Help. Where do I go from here?

I have been a generalist project manager for a few years and am now a product manager.

I am drawn to user research, data analysis, and figuring out the why hence I spent a year after getting laid off during the first wave of covid-19 in early 2020 to transition into product management as I felt like my interests + my cross-functional experience in tech would benefit me in a product management role.

Since becoming a PM, I have been more focused on execution than discovery and noticed that the role has weighed me down a lot and made me seriously think about my long-term goals as I am not exactly sure if a cross-functional role is a good fit for me anymore.

I chose project management right out of college (Bsc in Nutrition) as I needed a stable full-time job to apply for permanent residency and settle in Canada. I found I was able to leverage my organizational skills in the role so I stuck to it and used it to get into tech from consulting/analytics project management.

Lately, I have been feeling uncomfortable being in a role that brings the team together instead of specializing in a certain function ie be a designer, data scientist, or engineer who contributes their subject matter expertise to solve a problem.

Transitioning into a product adjacent role seems like the right step and I have been mapping out my interests and my dislikes to figure it out. I am trying to decide between a few roles; ie product engineer (building) or data scientist (discovery). I am finding it hard to create a clear roadmap for myself even though I lean towards discovery as a lot of the data scientist roles that I am seeing require a masters degree, which I am not too sure if I want to go back to school for and my savings aren't that high.

I am also currently taking some beginner coding courses to see if it sticks with me.

Would love to talk to anyone who has been in a similar position or would like to offer any advice.

