A typical path to product management — the function that guides the development of a company’s products from start to finish — might start with getting an MBA. It’s also common for product managers to start their careers as business analysts or engineers.
For Cat Martin, an associate product manager at Signifyd responsible for customer-facing reporting apps, the path was anything but typical.
“I just went around collecting transferable skills for a job that I didn’t know existed,” she said. “Then I finally found what it had all been leading to.”
Martin joined Signifyd’s Belfast office in September 2019 as a customer success analyst. Her official role was to assist the customer success managers, but because the company’s customer roster was growing so quickly and customer success was a new function in the region, she soon became the point person for European accounts. She was promoted the next year to customer success manager.
A varied, creative career
Even before she joined Signifyd, Martin’s background was eclectic. She started out as a professional songwriter – something she continues to do on the side. After that, she worked as a research assistant for a company that did user testing. Then she used her music background to move to an ecommerce company that provided a marketplace for royalty-free sound effects.
“I started at the bottom of the ladder working with content providers,” she said. “I moved up, and eight years later, just before I left, I was general manager.”
Working within a small team, she wore many hats – one of which was essentially product management, though it wasn’t called that. She shepherded products through their life cycles, from the initial concept to distribution.
During this time, she also went to law school in the evenings, where she was nominated for an award for her pro bono work on mediation. “I was good at de-escalating situations, and I was good at working with people,” she said. “That’s what drew me to customer success.”
A good fit at Signifyd
When Signifyd was looking for a customer success analyst, it seemed an excellent match. In addition to her law degree and mediation expertise, Martin had ecommerce experience. Working with customers was her favorite part of her job. She had also been working from a home office for 10 years and was eager to work in an office.
At Signifyd, she continued exploring interests beyond the requirements of her job.
“I’ve always tried to get involved in things that aren’t necessarily part of the day-to-day job,” she said. For example, when the company held a hackathon in which employees proposed ideas and teams chose which to work on, she plunged in. “I had an idea for a fix to an internal feature that would improve productivity,” she said. “I submitted it and got a team of engineers to work with me on coming up with a solution.”
What she was doing was product management – though she didn’t realize it at the time. She started working with product managers more in the course of her customer success job. She would talk to them about challenges her customers were facing, and sometimes they would ask her what customers might think of potential products.
“I started to get the sense that I was good at solving customer problems, but any time I wanted to solve something wider than just one customer’s problem, I ended up working with product management,” she said.
As she became more seriously interested in product management, she worked to burnish her credentials, taking a course in agile development.
Making the move
In January 2021, Martin made a lateral move into product management. While she’d been thinking about the move for some time, the conversation that made it happen occurred just the month before.
“Among the company values we embrace at Signifyd are curiosity and hunger,” says Cassandra Mingus, Signifyd’s director of talent acquisition. “Encouraging Signifyers to explore their interests and look for new opportunities within the company is really a way of living those values. Cat’s path and trajectory are a great example of that.”
Martin was a little uncertain about broaching the topic with her manager. She knew Signifyd encourages internal job moves. But she also knew that no one had made this particular transition – from customer success to product management — before.
“Nobody wants to go to their manager and say, ‘I like my current job, I’m good at my current job, but I don’t see myself doing this forever,’” she said. “But the response was really good, and he advocated for me a lot.”
Martin’s boss talked to the product management leaders, who had a position that was right for Martin. It helped that the customer success team was growing and actively hiring. The team was able to fill the void left by Martin’s departure from the pipeline it had already developed.
Martin is happy to have found a way to tie together the seemingly unconnected pieces of her career in a position that she enjoys: “I figured out what I enjoyed most about my job, and the way to pursue that was product management.”
Feature photo by Getty Images. Cat Martin courtesy of Cat Martin
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