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In the second episode of our series, we chat with Square product manager Vincent Liu about how he successfully transitioned his career to pursue his passions. Vincent studied economics and accounting in university, got his CPA (Certified Public Accountant), and landed a gig in corporate finance with Ernst & Young (EY). From there he moved to a mergers and acquisitions role at RBC, where he was exposed to the growing venture capital space. He decided to join the bank’s investment and incubation arm, RBC Ventures, where he learned about product management and is currently a product manager for innovative digital payments startup Square. Here are some highlights from our conversation with Vincent:
Many product managers come from marketing, product design, or computer science backgrounds, but Vincent didn’t have experience in any of these areas. Instead, he did his homework, including reading blogs, watching webinars (like this one!), and taking courses to learn about product management and broaden his professional skill set. Being the modest guy he is, Vincent also credits luck and a great mentor at RBC Ventures for his successful transition. Ultimately, Vincent says 20 per cent of learning about product management was theory and 80 per cent took place in realtime on the job.
Vincent took three important lessons away from his prior roles in finance. First, do things right. Early in his career, Vincent prided himself on getting things done quickly, but after making a grave calculation error he learned it’s better to do things right than do them quickly.
Next, see the big picture. Vincent learned this when his former managing director told him, “if you want to be more than a calculator, you have to tell me what the number means.”
Finally, own your choices because it’s your life. There was a time when Vincent felt stuck in his career path, thinking finance was what he had to do forever. Then he realized the power of choice and that everyone has the ability to determine their life path if they’re willing to put in the work.
While most companies group these two fields together, Vincent says product management at a high level is divided between product marketing and product management. While both roles are symbiotic, product management sits at the intersection between engineering, design, and marketing while product marketing is more involved in the later stages after a product is already designed. Product marketing focuses on how to sell a product to consumers and potential advertising channels.
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