 2 meaningful conversations before leaving”. That way, no guilt in leaving early, and I’m still finding value in attending. These events helped me better understand what are the responsibilities of a PM, and they kept me motivated to push to get there.

One of the most impactful discussions I’ve had just before getting my first role was when I met with a Group PM (Hi Debby!). Back then, I just lost my previous job due to economic reasons, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to become a PM in the eyes of recruiters. But she helped me take the leap of faith and see my past experiences from another perspective. She offered to review my resume, and I solely focused on PM job offers. 2 months later, I had my first offer!

Online PM courses

There’s a lot of PM courses out there and it’s hard to know where to look. I’ve followed this online course on Udemy and it was the best I could possibly find during this time. It helped me understand the basics of Product Management, and prepared me for the interviews.

Udemy PM course — Become a Product Manager: Learn the skills & get the job

Cole and Evan are amazing instructors, they also provide a cheat sheet for every chapter of their 13-hours course. What I particularly liked about their course is that it helped me visualise the product cycle, from Product Discovery to Product Delivery.

Reading list

I’ll share below a condensed version of my reading list. Looking back, these books were the most useful to understand what is Product Management and get ready for interviews.

  • Inspired: This book is considered the holy grail of product management. If you don’t read it before becoming a PM, eventually you will have to read it later. However this book started to speak more to me once I gained a little bit of experience, as it was easier to understand why some product teams were failing, while others were thriving.
  • The Lean Startup: While this isn’t a proper Product Management book, the principles explained in that book are still very valid. Principles like testing the riskiest assumptions, the Build-Measure-Learn framework and the importance of validated learnings are particularly interesting for any product manager. This book is incredibly inspiring and packed with lots of value.
  • Cracking the PM interview + Decode and Conquer: Not sure if they still need to be presented, but these books are an absolute must-read for interviews. There’s a lot more explained in these, but I’ve mostly used the first one to tailor my resume to pass the recruiters’ screening, and the second one to frame my thoughts during interviews with the help of frameworks.
  • Swipe to unlock: Whether you come from a business background (like me) or a technical background, this book will help you bridge these 2 domains, and expand your knowledge on both sides. Both tech and business are equally important to a PM, and by reading this book you’ll better understand how tech works at big companies and how business decisions can impact your product and its development. Some of the questions covered are “How does Spotify determine what song to recommend to you?”, “Why does Amazon offer free shipping with Prime if it loses them money?”.


Back then, I thought that if I didn’t have prior experience as an engineer, I would never be able to become a PM. I was wrong (because it really depends on the product you’re working on), but showing interest in Technology helps. I decided to do the next best thing to add some technical experience to my resume, which was teaching myself how to code.

I’ve followed these 2 courses on FreeCodeCamp. JavaScript algorithms and Data Structures and Front End Development Libraries.

Even if I haven’t finished (It takes around 300h to get one certification!), this showed to potential recruiters that:

  1. I was aware that understanding technology is important for PMs,
  2. I’m ready to step into things I don’t know,
  3. I’m willing to learn new things.
  4. I am aware of my strengths and weakness, and I act upon it,
  5. I was serious about becoming a PM, and I was ready to do everything I could to get there.

Side projects

Adding some relevant experience to your resume will tremendously help to get interviews, and side projects are great to achieve that. The first step is to be aware of the gaps you might have in your resume, then get involved in projects according to what you want to showcase, inside or outside your job. I did this in 2 different ways:

  • I created 2 side-projects from the ground up with a software engineer. It was a very fun thing to do and I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes, which turned out to be a great talking point in interviews.
  • I volunteered for some free work. A friend of mine who recently started his company was keen to conduct some user interviews, and I proposed to organise and run these for him.

There are many other ways to help you get to your first PM role, but this is what I found to be the most effective for me. It didn’t happen overnight, but it eventually did happen because I kept pushing. Don’t lose hope, one day you’ll look back at your journey and see how everything was worth it!

Thanks for reading! 😄 I hope this blog post was helpful. Please feel free to send me a note and add me on Linkedin, I’d love to hear from you!



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