- Work as a Senior Software Product Manager in Banking / Finance
- Work experience about 12 years, graduated in 2009 with an Information Systems Degree.
- Making more than S$200,000 a year now.
- Starting pay in 2009 was about S$2,000 per month.
- Crossed the S$10,000 mark after 9 years in 2018.
- 2009 : S$2,000
- 2010: S$4,000
- 2011: S$4,500
- 2011 – 2015 : S$0 (co-founded startup)
- 2016: S$7,000
- 2017: S$7,200
- 2018: ~S$10,000
- 2019: ~S$12,500
- 2020: ~S$16,000
- 2021: ~S$18,000
The income trajectory is probably slower than most good software engineers today and slower than those in Trading, Investment Banking or Consulting.
Once I crossed the S$10,000 mark the trajectory accelerated a bit more, but also because I was managing my career moves a little more, got a bit lucky, had supportive bosses, switched companies, and also had enough experience to negotiate for higher compensation.
Though I do think that this is probably near the top of the pay scale for the role – and I’m already in upper management (with some individual contributor responsibilities.) If I wish to increase this further, I think I will need to move into the Executive Director or Managing Director level and do almost purely management at that point (which I probably don’t enjoy as much.)
What I like about the job:
- I get to have a lot of impact on the software that hundreds of thousands of people use everyday.
- I get to see something get created from idea into something real and used by real customers.
- I get to work with new technology (sometimes) and cool software ideas / concepts.
- I get to work with different types of colleagues from finance, marketing, upper management, software engineers, UI/UX designers and bounce ideas with different skillsets and then synthesize them into a product that makes sense for the business, is feasible to build, and is loved by customers.
What I find challenging / stressful about the job:
- Balancing and managing the needs of different stakeholders is the toughest part of the job – but great product managers have to do this well.
- As an introvert, having most of my job be communication and talking to people all day does get exhausting. The higher I move in this career, the more important being good at communication becomes: aligning all stakeholders, evangelizing the product, briefing the development team, briefing the design team, briefing the upstream and downstream teams – the job becomes 85% communication and 15% developing the idea sometimes, but without alignment and good communication, no matter how brilliant your idea is, it’s likely not getting built or it’ll be built incorrectly – so just gotta do it.
- Depending on the company, sometimes this also throws you directly into the middle of lots of politics (especially if stakeholders have their own agenda.) However, if you choose the right company and team, this could be minimal because everybody is working towards the same goal. If you found a place like that, treasure it.
What I think I did well and helped in my career:
- Take initiative, get to know and understand the material / industry / subject area very well – get to be known as the subject matter expert in an area within the team and organization.
- Speaking up but not for the sake of it. If you have a good suggestion or point, make it, regardless of who’s in the room – remember (given the above point) you probably know more about the subject that everybody else in the room. Get seen and be heard, don’t be afraid to add to the discussions. This will also help you build that reputation of expertise.
- Get to know all your stakeholders and colleagues and be on good terms with them. Know their goals and objectives so that you understand how you can work with them and maybe even help them achieve their objectives. Know how they interact with you and your team and how best to work together. This will give you a better idea of how to do your job well, understand the motives of each stakeholder, their pain points, their concerns – and how you fit into the picture.
- Understand the role and responsibility you and your team has on the overall business performance of the company – this will guide all your conversations as everybody should have the company’s interest in mind. This will help prioritize your work when there are tons of stakeholders all wanting seemingly different things.
- Take an active role in steering your career, if you find that you disagree or don’t like the project / product you’re working on – come up with something better and suggest it or pitch it to your boss + stakeholders and get support for it. Of course, don’t stop working on what was asked of you, but show that you have something you really want to work on and how that would really help everybody / or is a really good idea. Maybe once you’re done with the current project, that new idea could be your next project.
- Treating others well and with respect while also being a great performer. My career moves in the previous 2-3 years are due to having supportive friends and colleagues and bosses that know that I can execute and work hard. When people move careers – especially during mid-careers – they are also looking for people who they know can perform, that they can work with well, and that’s usually when a lot of opportunities open up.
Any advice for those who wants to get into the career:
- Deep technical knowledge is a bonus / good to have, but not strictly necessary. You should have a good grasp of the available technologies and features available in your industry and what they do (like FaceID, TouchID, NFC, OAuth, Encryption, API, SDK, Databases, etc) but you don’t have to be able to code necessarily (I’ve seen this actually being a negative for PMs because they get too deep into the implementation details when they should just let the engineers own it.)
- Have good communications and presentation skills. Expect to do a lot of it.
- Have an interest in UI/UX design – understand some core concepts so that you can comfortably work with the design team and understand what they do.
- Good to understand Agile software development frameworks like Scrum (most places will train you on the job or send you for training on this. Also I’ve never been any company that does Scrum correctly to the letter of the training – so don’t be surprised if what you learn doesn’t quite apply.)
- Make sure you enjoy working with people – you don’t have to be an extrovert (I am definitely not) but you have to be able to work with people – because you’re going to be working with lots of people. Product Managers cannot get things done alone and must rely on others to bring their vision to life, so make sure you can get people on your side.
- Good to have an interest in Market Research and Design Thinking / Customer-Centric Design. You’ll have to think from the customer’s perspective and ensure you understand their end-to-end experience with your product so that you can create something that works well for them. Don’t need to have formal training here (again they’ll likely train you if they feel it’s necessary.)
I think that’s all I can think of for now. Ended up being a super long post lol. I think if I missed anything or there’s anything else I can answer, please ask.