Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
Hi, I'm Pippa. I'm a Digital Product Manager, and I work in the charity and education sectors. Currently I'm working at the Natural History Museum in London (the one with all the dinosaurs and rocks).
What does your job involve? Give us the typical outline of a day?
I commute in to work from Surrey, so I normally leave the house at 7:30am in time to be at work for 9am.
I try to spend the first half-hour of every morning checking emails, catching up on anything I've missed and writing a to-do list for the day.
After that – anything goes! My job is all about helping my team – including awesome design, web development, and content people – to build great things for our digital users. So, my day could involve talking to stakeholders about what they need, talking through a problem with a developer and designer, writing strategy, creating a dashboard to monitor data, and much more.
What’s great about your job?
There are two things that I really love about this job:
- The people – I've always loved working in the charity sector because I've found the people who work there are lovely. I know there are lovely people in other sectors too, and that even with lovely people sometimes work can be hard. But, it's so great to work with people who want to help others, and you can always find common ground there.
- The variety – it's a cliché, but every day really is different. Because I'm part of a team that can, to some extent, choose the direction of our work, every day is an opportunity to try something new or learn something unexpected.
What are the bits you don’t like or find challenging?
I'm the sort of person that likes things to be written down in detail and organised. I'm also an introvert. So, when I need to have lots of face-to-face conversations with people, I can feel drained, and I can feel frustrated when I don't feel others are being detailed or organised enough for my standards – even if it works fine for them.
The freedom to direct our own work as a team is empowering and leads to opportunities to learn and grow. But I can find this freedom challenging, especially as I've spent some of my career in roles where the work was directed by others. Sometimes I find it hard to work out what the next thing I can do is to best help my team.
What are the highlights of your career to date?
Getting to work in the Natural History Museum building is pretty awesome, especially seeing the hidden parts and everything that goes on behind the scenes!
I don't have a particular highlight to talk about, but I like knowing that the work I've done in my career has helped people, however indirectly. For example, I introduced a new email marketing platform in a previous role and that made the charity's emails to people better, helping them provide a better service.
What was your career path into this job? Have you also worked outside the arts?
After doing a university degree in Physics and a master’s in science communication – where I did a module on websites – I ended up helping a science laboratory to update their website for six months after I graduated (back in 2011). My career in digital and tech started from there, and through digital roles in a university and charity I got to my current job.
Can you describe your biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?
I mentioned above that I can find the freedom I have in my current role challenging. When I first started my current role, I found this really hard. I didn't have a strategy or plan for my team, so I couldn't say what was best for me to work on next or help my team figure out what to work on, either.
It took a long time, as I'd never created a strategy before. But after a lot of thinking – especially when I could work from home and focus – I created a strategy, and that's helped me find direction again.
Have you noticed any changes in the industry? If so, what?
Digital product management is a role that's been around in technology companies, like Facebook or Google, for several years. But as roles go, that's still pretty new – and it's even newer to the charity sector, where it's only just coming into existence.
So, there's a lot that's changing, both in how the general product management role is defined, and specifically in how it's defined in the charity sector. It's exciting to be in the role when there's so much yet to define about it.
You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?
I would say – don't assume that your degree will define your career.
I took my Physics degree because I was good at the subject, liked my A-level teacher, and thought it might help me decide what career I wanted. Or, at least, help me put off the decision for a few more years.
I met some awesome people at university, and picked up skills I still use now, like data analysis. But overall, I wish I'd tried more kinds of work sooner and got a sense of what was out there, to see if my degree was really the right one or if I even needed to do one.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?
Because digital product management is still a new role and requires some kind of work experience for a few years first, I'd suggest not trying to jump straight into it. Try some different roles, and if a role where you get to work with digital products, talk to lots of people, and come up with strategies seems like something you'd enjoy, you'll be in a great place to go for it.
And if you'd like a great work-life balance and lovely colleagues, consider working in the charity sector.