4 Years as a Product Manager— Growth and Grit

Year 4 has come to a grand close, cheers to Year 5. 🥳

Princess Akari
6 min readApr 19, 2024

The year is 2014, it’s my first day of work as a Civil Engineering Intern at a construction company — this is my compulsory 6-month internship in my penultimate year at University. I had just arrived at work, quickly tidying up and wearing my PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Fully geared up, I stepped out to hurriedly get my name down in the attendance book. Being early was my thing; anything less felt like a letdown. I was ready to start my first day of work as an engineer, exciting times!

I had the opportunity to work alongside other engineers on two significant projects; the first-ever monorail project and the construction of several blocks of residential high-rise apartments. These were groundbreaking projects at the time and I was excited about them, especially when we embarked on site visits. In those moments, all I could envision was a future where I’d grow into an accomplished structural engineer.

Circa 2014 — pictures of me as a civil engineering intern. Good times 🤣

Fast forward to a decade later, it's 2024, and guess what? I’m not even a structural engineer anymore! 🤣

After university, I worked as an engineer for some time and then got into operations, business development, project management, and now product management. It’s been quite the roller coaster ride spanning over 7 years! I’ve now found my groove in product management, it’s been 4 years of PMing and I’m loving where I am. I’m living my best life, doing incredible work, and making a great impact.

Let’s just say I decided to switch from building structures to building strategies! 😉

The Journey so far

I already broke down how I got into product management in my transition story. In 2020 I was encouraged to try product management — I started taking courses, got a project to work on and the rest is history.

After a successful transition, I immersed myself in a multitude of PM resources; books, videos, articles, etc., any material related to product management grabbed my attention. Concurrently, I engaged in various projects that allowed me to apply and practice the skills and knowledge I was acquiring.

Over these four years, my journey has been marked by continuous improvement and growth. I make it a point to reflect on my experiences and share them at the end of each passing year. If you’re interested in checking out my previous year's stories, you can find them here for Year 1, Year 2, and Year 3. Throughout this period, I’ve successfully led cross-functional teams to develop, launch, and scale digital products across diverse industry sectors.

This is a shoutout post from Sola Akindolu, the CEO of Brass.

In addition to my work as a Product Manager, I am also the Founder and Community Lead of the PeopleInProduct (PIP) community, a thriving product management community where we provide product managers with access to peer support, learning resources, job opportunities, and mentorships. Through PIP, we’ve been able to drive impact and tech career growth to over 5,000 product people.

@thekitoye is my handle on Twitter. 😌

These opportunities, though demanding, have provided a lot of learning experiences and have played a crucial role in shaping the person I am today.

When I started my journey as a Product Manager, I didn’t aspire to be just any PM; I aimed to excel so much in my role that my name would be top of mind when listing PMs in Nigeria. Since then, I’ve been honored with recognition for my work and impact. Some of them are particularly memorable for me, and I have listed them below.

Some others;

… and more.

I’ve also had the privilege of being a guest speaker at numerous tech events, where I’ve shared insights on product management, my experiences as a Product Manager, and my role as the founder of a thriving product management community.

How I succeeded — what helped me succeed

1. Accepting hard challenges

Throughout my journey, even before Tech, I’ve learned to welcome difficult challenges as opportunities for growth. Instead of shying away from them, I’ve embraced them head-on, knowing that overcoming obstacles is essential for my development. Whether it’s tackling a complex project or navigating unfamiliar territories, I’ve found that facing challenges with resilience and determination has been key to my success.

2. Embracing new opportunities

Success often lies in seizing new opportunities as they arise. I’ve made it a point to keep an open mind and actively seek opportunities for growth and advancement. Whether it’s taking on new roles, exploring different industries, or embarking on other related ventures. I’ve embraced change and welcomed the chance to step outside my comfort zone.

3. Networking and leveraging my circle

Building and nurturing a strong network of connections has been instrumental in my journey to success. I’ve recognized the power of networking and have actively sought out opportunities to connect with my peers and industry leaders. My network has been a great resource in helping me navigate challenges and achieve my goals. In my first year as a PM, 2 out of the 3 projects I worked on were gotten from my network. I experienced firsthand the power of networking and this reinforced the importance of building relationships.

4. Upskilling

Through formal education, online courses/content, or hands-on experience, I’ve been able to continuously learn and grow professionally. Staying curious and committed to self-improvement has helped me stay relevant and position myself for success in my career. I recently wrote about continuous learning, read all about it here.

5. Being visible — for myself and my work

By actively “blowing my trumpet”, I try my best to effectively showcase my expertise, build credibility, and attract new opportunities — this has been pivotal to my success. It has not only elevated my personal brand but has also amplified the impact of my contributions, opening doors to new possibilities in my career. Don’t be afraid to talk about your work, learnings, and achievements as a Product manager.

I am always proud of myself and the things I have accomplished while trying to be a loving sister, aunt, friend, etc. I have experienced significant personal growth and this is just day 1. 🚀

As Year 4 has come to a grand close, I raise a toast to the possibilities that await in Year 5.

Cheers to the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one!🥂