From Therapist to Product Manager
My name is Cara and I have a professional psychology background and currently work as a product manager. You can say that I am a rare breed in this field because many product managers come from a technical background, such as Computer Science, Information Systems or Computer Engineering.
As a result, I am frequently asked how I got into this role and why I decided to switch career paths from psychologist to product manager. While it’s true that my day-to-day work is different, I don’t feel as though I completely abandoned my routes.
I decided to dedicate my first blog post to the connection between psychology and product management, and hopefully help bridge the gap between my two passions.
I’ve broken down some of the main skill sets and work methods of both professions, and I think you’ll agree there are some strong correlations between the two.
- Data Analysis
Aside from listening to people, psychologists rely on research to make observations and further describe and measure human behavior. Gathering data, forming theories, testing hypotheses and interpreting results are common steps a psychologist takes when diagnosing.
These steps are beginning to sound familiar, right? That’s because product managers use the same steps when identifying problems and defining solutions.
I found a great visual which breaks down the steps of the scientific method, and I think you’ll agree it’s very similar to product thinking and experimentation.
A psychologist has strong communication skills. They spend a large amount of their time listening, empathizing, and responding in an un-biased way.
As a product manager, I spend a lot of my time communicating between cross functional teams — developers, designers, marketing, sales, and customer support — to create buy-in and motivate others to work together on new ways to reach company goals.
In addition, a PM is a user advocate who communicates with customers to understand their pain points and translates those insights into valuable solutions.
3. Analysis of human behavior
Psychologists analyze human behavior to discover triggers and patterns. They then take these insights and help others to improve their well-being.
As a product manager, I am always thinking about the person who is using the product and how they will interact with it. What are the main use cases? What are the triggers/motivation for using the product? Does the product really answer their needs? Is the solution easy to understand? What steps will the user go through and are we drawing them in the right direction to get the greatest value? Answering these questions helps to design a functional user experience.
In addition, I have always focused on both quantitate and qualitative data. While the numerical metrics can show how a product is performing, it doesn’t explain the WHY.
Using behavioral tracking tools, such as Appsee or Fullstory, has allowed me to gather behavioral patterns and translate those into strong UX insights.
All in all, there are skill sets that are shared between Psychologists and Product Managers, which explains how someone with a psychology background can transition into product management.
I am so thankful that I discovered a new passion and way to help people, which is by building innovative products that change the way we live our lives.
Check out my portfolio here.