Alexandra Craciun is a senior product manager at the Ministry of Justice (Moj) Digital and Platforms. She was previously at Sainsbury’s as a product manager. Here’s how she got into product.
Roles and responsibilities
I’m part of a team formed of 4 DevOps Engineers, 2 Python Engineers and a Delivery Manager. My typical day usually starts with the stand-up where we discuss blockers and the current progress of our work. It then carries on with me talking to our users (these are Analysts or Data Scientists). I think this is a really important habit all product managers should get the hang of, and is also one of the things I love about the role. I try to prioritise my own diary between focus time and meetings with various stakeholders across the organisation, but sometimes that is challenging, especially working remotely.
What I love the most about my role is the complex space we are in and adding value to our Data Science Teams. Although I worked on technology products before and I took a product through a whole lifecycle, being a Platform Product Manager has its challenges particularly around the complexity of prioritisation — there is always the discussion between technical debt and new ‘technical’ features — and also the fact that your stakeholders are different and more technical. As a Platform product manager, you have to be focused on long-term sustainability vs. quick wins.
What were you doing before this job?
Prior to this role I worked in Media Sales for 5.5 years in various roles, whilst doing my MsC in Creative Industries. I then moved to a start-up working on an indoor navigation app — doing pretty much all roles from sales to product. I got the opportunity to start a product owner role at Sainsbury’s in 2019, where I progressed in being a product manager. The experience I had before working for Sainsbury’s has given me strong stakeholder management skills and resilience. At Sainsbury’s Digital, Data & Tech, I worked on building technology for our internal colleagues, in the contact centres.
At Sainsbury’s I had the opportunity of building a new case management system from scratch, taking the product through its whole lifecycle. I faced many challenges, including launching the MVP and constantly iterating, during the pandemic when all colleagues were working from home. I learned to be really user-focused, regardless of the product being internal, together with the ability to work with constraints and my passion for product, it has helped me to get my role in MoJ.
What was the job process like?
I found the job advertised on LinkedIn, so I applied using their portal. I had to upload my CV and Cover Latter and I got a call 6 weeks later to arrange an interview. It was a pretty smooth (but long) process.
I did some research about product managers in the public space. Doing this, alongside finding out about the complexity of the role is what attracted me to it. The job description was written really well 🙂
The interview was conducted via a video call and I was interviewed by a panel of 3 people: 2 product leads and a product manager. The questions were very much behavioural questions, where I had to give clear examples from my experience on how I approached certain situations. The interview lasted an hour.
What is your educational background and, if relevant, how did this help you to get this role?
I have a BSc in Finance and an MSc in Creative Industries. My MSc made me realise I want to work in the Tech space. From there I started to assess my skills and understand which part of Tech I want to be in. I navigated towards Product Management because I like solving problems and I like complexity.
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What do you enjoy about your role and your company?
I have always believed as a product manager, part of your role is to keep the team focused on the why — why are we building this product or feature and what impact it will have on the users. Doing this in the data and analytics space (in the government) is probably the best part of my role. This made me realise that there is something really motivating about working on a product that makes a positive difference on people’s lives.
Tips on landing a role in product
1. I still believe LinkedIn to be one of the best platforms for finding a product role because many companies (especially tech companies) advertise there. I would advise you to start with Linkedin and then expand your search from there to recruitment agencies.
2. Really spend time on your CV — make it short, but meaningful. Look at the job advert and the type of skills required. Think about your experience and how you can translate that to a product role. It is doable, you just need some time for it.
3. Once you find a job you like and have your CV ready, apply for it but also look for a recruitment person or the hiring manager and reach out to them on Linkedin. This is what I’ve done when I applied for my Sainsbury’s role and I did manage to get my 1st interview. When you reach out to them, just explain why you applied for the role, what attracted you to it and why they should consider you.
4. Find your purpose — if you decided you want to be a product manager, really know why and what motivates you. This will be important for your career and will really make you stand out at the interview, especially if you don’t have a strong product or technical background.
5. If you managed to land the interview — congratulations! Be really focused on the questions and do a lot of prep beforehand. Think about behavioural questions and how you would answer them. There is a lot of resources online and I can’t stress enough how important this is.
6. Finally, ask for help from other product managers – I know landing the role can be hard, and I am always happy to help.
How did you get your job in product?
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