Hi! I am not sure if I will be the most tactical in my response, but I might be able to help you think about this as I am coming from the opposite perspective.I am currently a Data Scientist looking to move more into Product Management (most specifically for a DaaP - data as a product). The road to Data Science has changed tremendously over the last few years. I feel personally as if I was on the 'last wave' of where anything less than a Masters' / PhD in STEM or STEM adjacent is 'accepted'. I made my transition 2019 - early 2020.I technically have a masters in Accounting (undergrad as well) and worked in Forensic Accounting, Private Equity/ ibanking prior to my move into DS. I modeled a fair amount in Excel and other tools for valuations work, had basic stats understanding from my intangibles accounting background, was professionally proficient in SQL, and had a relatively stable mathematics background (Calc II, but no Linear Alg, high level Stats, etc.). I did a DS Bootcamp that required a live exam for entry and it was VERY rigorous. I taught myself whole math courses in a few weeks by literally never sleeping and sheer force of will in addition to my program. This program no longer exists and was wound down in 2021 citing that traditional universities now even had undergrad programs in DS and that a bootcamp was no longer viable for individuals to land jobs in the field. The program went to a 90%+ success rate of jobs in tech in 2017 to a 30% rate or less in 2021. This program required grad level math comprehension and application as well as functional python. We completed 3 final projects that were graded on whether or not they'd be accepted as 'drafts' in a professional environment. Usually 30% of people who start, drop out or are kicked out based on weekly assessments.If you REALLY enjoy discovery, I would look for Analyst roles in Eng/ DS. I would focus on learning intermediate SQL and python, and I would look into a night/ weekend program via a university to do part time while you work if savings is a concern / practical life choice. One of my lovely analyst IC coworkers did this (grad school in Analytics at night while working at our Company full time) - he was in a more generalist role in G&A and now is within Data Science/ Eng. You will have a tremendous amount of competition in traditional DS roles with folks that have STEM masters/ PhDs. My current publicly traded tech company has a general rule: Data Scientist = PhD, Data Science Analyst (me) = Masters and below.I don't mean to discourage you, but I do think that if you want a trad Eng/DS role, going back to school is a must OR you must have the skills required to perform the job WITH an extra OOMPH angle -- which mine was a "PE and Mgmt Consulting background". Yours could be your product/ business awareness.Food for thought also -- you will make more $$$ in Product Mgmt vs Analyst roles in DS/Eng, especially without a PhD / impressive work history in Eng/DS at an interesting tech company.Happy to chat more about your options - always nice to see someone else's opposite perspective and know the grass is NOT always greener :)
hey hey :) I think one thing that might be helpful is to put yourself in "far in the future position" - so, instead of looking at your next step, start by looking at way far ahead in the future - something like 10 years, or even longer.And ask yourself, how would I want my life to look like 10 years down the row? In terms of work, but also in terms of life - how your lifestyle looks like, your career but also your family, hobbies, place where you wish to live? And then, which of these 2 roles is taking me closer to that vision)Then, also take it in the opposite direction, starting from the next step but connecting it to further future - if I turn into this direction, where will that lead me next? In 5 years, in 10 years? And question that for all of the options and choices.Of course, you cannot know where will these choices take you in the end - life is way to unpredictable for that! But this will likely give you more clarity of the options you want to avoid, because you might realise that they take you in direction that longterm is totally not satisfying for you. You might also find this exercise helpful: video version: or blog post version: luck with making this difficult choice :)
@Mirna I'm a big fan of looking ahead and trace back to today! Great suggestion.
LOVE this!
Mirna this is so nice! I was just reading this in bed last night and this morning i see this :) I was reading it from an old Tony Robbins book basically talking about looking at the next 10 years and I both looked back and looked forward, realizing I did accomplish a lot of what I focused on and maybe it wasn't the right thing to focus on but I still learned a lot in the process. Thanks for sharing will do this exercise :heart-eyes:
hey @cattxx thanks so much for sharing your thoughts - I am happy your found it motivating, and so great to hear that you had some valuable discoveries and reflections about your life :) and great to recognize about accomplishing a lot and learning a lot <3 it's so important to create space to reflect on that, isn't it? I guess our brain has to very distinct modes: action mode (present, mindful, engaged, focus on this moment/action/day) and "big picture" mode (making connections between things, focusing on our values and what is most important to us, re-focusing on priorities, and putting all those actions and "everyday things" into perspective) and it is almost impossible to hold both perspectives in mind at the same time :D So, how I am approaching is that while most of the days I try (and its a journey ahahah) to stay in more engaged and mindful mode, I am also creating this conscious moments for deep reflections regularly (proper chunks of time for really big pic thinking twice per year, but smaller moments for reflection and refocus monthly/weekly) one saying that really helped me too (although I dunno who said it :D) was that we usually overestimate what we can do in a year, but underestimate what we can do in 3 years.... I heard it a few years ago, and have been paying a bit of attention to it ever since, and it is soooo true :D 3 years is also such a great timeline of focus for big, meaningful changes :)
Hi @aisha207 , given what you're writing, I'd recommend pursuing career exploration, which is a process that is distinct from and a precursor to the job search, including a series of steps of practical learning and self-reflection in order to compare, contrast, and clarify which career path you are confident in pursuing. THAT is the process whereby you can confidently narrow in on which role, industry and environment is the best fit for you. In fact, I've helped numerous professionals to figure out, clarify, and pursue their ideal career direction. While pivots might seem big and scary, they're often more feasible than you think, but you at least deserve to identify which path would be the best fit for you first, and then determine what your strategy, approach or next steps would be. By the way, I'm Rachel Serwetz, a Career Exploration Coach (, and I'm happy to chat further if you'd like!
I had the same experience starting out of being very tactical and focused on building processes to get our features out. Now I focus most of my time on discovery - digging into the data, framing and reframing problems, and talking to users. This was a shift largely because I now can do a lot of process-y stuff on autopilot. Not to discount your concerns, but having only been in Product for a year and a half, you might just still be having growing pains as you learn all of the things you need to do to be successful, and if you continue in the role it might smooth out a lot on its own.My general advice, having really been where it sounds like you are, is to sit with the hard questions about what you want in your career and why your current role is causing you stress. Is it because it truly is unfulfilling? Or is it pretender syndrome and if you felt more confident you'd love it? I'd also say to start really thinking about how you can take your current role and focus more on what you love about it. If you love discovery and aren't getting enough time doing that, how can you restructure your day/meetings/comms/workload to give more space for that part of your job. It might make sense long term to make a move to another area in tech, but I just want to encourage you to think about how you can tailor product management to suit you at least for now, til you can identify where will make you happiest and then make a strategic move to get there. It might also end up that those changes you can make now make you fall in love with Product