Robin Padilla is Director of Product Management at Springer Nature. He has been working in product for 7 years. Here’s how he got into product.
How did you find out about your current job and why did the role appeal to you?
I was an internal hire. After working as a product manager for a few years and really enjoying it, I felt the time was right to go further and move up to the next level. As a product director, I now have a much broader view of how the product work fits into the wider strategy of my department and company.
What professional experience did you have prior to this role?
I’m a chemist by training (Ph.D.) and began my career as a lab researcher (staff scientist). I worked in the areas of catalysis and polymer science, specifically working to develop new/improved food packaging materials. Though I enjoyed lab work, I was also open to other non-researcher scientific roles and transitioned from Research and Development (R&D) into publishing. I worked as an Editor in the chemistry and materials science space before transitioning to my current company. I joined as a product manager for a materials science product before moving into my current product director role in the life science space. There are definitely strong parallels between being a researcher in a chemistry lab and working in product. Things like experimentation, decision trees, and not falling in love with your ideas may be mind-blowing insights for some but these things are part of basic pro-science nerd training!
Read this guide on breaking into product management.
What are your key roles and responsibilities?
My team is globally dispersed. The bulk of my colleagues are in India and Germany, some are UK-based, and I’m in New York. A typical day starts early to maximize the working hours overlap with Asia and Europe – my direct reports are in India and Germany. Afternoons typically focus on working with colleagues in The Americas. Owning both product and business strategy, I spend a lot of time on projects related to both areas. On the product side, my team is heavily involved with mapping user needs based on solid research and testing. Connecting the solutions we build to our wider business development strategy is critical. This is because our users are in a technical (scientific) space. My product management colleagues and I also often act as subject matter experts to support the sales and marketing process.
The product team originally evolved from a sales engineering group and we still retain some of that DNA. The creative side of product work might be what I love most about it—discovering insights on users’ pain points, which they themselves might not fully understand, as well as developing solutions that can address their needs. Our users are R&D scientists, so the more we can make their work more efficient, the faster we can see things like new drugs and therapies that can benefit everyone. That wider impact is also quite satisfying. A big challenge is adapting to the fast changes in technology and the ever-increasing pace of scientific information. These two points are changing the profile of how our users do their work, what their goals are, and what they see as valuable. From a solutions and product standpoint, the space is very much a moving target.
How is your team structured and where does that sit within the larger organisation?
My team is organized by function. However, in practice, we operate very cross-functionally, with product, engineering, data science, and UX having strong and open relationships. The team sits within a wider department called ‘Data and Analytics Solutions’. This department is a bit special because of our strong digital product focus despite being part of a seemingly traditional publishing company.
What are your key tips on landing a role in product?
- Be curious: an open mindset willing to explore anything and everything.
- Product management is a team sport: you don’t need to be “BFFs” with all your colleagues but you absolutely need strong working relationships to do great work.
- “Your network is your net worth”: build up those connections both within and beyond your space. You never know when you could assist someone or vice versa.
Discover how others have forged their product paths in our How I got my job content series.