From Engineering Co-op to Associate Product Manager at Panorama
Hi, I’m Raquel Levy! I’m a Northeastern student and two-time co-op (soon-to-be Associate Product Manager) at Panorama Education. Something unique about my experience at Panorama is that I have had the chance to complete two separate co-ops on the Engineering and Product teams respectively. Early in my Computer Science major, I thought that software development was my only real option for a job. Panorama has helped me broaden that perspective and make decisions about my career goals by giving me opportunities to try different things and helping me learn about myself along the way.
Finding My Way to the Product Team
As a Computer Science major just starting my career, software development always felt like the safest and easiest role to pursue, so I didn’t think much about the range of options for roles in tech. That being said, I started to learn more about myself, what skills I enjoy using, and what I ultimately value in a job throughout my early internships and co-ops. Specifically, after working at Panorama as an Engineering co-op in 2019, I learned a lot about my interests and where my skills translate best in the workplace. After that co-op, I knew that I definitely wanted to continue to work in education, particularly at a place where the team was deeply committed to serving students and having tangible impacts on our education system. Additionally, I confirmed that I wanted to continue using my technical problem solving skills and stay close to the software building process. That being said, I found that I enjoyed many of the strategic discussions about what to build and how to build it more than I really enjoyed writing code. Additionally, after getting to be part of a few conversations with district leaders and district data teams in my engineering capacity, I also knew that I wanted to find a way to be closer to users and have a voice at the table in the earlier design and strategy decisions. I wanted to help come up with creative and impactful solutions to the problems that students, teachers, families, district leaders, and other stakeholders are facing. After noticing that some of the senior product managers at Panorama came from technical backgrounds, and doing some research on my own about what the role could be like, I got really excited about product management potentially being the right fit!
Landing the Product Co-op
Towards the end of my engineering co-op, once I decided I’d be interested in trying product management, I reached out to Panorama product team leaders who graciously let me pick their brains about the skill sets necessary to be successful as a product manager. I shared all the things I learned about myself, my abilities, and my interests, as well as how I thought product management might be the right fit for me. A few months after my engineering co-op ended, I was once again on a job search for my third and final co-op role through Northeastern. I reached out to Panorama, hoping they might be willing to take me on with no product experience whatsoever. The next thing I knew, I was back in the office for an Associate Product Manager co-op interview! Throughout the interview process I was really excited by everything I learned. I got to demonstrate skills that I was interested in using at work! From conducting mock user research and interviews, to whiteboarding solution ideas, the interview matched a lot of what I was hoping the role would be. Lucky for me, the team was in a new stage of growth and open to taking on less-experienced product managers, so just a few days after my interview, I accepted an offer to return to Panorama as a Product Management co-op!
Learnings from the New Role
Looking back on the past eight months and my experience on the product team, I definitely believe I made the right decision to try product management. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if I would like it more than engineering, or even if I would like it at all. I was worried I wasn’t prepared for the role shift, especially with no experience or training. Those doubts didn’t disappear, and there were many challenges along the way, but the lessons I learned and growth I experienced made the experience worth it. Although I still have a long way to go in my journey as a product manager, the experience I had as a co-op this year helped me realize that product management really does fill the gaps I felt were missing in the engineering role. It allowed me to stay close to the software building process, and continue exercising my technical problem-solving skills, while also getting closer to users. I got to spend more time meeting with district leaders, learning about their needs, and critically thinking through what Panorama could do to meet those needs. I got to help make more strategic decisions about our product and learn about the full cycle of taking research and ideas, turning them into real tools and features, and eventually delivering them into the hands of users.
After learning so much throughout my time as a product co-op, I knew I wanted to pursue product management going forward. In fact, I was excited about the possibility of continuing my product journey at Panorama. That being said, given the fact that we are experiencing a global pandemic and my graduation is still eight months away, I wasn’t sure whether returning to Panorama right away would be an option. Nonetheless, I spoke with my manager about my excitement to potentially return to Panorama as a full-time product manager. I’m happy to say that the conversations paid off and as of August 24th, I have officially signed an offer to return to Panorama as an Associate Product Manager after my graduation from Northeastern in May of 2021!