A Journey from Dropout to Product Manager
An essay on how dropping out of school played a crucial role in landing a product manager role in a tech startup
After four years of hustle in SaaS in various roles, in this post, I’m sharing my journey.
“Struggle” is one of my close friends. I met him right after the completion of the 10th SSC in the year 2012. I had to pursue a struggling job along with a diploma in engineering due to family conditions.
I worked as a data entry operator in a small shop at just ₹3k/month. Seeing me earn and contribute to dad’s income, family members were proud of me. But, at the same time, it was getting very difficult to handle all of those together.
What could I do under such circumstances? I decided to drop out.
My parents were not happy with the decision, unfortunately, I had no other choice. I fell into the money trap, the adage which you ought not ever.
💡 Never fall into the money trap and don’t run behind it. Instead, focus on adding skills to your resume, and that will ultimately help you earn money.
A couple of years later my father was diagnosed with cancer. I moved to Ahmedabad for his proper treatment. But that didn’t work. Unfortunately, I lost him in 2016. I felt alone and helpless for some time.
Nonetheless, I began searching for my next job. I applied at 20 organizations, 4 of them turned up. But, I got rejected by each of the organizations I met.
That made me feel incomplete without education. Most of the companies rejected me due to my educational qualification.
It took me 13 interviews to get a job as a call center executive at ₹10k/month — overall this job made me and my family happy at that time.
Meantime, the growth of IT firms took my interest. I found the career path more appealing and meaningful over there. In 3 months as a call center executive, I realized I was not made for it. I was not enjoying it. I decide to make a move.
💡 If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time.
Started hunting for a job in an IT company. This time with an improved resume. Though it didn’t work for me. Again, I faced rejections. But that didn’t make me stop trying.
💡 Never stop trying. Never stop believing. Never give up. Your day will come. Karma may take its time, but it is inevitable.
Finally, one of the LinkedIn messages hit the right conversation. I spoke to Dhruv. It was the first time I heard about SaaS. After an hour-long call, we decided to meet. I remember for the first time was not asked for any educational qualifications.
We trusted each other. I got an opportunity to work as a Customer Support Executive.
Ikigai was a small team of 10 folks back then and the product — Saleshandy was at its early stage. In my early days of joining, I saw Dhruv and Piyush were facing hiring challenges to recruit engineers. I realized for an organization, hiring challenge was more crucial than customer support. I hopped into it. Together we growth hacked recruitment, in 5 months we closed 10 positions. It was super exciting to be in the right place and do the most impactful work.
💡 You can’t plant a seed without getting your hands dirty
Later, I went back to the original role of customer support. I very-well remember the days when Piyush used to challenge me to improve my English communication skills — written and verbal. This led me to start reading books — articles. It was a turning point for me. Reading books changed a lot for me.
💡 Not all readers are leaders but all leaders are readers. Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.
I grew up on the ladder and became a manager of the customer success team in a very short span of time. By that time my life was set, I was enjoying the work.
Customer Support → Product Manager
My role made me speak/chat with users to address their product-related concerns. That opened a gate for me to learn what works and what-not in the software product. I acted as a bridge between what users wanted (feature requests) and what the team develops.
Things customer support role taught me about Product Management
- Business acumen
- User empathy
- Need v/s want
- Real Feature depths
- Communicating feature requests with the dev team
Piyush offered me an opportunity to play an active role in the product — to which I accepted and dived deeper into it.
💡 There is nothing you can’t achieve by hustling in the right direction
Since then I have been reading, learning, and experimenting a lot with products.
I worked closely with Piyush and a few more experienced PM friends.
Learning journey snapshot
2. User Stories
5. Feature prioritization
6. Working with cross-functional teams
7. Ready to get hands dirty
💡 Don’t wait for your boss to create opportunities for you–create them yourself.
Thank you note
Just a little note to say thank you to Team Ikigai — Piyush & Dhruv for giving me this open ground with lots of opportunities. Thank you for all you do. You are appreciated more than you know.