How I transitioned from Pharmacy to Product ManagementFeatured

There isn't one right way to transition into tech – it can take so many shapes and forms! Mine, for example, came in the form of an internal move within the company.

I had moved back to Nigeria at the very end of 2018 from the UK just months after qualifying as a Pharmacist and working as a Pharmacy Manager. I was in a very bad mental space and did not see myself remaining in the pharmacy community for much longer. I had never really planned to be a patient-facing pharmacist and the only plan I had moving back was to start a career in Public Health.

Three months into 2019, I started interning at a health technology consulting company that built technology solutions for public health non-governmental organizations and other health institutions. Due to my background, I started off undertaking implementation research. When the research was done, I had to quickly find ways to remain relevant and continue to add value. I began reviewing the applications we would build for clients and managing the backlog and feedback with the outsourced development team and the internal one when we eventually hired. That was my foray into Product Management.

I had researched different tech career pathways and Product Management resonated with what I was already doing and where I saw myself growing. I sought out the best course being offered in Nigeria at the time and informed my employer about it. I applied all I had been taught and more to the job. I was doing well by all standards.

Still, I battled imposter syndrome because I felt I wasn't technical enough. My employer then sought to recruit for a Lead Product Analyst role. This only exacerbated my imposter syndrome because I felt I wasn’t doing enough. I had friends and colleagues who believed in me and my capacity and even felt I should have applied for that role. Fortunately, I was involved in the recruitment process and advocated for the candidate I felt I could learn from and really knew their stuff.

When she started, despite having more experience, there wasn’t anything in particular that she did differently and she even affirmed the work I had been doing thus far.

Eventually, I realized I was not growing anymore in the Product Analyst role and started to look for other opportunities. Because I had transitioned into the role, I felt that getting employed as a Product Manager would be validation enough of my skills and competency. I was not prepared for the job market. It took me a year to leave that job. A year riddled with anxiety and poor mental health. My next job was a Clinical Trial Research job. Not what I had hoped for but it offered a marginally higher salary and an escape from a toxic workplace.

I stayed in that job for about 8 months before I got my current one as a Business Intelligence Associate doing Product Management, Technology Support and Business Analysis. So, in this role, I am using skills and competencies I already have while learning and upskilling at the same time. It is challenging but worthwhile.

A lot happened between the year and 8 months before I got this job- which is where the meat of this article is- that really changed my mindset:

  1. I was not idle: I cold DMed a B2C health tech founder and pitched my skills to him. I got a one month work trial in go-to-market and launching a product. I learned that I don't enjoy marketing nor direct-to-consumer products. My niche is in internal tools and B2B products.
  2. I explored: I started taking courses with the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply when I started questioning if Product Management was for me. I learned that breaking into a whole new sector is definitely harder than one I already had some experience in after taking 6 out of 8 exams and £400 invested.
  3. I built my own product: I started a company (with little to no savings!) with my now ex-boyfriend to use technology to scale his existing auto repair business. We got into an incubator program that gave us $8,000 to build an MVP. I’ve left the company now (and the relationship) for reasons that would make another post but I learned quickly how not to start a company!
  4. I volunteered: I volunteered for a Startup Studio that was building a robust electronic health record system. This experience taught me to recognise bullsh** and also not to spread myself too thin and conserve my energy for ventures that bring me joy and/or pay me.
  5. I learned that sometimes all we need to live a happier life, is to change the way we look at things and situations. A glass-half-full perspective can help you through really tough situations.
  6. I learned probably the most important lesson in my life thus far. That everyone is really just figuring it out and being resourceful is the most important attribute you can have to succeed not just at work but in life. You need to be able to figure things out either through research, your network or asking questions. I’d always advise to do your research before asking questions though and always let people know what avenues you have explored before seeking help. It makes you look smarter and get to your solution faster.

In conclusion, I now see my career as a business venture and am continuously seeking ways to increase my revenue, enhance my skills and knowledge and find my niche. Finding my niche helps narrow the number of job adverts I have to apply to because I know what I want. My mindset has shifted so now I work hard and seek growth because it benefits me to do so – that my employer benefits from it is an added benefit.

I love this!!! All of it. Especially the part where 'everyone is figuring it out'. My first official PM role, I found myself reporting to someone who did not know that much more than me. Often, what they had was the confidence (and rank) to state their opinions even when they were wrong and insisting on it. Someone with lesser rank could surely never have the right ideas when it came to her. What I did was look at my 'to learn' list that I had made when taking up this position, and when I had crossed off 80% of the list, and determined that the rest I couldn't learn under her leadership, I started looking for alternative roles where I could be stretched and mentored by someone I respected. Like you, my career is a business venture. I look for ways that I could increase my value-add through cross-industry upskilling, gaining more technical knowledge, and finding ways to diversify my revenue. Loyalty to self above all.
Yes! Yes! Yes! Are you me because your response resonates so much. I'm so glad you enjoyed reading.