Emely Übler has been working in product management for six years and as a product manager for Koenig & Bauer Coding in Germany for the last 10 months. Here she explains how she got her job and why she sees herself as a bit of a ‘product mom’.
I find what we do at Koenig & Bauer Coding really interesting as we get to work with very modern technology creating coding and marking solutions for different industries (pharmaceuticals, automotive, food and beverage etc). In my role I focus on our new Print & Apply series where I work with a cobot, designed for super flexible product labelling. Other members of the team focus more on AI as the integration of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is becoming more distinctive every day.
I tend to cover a lot of different things and day-to-day, I spend my time defining market needs, participating in the design phase and managing the launch of products. I also ensure that all of the necessary (but sometimes boring!) things are as they should be, for example, warehouse management, ERP system, quality control etc.
I train internal sales and service teams and I define the prices for our products all over the world. This includes setting market prices (vs. list prices), and persona specified selling points.
In addition, I support the sales and sometimes the service team during projects for big customers. As part of this work, I control the sales numbers and build strategies for increasing sales and whenever needed.
Looking at all of this on paper, I think one way to describe my day-to-day work as a product manager is that I’m a mom for my products – I have to take care of them in every single situation!
My career experience
I graduated from a business and law high school, and I took a lot of insights about business basics from here. Following that, at university, I studied to become a mechatronics engineer.
Before transitioning to product management I worked in Research and Development and from there I switched to project management as a stepping stone into product. It was a former boss of mine who felt I should consider product management. He said he thought I’d be great at it but, until that point, I really had no idea the role existed.
He arranged for me to go to another company called Spit where I shadowed a product team so that I could get a feel for the role. There I quickly realised that I loved the work and that this was the direction I wanted to go in.
At that time, there was no position in product management in the company I worked for but instead, I was given the opportunity to move into a quality assistant role and later became the quality manager. I grabbed every opportunity with both hands and I’ve never regretted it.
Still sure that I wanted to become a product manager one day, I booked myself an education course for product management at the St Gallen Business School in Switzerland. While still a full-time quality manager I tiptoed my way into product manager tasks and, eventually, did the first big product launch when I was eight-months pregnant with my son.
When I returned to work after taking a five-month period of parental leave, I took over a complete product manager role and one year later was assigned to lead a small team of product specialists.
Landing the role
When my current job was advertised I wasn’t actually looking for a new position. I’d been where I was for 11 years and was very happy there. It just so happened that Keonig & Bauer was only 15km away from my previous company and I saw the job being advertised by chance. Having the chance to apply for a product management role in the same industry so close by was rather rare. So, even though I wasn’t looking for a change, I just had to have a look and then I applied with the attitude that I’d see what it was all about then make a decision based on what I discovered.
Applying for the role took a fairly traditional route. I sent my CV together with a cover letter and was later invited for a first interview, after which I went from being curious to certain that I wanted the job! I had a second interview with my current manager and the general manager of the company and was given the opportunity to explain my background and my experience while my manager explained about the role and the company. It was super relaxed. Following that, I got a company tour to see all the departments.
The company was bigger than I was used to and the new role meant I’d be working with other product managers. In my job at the time, I was the only one so this really appealed to me and it felt like it would be an interesting step. I was offered the role and I took it without hesitation, joining the team of five product managers and a company with a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
My top tips
Be yourself: My experience is that personal stories are much more interesting than trying to check off bullet points. So, when applying for a job, and in interviews, do your best to give examples of what you have done and how you have done it.
Empathy is vital: As a product manager, empathy is vital and especially your ability to communicate with people between different departments. It’s no good being isolated and closed off, you need to understand how to work well with everyone.
Be strong about your strengths: The role of a product manager can be challenging, in part because of its scope. You’re expected to undertake a huge number of tasks and everyone agrees that all of these tasks sit within the remit of your role! As a result, and depending on the size and structure of the company you work for, it can amount to a huge workload for one person. The key is to understand how much you can do, know what you’re are best at and to be strong about both of those things.
Recognise the emotion of the role: Product management is really a job that’s based on emotion. We build products for customers who buy things based on their emotions and I think this is something all product managers should be mindful of in their work – in the end, we’re managers for emotions!
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