How I transitioned from Engineer to PM and eventually founder – Meha AgrawalFeatured

Although I had early dreams of becoming a Product Manager during college, my mentors advised me to first solidify my technical skills as a software engineer in order to be more effective in influencing teams in the future. I took their advice, and somehow wound up working as a software engineer for teams that did not have a designated Product Manager, so my role naturally required me to talk to users, create a product roadmap, and build solutions. At Goldman Sachs, The Muse, and Stitch Fix, my role as an engineer required a lot of cross-team discussions and prioritizations from various stakeholders. Such projects allowed me to simultaneously build my technical and PM skills, which helped me provide concrete examples of my product experience with PM recruiters. Ultimately, the role of a PM requires a mix of creative and analytical skills as well as a deep understanding of people. Luckily, my ability to adapt to different personalities and have empathy for engineers (having been one!) is what set me apart. I was able to transition from engineer to product manager by understanding how my strengths, interests, and experiences aligned. What led me to become a founder is part serendipity and part intention. Working alongside Kathryn Minshew and Alex Cavolocous gave me a preview of what it was like to build a company and culture from scratch. Joining Stitch Fix right before their IPO taught me what it took to scale a company. I’ve always had the entrepreneurial bug, but did not know where it might lead me. My exposure to people and companies that were constantly challenging the status quo is what ultimately inspired me to dream up the idea for SILK + SONDER. While I think of the “Product Manager” role as similar to that of a Founder & CEO - it is of course drastically different. As a PM, you have an existing team of experts that you get to work with. As a founder, you have to find that team and straddle long-term vision and short-term vision on a daily basis. I thrive in chaos and my skills as a former programmer (breaking down big problems into smaller, executable chunks) and as a PM (influencing teams to align on a true north) keep me grounded. I ultimately decided to be a full time founder when I realized that the only way to serve my customers authentically and fully would require a full time commitment and a team.Meha Agrawal is the Founder and CEO of SILK + SONDER, a self-care and mental wellness subscription service committed to transforming the way modern women reflect, rejuvenate, and achieve through the power of pen, paper, community and data. Before founding SILK + SONDER, Meha spent her career as a Software Engineer and Product Manager for Goldman Sachs, Stitch Fix, and The Muse. She's also helped launch over 10+ MVP mobile apps for founders from various industries through her work at Fueled. In her free time, she advises early-stage, female-founded companies and teaches Bollywood cardio dance fitness classes.
I really appreciate your story and the step wise method to becoming founder. I'm curious what your biggest challenge may have been going from engineer to PM? It sounds like you had the skill set required through your work and had truly set yourself up for success in moving into the PM role. Also congrats on founding SILK + SONDER, you've created a beautiful product!
Hi! Thank you for your kind words. Great question - it was indeed a challenge to switch from being an Engineer to PM. A lot of recruiters wanted to hire me for my software engineering background (given the high demand) and hiring managers shrugged me off because I didn't have official PM experience. The best advice I can shed on this transition is to (1) move internally if you can - it's much easier to make a switch within a company for a different role than transitioning into a new role at a new company at once, (2) be open to working as a consultant and/or for an agency - having "Product Manager" on your resume will get you the interviews you want at other companies (it's unfortunately the reality), (3) create a resume that's better suited for the PM role (less emphasis on your "technical prowess" and more on your people / project / product management skills). Hope that helps and happy to share more!
How did would you suggest someone transitioning into a PM role do consultancy or agency work? I think a lot of people can benefit from your insight related to transitioning within your careers.