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Dealing with Survivor Complex and Finding a Company with Shared Values

A conversation with Tiffany Lo, Associate Product Manager, Rocket Lawyer

“I think it’s very fortunate and lucky to find a position in a company that matters to you and that makes you more passionate about the work you’re doing.” - Tiffany Lo

Tiffany Lo’s journey so far can best be described as a rollercoaster of emotions.

She started coding when she was 12 and had a successful run as a software engineer even without a computer science degree. Then she decided to pivot from engineering to focus more on her son whose birth inspired her to choose a different career path– product management.

One of the first companies Tiffany interviewed during her transition journey was a big tech company. During the final round, she made a ‘horrific mistake’ and mixed up the time for her interview. Her apologies were ignored and she received a rejection email within 24 hours.

Countless more interviews later, she found Rocket Lawyer and instantly connected with the people there. They reaffirmed that she was badass and had –in fact– done everything right in all her previous interviews.

One lesson Tiffany has learned so far is that “you’re eventually going to find where you belong”. She also adds that “sometimes, we all have to make a list of our dream values and our dream spaces and then start digging for those companies.”

We sat down with Tiffany to talk about how her career and how has evolved since she completed the PMDojo Product Accelerator program and how being part of the community impacted her career.

Can you walk us through your career journey so far?

Years after I started coding, I ended up at General Assembly, a full-stack development program for software engineers. After that, I contracted for a non-profit where I had the opportunity to lead and launch trauma-informed products that served the global needs of survivors and victims who were facing abuse.

When I had my son, I ended up wanting to change careers, and was inspired me to look further into product management.

I attended the women in product conference and that was the start button in my entire career. Being surrounded by a community of women and people who identify as women gave me the right direction and a deeper understanding of what I needed to learn.

I got into my current role at Rocket Lawyer after a demoralizing, difficult and liberating job hunting process. I really felt happy, valued and like I belonged here, but I remember that during my first week on the job, my brain started asking negative questions like “Why am I here?”, “Why did they pick me?” and “How long is this going to last?”. Then we had a meeting with the founder who spoke to us about the DNA of Rocket Lawyer and why we exist. While listening to him, a whole connection started to happen and I remember thinking, “Oh, I get it now. I’m supposed to be here. These are my people and we care about the same things. Social justice, mental health, health tech is my domain expertise and that's why I'm here”.

It was good having that orientation because it made me realize that I was just tripping. I told myself that I needed to just let 30 days, 90 days and 6 months roll by and just do my thing. That’s what I’m doing right now.

How did you learn about PMDojo and why did you choose to join the accelerator?

I discovered PMdojo when I was exploring my options for transitioning into product management and talking to Bosky, the Founder of PMDojo on the live chat motivated me. She showed me her real self; a mother like me who was trying to make technology diverse. I had been working on curing the imposter syndrome of being the only black female engineer in groups, so I understood what it was like to be in a space where technology was not diverse.

I ended up choosing with PMdojo because I found that connection. For me as a mom and a woman of color, it was extremely important to be a part of a community like PMDojo. I’m so happy PMDojo has a diversity scholarship because if it wasn't for the scholarship, I don’t know how long it would have taken me. My journey was a pretty long one, but it could have been a lot longer.

"PMdojo is the reason my product career went from start to acceleration."

What are some of the major lessons you learned during the PMDojo accelerator? How have these learnings influenced the way you approach your work?

One of the key things I have been reminded to never stop doing is to support the group by doing an alignment check. Truly, people want the same positive outcomes.

In past roles I’ve found sharing a reactive working style can help a lot. So not just a working style that tells us how an individual likes to work, but one where their fellow teammate can react in a positive way. That way, there can be fewer assumptions of others from the start. It’s a way to break the ice and get clarity.

Another thing I’ve learned is that you can never have too many cooks in the kitchen when it comes to product management. I hear this a lot from other Senior PMs - there aren’t enough PMs at x, y, z org - we need more help - more eyes and more hands. It’s truly an advantage to have many product managers working on one aspect of a product, as this will allow for a larger impact when the work to be done is broken down. Product Management is a highly collaborative role and I see now that this isn’t just about working with Engineers, Designers but also with other cross-functional teams and working well with other Product Managers too in the company as well!

How did being part of PMDojo impact your career?

PMDojo has had a huge impact on my career in many ways.

One, having the support and backing of a community during my career search has demonstrated to me that I will be very well supported throughout my role as Associate Product Manager and onwards! Even now I’m fortunate to have a mentor who’s supported me every step of the way.

Secondly, being accepted into a diverse community has afforded me the chance to pivot my career from Software Engineering to Product Management - something I think would have taken much longer going at it alone. Having structured learning and room to explore what we’ve learned really impacted my abilities to understand the entire product lifecycle.

Getting to do the work as a real Product Manager working on a real problem is one learning I can never forget! It allowed me to build muscles and memory around what I was doing. I was able to ask all sorts of questions and still be in a safe space when I had nothing and was really confused.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering product management as a career path and wants to join the PMDojo accelerator?

Whether you’re considering becoming a product manager or working in the many product roles, think about what your strengths are. With that, I recommend exploring all of what product management is and learning generally what the roles entail.

There are many roles in product management that could suit you depending on what your skills and interests look like. Honing in on 2 roles and then getting it down to that one is a great start.

Don’t forget to think about your current circumstances. Are you a parent/caregiver or have a job you can’t afford to quit? Get down to the bones of the kind of learning that will suit you. Nothing will be perfect and there may be some trade-offs. If you’re serious about learning you’ll know that taking a hiatus from learning is not a trade-off. Unless that is a part of your timeline.

As a full-time mother to a 2.5-year-old and a very supportive husband, I knew I really need to immerse myself. Watching videos and self-paced learning wasn’t going to give me the impact I needed. So I explored schools that would allow me to show up, learn and re-brand myself by being a part of a real-world process. If this sounds like you or similar, PMDojo’s accelerator program will be a great fit! I worked with other parents, caregivers, people who were still working and some who went all in. We were all people with little to no product experience.

Regardless of all these, they, like myself knew why they wanted to be a part of PMDojo’s accelerator program, everyone showed up and grew so much in product management.

Thank you to our mentors and our teacher Bosky who believed that anyone with drive can learn product management.

Do you want to kickstart your career like Tiffany? Learn and gain industry experience by launching products in a cross-functional team? Join the PMDojo accelerator program.

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