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Transitioning from Product Design to Product Management: in the IT Consultancy World

A while ago, I had decided to become a Product Manager. In any transition path, we discover a series of challenges and unexpected situations. Funny to say, I expected this transition to be a lot easier than it actually is.
Natália Tôrres

Product and UX Research Lead, NetCompany


Stepping into the realm of product management from a design background is like exploring uncharted territory. It's a journey I started to embark upon, driven by my passion for creating meaningful user experiences. As I navigate this transition in the dynamic IT consultancy world, I'm encountering both challenges and triumphs that shape my evolution from a designer to a product manager. 

As a product designer and UX researcher, I've had the privilege of exploring two distinct realms: the private sector and the public sector. The contrasts between these two landscapes have enriched my understanding of design's impact and significance. Transitioning to the public sector, particularly within an IT consultancy, introduced me to the world of societal impact. The focus shifted from market metrics to the well-being of citizens and government efficiency. Designing public-facing services meant creating experiences that were not just user-friendly but also aligned with regulatory standards and accessibility requirements. Knowing that my work contributed to enhancing public services was a source of immense pride.

In this blog, I’m sharing my personal insights into the hurdles I've faced so far and the strategies I'm embracing to thrive in this creative-strategic crossover in public sector projects.

Standing at the Crossroads

Transitioning from design to product management is akin to crossing a bridge that connects my creative instincts with strategic acumen. Both disciplines share the common thread of user-centricity, but they manifest in different ways. Product Designers craft interfaces, visuals and experiences, while product managers orchestrate development journeys. Finding my footing at this intersection has been a process of blending the best of both worlds.

The Challenges I'm Tackling

1. Grasping Business Dynamics:

The world of business operations, financial planning, and market strategies was foreign to me as a designer. Concepts like ROI calculations and P&L statements still feel like a puzzle. I'm embracing this learning curve by immersing myself in online courses and educational resources to understand the business landscape better.

2. Balancing Creativity and Structure:

Navigating the transition from the free-flowing creativity of design to the structured environment of product management requires finesse. I'm learning to channel my creative ideas into well-defined processes by studying frameworks like Agile and Lean, which offer a roadmap for maintaining both innovation and efficiency.

3. Navigating Stakeholder Waters:

Interacting with diverse stakeholders – clients, developers, designers, and executives – can be challenging. Effective communication and negotiation are paramount and I’m just starting to learn about it. I'm enhancing my communication skills and learning to align varying interests while understanding how to drive a unified product vision.

4. Embracing Data-Driven Insights:

As a product designer, I rely on UX Research experience best practices to guide my decisions. Transitioning to product management means embracing data-driven insights to inform my choices as well. I'm delving into analytics and cultivating a love for numbers to enhance my decision-making process.

5. Focusing on the Big Picture:

As a designer, I was immersed in the minutiae of user interactions. Now, I'm cultivating the skill to switch between the micro and macro perspectives. I'm learning to zoom out and see the holistic product vision while still appreciating the finer design details.

Strategies I'm Embracing

1. Lifelong Learning:

I'm dedicating time to continuous learning, leveraging courses like Experience Haus and LinkedIn Learning. These resources provide valuable insights into business essentials, project management, and financial literacy.

2. Network Building:

I’m lucky enough to be able to connect with mentors who've successfully made the transition has been invaluable. Their guidance and shared experiences offer a roadmap through the challenges.

3. Cross-Functional Collaboration:

Collaborating closely with teams such as developers, designers, and marketers is enhancing my holistic understanding of product development. Learning Service Design from diverse perspectives enriches my decision-making process.

4. An Agile Mindset:

Embracing Agile methodologies helps me bridge the gap between design and product management. I'm learning to iterate, experiment, and adapt – principles that align with my design background.

5. Cultivating Soft Skills:

Skills like communication, empathy, criticism and negotiation are vital for success in both design and product management. I'm consciously working on enhancing these skills to navigate the intricacies of stakeholder interactions. It’s never easy to deal with negative comments or criticism but this is something I believe every Product Manager should know about.

6. Seeking Supportive Environments:

Joining organisations that value diverse backgrounds and encourage skill expansion is my aim. An environment that fosters learning and growth will aid my transition.

7. Innovation and Inclusion:

In the private sector, innovation was a constant pursuit to captivate consumers and outpace competitors. The thrill of experimenting with new concepts and technologies fueled my creativity.

Switching gears to the public sector, I found myself advocating for inclusivity. Designing for a diverse range of users, including those with varying abilities, became a driving force. Ensuring accessibility and making public services universally usable underscored the importance of my work.

Embracing the Journey

As I journey from design to product management in the IT consultancy world, I'm discovering that this transition is not just about adjusting my role – it's about evolving my mindset. Embracing the challenges as opportunities for growth, I'm weaving together my design intuition with strategic thinking to contribute to innovative product experiences. This journey isn't about discarding my creative past; it's about enriching it with a new layer of strategy, analysis, and leadership. And as I continue to learn, adapt, and grow, I'm excited to uncover the transformative impact I can have at the nexus of design and product management.

As I navigate this transition, I’m not just bridging gaps – I’m building bridges between the worlds of creativity and strategy, user-centred design and bottom-line impact. The result? A visionary leader who can transform ideas into impactful, user-centric products in the dynamic realm of IT consultancy.

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